Sheriff: Murders won’t go unsolved

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — The investigations into five murders which occurred in the past year-and-a-half remain open, but investigators remain resolute in their hope to solve them.

“We are committed to finding those responsible in each of these cases and bringing them to justice,” said Surry County Sheriff Jimmy Combs.

On March 29, a couple walking their dogs in a field at the end of Lynhaven Road in Mount Airy stumbled upon the remains of a person. The remains were discovered in a wooded area, only yards from a dirt trail which runs through a field owned by the Ararat Rock Products Company.

Then-Sheriff Graham Atkinson noted investigators had only a skeleton to begin their investigation, as the remains were fully decomposed. Additionally, parts of the skeleton had been scattered by animals.

According to Combs, the case is being investigated as a homicide, but the “John Doe” has yet to be identified. Identification of the remains is pending lab results from the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University.

Less than two weeks prior to authorities being called to the scene of the skeleton, they were on hand at 151 Blue Ridge Drive in Bannertown to investigate the death of Sandra Sechrist.

Sechrist, 52, was found dead in her home, and authorities began investigating her death as a homicide.

No further information was released at the time, and a statement from Combs indicates authorities are awaiting lab results which they hope will aid in their investigative efforts.

Though authorities were quick to identify the deaths of the skeleton and Sechrist as homicides, they aren’t ruling out accidental shooting as the cause of death in an earlier case.

On June 28, 2016, See Vu, 60, was apparently shot while working in a rice paddy at her home at 143 Escape Lane. Vu was deceased when authorities arrived on scene.

Weeks after authorities began investigating Vu’s death, Atkinson said the only thing authorities were sure of is that she had been shot. Though not probable, there was a possibility Vu had been struck by a stray bullet from a person hunting or shooting in the area.

Atkinson had hoped analysis of the bullet, which was removed from the woman’s body intact, could shed some light on the circumstances surrounding her death.

Combs said authorities have received the analysis of the bullet, but he said revealing such a detail could hinder the investigative effort of his detectives.

According to Combs, Vu’s death is being investigated as a homicide, though the possibility her death was an accident has not been entirely ruled out.

On May 11, 2016, Charlie Spann, 73, of 172 Freemont Lane in Elkin, was found dead in the driveway of his home.

Atkinson said Spann had died of gunshot wounds, and he suspected — based on the physical evidence — that Spann’s murderer was somebody the man knew.

Nearly a week into the investigation, Atkinson stated his office had developed leads in the case and that investigators were trying to nail down a timeline for the man’s death.

Combs would not confirm or deny the existence of any leads in the case. However, he said investigators have made progress in the investigation.

Like the other three suspected murders, the investigation into Spann’s death is ongoing.

The first alleged murder of 2016 took place on Jan. 13, when authorities responded to a call at 4120 Haystack Road. That case also remained unsolved as of Friday.

There, authorities found Richard “Sonny” Holmes, 71, dead from an apparent head injury.

Holmes had served as the caretaker for the historic Edwards-Franklin House for nearly four decades before he was found dead in the mobile home on the property in which he lived.

Atkinson said the head injury was not self-inflicted, and the case was ruled a homicide.

Though Atkinson would not comment on the matter, about four months after Holmes was found dead, a family member of Holmes indicated authorities believed they might have an idea as to who was to blame for his death. The man was in jail on unrelated charges.

“We have not charged anybody in the case,” said Combs in response to the family member’s suspicions.

Combs said prior to speaking about the ongoing investigative efforts, he sat down with his investigative teams to determine if the release of additional information could hurt their efforts.

Though Combs can’t provide more information so as not to hurt those efforts, he said Surry County residents should be aware that he and his staff — with help from the State Bureau of Investigation — are tirelessly investigating all of the deaths in order to bring those responsible to justice.

“Each of these cases remains an open and active investigation,” said Combs. “We are continuing and will continue to follow every lead until we bring these to a conclusion, regardless of how long it takes.”

He asked that anybody with any information regarding the investigation call the Surry County Sheriff’s Office at 401-8900.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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