Still searching for truth in mysterious cases
by Chris Norwood
Feb 19, 2011 | 5903 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Like many new to the attorney general's office, Luther Strange has kicked off his tenure in office by winning convictions in “cold cases,” most recently in Gadsden and Anniston. Unfortunately, however, there are still numerous unsolved homicides and disappearances in Alabama remaining, including several in Talladega and St. Clair Counties.

Perhaps the coldest case is the death of Cynthia Louise Hanes, whose body was discovered off a county road in Munford April 17, 1982. Her identity was not confirmed until last year, and who might have killed her and why remains a mystery. According to Mike McBurnett, an investigator for the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, Hanes died of blunt force trauma to the head. There are also signs of non-fatal strangulation, but no sign of sexual assault.

According to a family friend, Hanes graduated from high school in New Jersey in 1976 and joined the Army the following year. During her service, she was stationed at Fort McClellan, which is her only known connection to Alabama. She managed to secure an honorable discharge in 1978 rather than ship out to Germany. Her parents had since moved to Maryland, and she followed them there. She became involved in drug and alcohol use there, and checked herself out of rehab twice. Shortly after the second sign out, she was seen getting into a black van on March 27, 1982. She was never seen alive again.

When her body was discovered three weeks later, she appeared to have been dead two or three days. What happened in between and how she ended up in Munford remain unknown.

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call McBurnett’s office at 256-362-8700.

Felicia Cochran of Pell City was last seen July 11, 1992, when she was 26 years old. She was seen leaving her mother’s house at about 6 p.m. driving a gray 1987 Nissan Maxima.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, her car was discovered abandoned and burned in Talladega County less than 12 hours after her disappearance. She has not been seen or heard from since.

Cochran is described as a 5-foot, 3-inch tall, black female. At the time of her disappearance, she weighed 135 pounds and had black hair and brown eyes. She had pierced ears and wore eyeglasses, according to the website. If she is still living, she would now be 45 years old.

“Cochran was estranged from her husband at the time of her disappearance,” the site says. “She has three children. Her case remains unsolved.”

According to Pell City Police Department, there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to information resolving the case.

Anyone with information on Cochran should contact the Pell City Police Department at 205-884-3333.

Two years after Cochran’s disappearance, Miles “Uncle Buddy” Morris Jr. of Sylacauga walked out of his front door and into thin air. Not a trace has been found of him since.

Morris, 80 at the time, was believed to be headed into the nearby woods to collect medicinal herbs. His disappearance prompted a massive manhunt involving agencies from as far away as Trussville, and even included a psychic.

A memorial service for Morris was held in 1998, but his body has still not been located, and the tips dried up years ago. Although it appears likely that Morris was a victim of foul play, there is no concrete proof and the case remains open.

Morris was last seen around noon on June 7, 1994. He would be 96 years old in the event that he’s still living. According to reports at the time of his disappearance, Morris’s wife Louise went to a doctor’s appointment that afternoon, and called police at 9:20 p.m. when her husband didn’t come home.

The Sylacauga Police Department can be reached at 256-410-2525.

Lajuandez “Boogie” Keith of Talladega was 21 years old when he was shot to death during the last days of 2001. A man and his son out hunting discovered Keith's body off Cove Shocco Road New Year’s Eve. Although police have developed suspects, no one has ever been charged for his murder, and the case remains open.

According to his family, Keith did not have a history of trouble with the law. He graduated from Talladega High School, studied at Talladega College, worked, and attended church regularly. But shortly before he disappeared in December 2001, he confessed to the woman he called Grandmama (even though she was not a blood relative) that soon he would be either dead or in prison. He refused to elaborate further, but spent the rest of the afternoon saying goodbye to other relatives and friends.

The case has been particularly frustrating for investigators in Talladega because at least one suspect and some key witnesses are incarcerated in other jurisdictions. This will not always be the case, according to Chief Alan Watson. The case is still open and an investigation remains ongoing.

As Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens pointed out to The Daily Home in a previous update on the Keith case, there is no statute of limitations on murder.

Anyone with information on this case should contact the Talladega Police Department at 256-362-4162.