Holle is a retired English and creative writing teacher. She is a professional freelance writer and contributes to Horseman Magazine.
The Gruesome Murders of the People Who Lived Down the Road
April 26, 1986. That day still haunts me from time to time. My ex-husband, Tom, and I were just finishing our new home, and we were outdoors staining some molding when my mother-in-law pulled up in her silver Lincoln Town Car. I knew immediately that something terrible had happened because she was obviously shaken, and Mrs. Todd wasn’t an emotional person. Her car window was down, and when she got even with us, she said, “They’re dead. They’re all dead!” Of course, we had no idea who she was referring to at first, until she continued. “Clifford. Nina. Even Jerold – they’ve all been killed!” The family she was telling us about, the Joneses, were my ex’s cousins, and they lived just down the road from us. And yes, I’m using the real names of the family that was murdered, although I’ve changed the names of my ex-husband and mother-in-law.
Clifford and his brother, Gene, were farmers, as were we. They raised cows, pigs, and row crops. They also owned and ran a restaurant called Reedy Creek Cabin Restaurant. Clifford lived just across the dirt road from the eatery, and Gene lived about half a mile away.
On the fateful day of April 26, 1986, Clifford, his wife Nina, and their son Jerold were all brutally murdered in their home. Some of the details are fuzzy, but I’ll share with you what I’ve been told by family members.
Early that Saturday morning, two men and a woman were watching the house. They saw Clifford and Nina’s teenage daughter, Christy, drive away in the family car, headed to Jekyll Island with a group of schoolmates. Evidently, the criminals believed the house to be empty. They had the woman drop them off, and the two men entered the home through the back door. Clifford was in the kitchen. Clifford Jones was a man’s man, and he put up a heck of a fight. The two assailants had to shoot and stab him numerous times to kill him. Nina and 14-year-old Jerold were in a bedroom, and the men shot and killed Nina. As Jerold was trying to escape out a window, he was stabbed, shot, and pistol whipped.
The woman came back to pick up the two murderers, and they sped away. A neighbor noticed the car and remembered it. The three drove immediately to a little town just across the South Carolina state line, and the woman and one of the men got married. It seems that this was going to be part of their alibi.
Once the gruesome murders were discovered, the entire community was devastated. The Joneses were well respected and well liked by everyone. Every time I saw Clifford, he always had a joke for me, and Nina was charming – a real southern lady. Christie had babysat for us numerous times, and Jerold rode the school bus with my daughter. Things like this just weren’t supposed to happen in Kville, Georgia. Kville is located in Wayne County, in the southeast part of the state. The town is really little more than a crossroads, and the cattle population far outnumbers the humans there. The entire community was gripped by fear for weeks. In fact, we actually began locking our doors in the daytime – something we’d never done before.
My husband and I went to the funeral, of course, and it was the largest one I’d ever seen. As I said, this family was much loved. I was sad and still in shock, I think. I did okay seeing Clifford and Nina, but when I passed Jerold’s casket, I broke down. How could someone murder an innocent child? This sweet boy was robbed of so many years. He’d never go to the prom, get a driver’s license, graduate from high school, attend college, or get married and father children. In my opinion, child murderers deserve a fate worse than death.
As far as I knew, no one had a clue as to who the culprits were. The motive was obviously theft. The perpetrators must have thought that Clifford had the restaurant earnings in his home. He didn’t – he and Gene always took turns keeping the money, and on that weekend, it was Gene who had the cash. Still, the two burglars-turned-murderers took some cash, some guns, and some other valuables after the helpless family was dead.
A few weeks later, on June 17, two men broke into a home in nearby Brunswick, Georgia and killed the homeowner. A neighbor heard the commotion and went to investigate with his gun. He killed one of the men in the process. The dead criminal’s name was Bruce Lee, and his brother’s name is Larry Lee. Lee fled but turned himself in while in Arizona. Larry Lee was tried for murder in Glynn County, Georgia and was found guilty. He was sentenced to life. Somehow, these brothers were indicated in the Jones murders after Larry Lee was arrested.
Lee’s request for a change of venue for the Jones murders was denied, so it was held in Wayne County Superior Court, with Judge Killian presiding. The trial was sensational, especially for a sleepy town like Jesup, the county seat. The courthouse was packed to capacity. Lee, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder in Brunswick, was found guilty of the three murders, along with burglary, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. He was sentenced to death for the Joneses’ gruesome murders.
Lee remained on death row until 2008, when Judge Gary McCorvey, of Tifton, Georgia, overturned the sentence. McCorvey’s ruling was not appealed. If the Lee brothers didn’t kill the Jones family, that means the crimes are still unsolved murders. Most of the people in Wayne County felt and still feel that justice wasn’t served, and many are still irate. Rumors of a new trial can still be heard around town.
Larry Lee is serving his life sentence in Telfair State Prison, a close security prison located in Helena, Georgia. From what I can gather, Lee has no chance of parole, as no tentative parole date is listed on the Georgia Department of Corrections website.
Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on June 24, 2015:
Hi Habee - Thanks for the story of the tragedy in your neighborhood. It is so sad that criminals enter homes and kill the inhabitants. I don't know of any such crimes personally but know of several similar incidents in my area. People become desperate for money, and sometimes drugs, and don't care how they get it. My sympathy for your husband's relatives and may justice reign. Blessings, Audrey Sharing.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 24, 2015:
Eddie, thanks for the update.
Eddie Moore on June 24, 2015:
Update: Looks like there will not be a new trial for Larry and the only way to keep him in jail will be to have everyone that seeks justice in this case to show up at the parole hearings for Lee in Glynn county.
Monkey on January 26, 2015:
Plaseing to find someone who can think like that
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 19, 2013:
Sandy, I wasn't a Jones - I was a Harris. My ex was related to Clifford. We lived down down the road from Reedy Creek and ate there often. I've probably met you. Thanks for reading!
sandycairn from Houston on July 19, 2013:
For some reason, I was wondering tonight, again, what happened that night. Found a website with the Lees' names and found your site. I don't recognize you, but then there are so many Jones and ex-Jones and extended relations. I was also wondering about Christy. I worked for a time at Reedy Creek, too. Great steak, loved my cousins Clifford, Nina, Gene and the rest of the people I worked with. Thanks for filling in some of the blanks, habee. Sandy
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 29, 2013:
Oh, Eddie, I'm so sorry about your father. But I'm glad to meet you.
Eddie M on May 29, 2013:
The never ending nightmare! I am the son of the man killed in Brunswick. My heart aches for this family and all who believes in justice. The above is the same story of burglary and murder in my Fathers case. Sherry Lee (deceased) dropped off her husband (Bruce) and Larry while she drove around waiting for them to steal any of his "valuables". My Dad happened to come home during the commission of the crimes and the coward, Bruce, shot and killed him. Larry fled out the back and left Bruce to die from a gunshot wound to the head fired by a loving, armed, neighbor. The two accomplices were caught later out of state and returned for the trial. I am not surprised that people are closer in the aftermath of these senseless killings. Faith, Hope and Love will win over all evil. Keep telling the story for the survivors!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 21, 2012:
Lynn, thanks for stopping by. Nice to meet you.
lynn26 on August 09, 2012:
IM FROM ST.SIMONS, MY MOTHER AND FATHER WERE VERY GOOD FRIENDS OF NINA AND CLIFFORD, I REMEMBER GOING TO REEDY CREEK AND EATTIN THERE, WAS REALLY GOOD FOOD. MY FATHER EVEN HELPED CLIFFORD IN THE KITCHEN WITH GETTIN OUT SOME OF THE KENKS WHEN THEY FIRST OPENED UP. THEY WILL BE MISSED BY ALL.....
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 06, 2012:
Reprieve and Alastar, thanks for reading this tragic account.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 06, 2012:
Nice to meet you, Doug. The Joneses were great folks. I'm not sure the community will ever get over the gruesome murders of a beloved family.
dougcrosby on January 06, 2012:
Thank you for taking the time to tell the tragic story of my Uncle Clifford, Aunt Nina, and cousin jerold. My mother is second to the younges sister of Clifford. I was only 14 years old when the Lee brothers ripped a hole in our family. The hole has not and will never heal. Your memory of the details is both chilling and accurate. The judges decision to overturn the conviction was a final slap in the face of all the surviving family members. Please keep Cliffor, Nina, and Jerold alive in your memory.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on December 23, 2011:
habee I had a friend whose wife was brutally murdered in the home by someone who knew where the lady kept her hidden money. What happened to your in-laws is sickening and brings up a keen yen for justice. We both know how things would have been handled a hundred years ago if the killers had been caught quickly. If the crimes are truly still unsolved, then the 'Best Kept Secret in the South' takes on an eerie and tragic after-glow.
HS Contino from Oregon Coast on December 23, 2011:
Such a sad story... and senseless crime. :(
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 23, 2011:
I know, RM, it was totally senseless. And with the overturned conviction, it's as if the family and community have no closure.
I wish you the very merriest Christmas possible, RM!
rmcrayne from San Antonio Texas on December 23, 2011:
What a charming restaurant, and what a horrible tragedy. Makes you wonder how monsters like that are "created". All that loss of life for pennies really.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 22, 2011:
Mary, you'll be glad to know I just made more cookies. Hubby is eating them almost as fast as I'm making them!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 22, 2011:
Abzolution, I think you're right. Folks in our area did become closer after these gruesome murders took place.
breakfastpop on December 22, 2011:
What a tragedy. Justice is not always served.
Cammy44 on December 22, 2011:
Wow great one Marry. I just like it. Its Good.
Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on December 22, 2011:
Tirelesstraveler, I was thinking the same thing. The holidays must be difficult. I can't even imagine losing my whole family. What a sad story, Habee.
Judy Specht from California on December 22, 2011:
Have to wonder at such senselessness. What ever happened to Christy? What an awful thing to happen to a young girl.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 22, 2011:
Hi habee, I just have to say I was expecting something happy from you today for the Christmas season. I feel let down! Go in your kitchen and whip up something warm and tasty, OK????
Abigail Richards from United Kingdom on December 22, 2011:
Wow, what a tragic story! My city has gained a similar reputation with a serial killer called Fred West. He was able to commit suicide in custody, so justice was not served in his case either. I have always discovered that these horrible circumstances make a community stonger and closer. Thanks for writing, voted up.