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Cold Case: The missing and the murdered

Submitted photo
Paul Jones was murdered May 5, 1983.
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SHAWNEE, Okla. - An elderly mother’s hope to see justice for her son’s murder brought her back to the United States one last time. Marge Jones hopes that someone will come forward before it’s too late so she can have closure and put a killer behind bars.

Her son Paul Jones, 20, was found stabbed to death in his rural Earlsboro home May 5, 1983. Paul’s wife, Melody (Garton) Jones, 19 at the time, has never been found.

Suspicious circumstances before the murder include two life insurance policies on Paul Jones less than a month before his murder and numerous sightings of Melody.

Marge Jones returned to Shawnee from England to visit her son’s grave and met with Pottawatomie County Sheriff, Mike Booth, and Undersheriff, Travis Palmer, Monday.

The scene

The afternoon of May 4, 1983 the Gartons told investigators that Melody Jones had been fishing with her family. Her brother Randy Garton gave her a ride home that evening, according to early news reports. During an interview with News 9 in 2008 he said the lights were on, a man was standing in the doorway who he assumed was Paul.

When Melody hadn’t shown up for work at the Seminole Dairy Queen the next morning Melody’s mother, Carol Garton who is now deceased, drove to the house to check on them. According to an article published May 16, 1983 in the Oklahoman Garton said the door was ajar, so she went inside. She saw a gun on the bed and Paul’s legs on the floor. Her daughter was not home.

Investigators found all of Melody's personal belongings were there, including her purse which was dumped in the floor and her eyeglasses. The couple’s car was parked in the driveway. There was a .12 gauge shotgun on the bed. A subsequent search of the home and surrounding area yielded no clues.

By the time Mrs. Jones arrived, Sheriff Paul Abel and deputies were on the scene. The residence had been taped off. When she was later allowed inside, she left convinced her son wasn’t murdered in the house.

“There was a yellow and white shag carpet,” said Mrs. Jones. “There was no blood [on the carpet]. I pulled it up and there was no blood. No blood on the curtains, on the walls, ceiling. Now when you stab someone there’s going to be a lot of blood. He was a healthy boy. Once when his foot was sliced by an ax, blood spurted everywhere. Why wasn’t there blood spatter?”

The current investigator, Undersheriff Palmer, said OSBI processed the scene. While he said the photos he has seen did not prove or disprove the murder took place elsewhere, he said it “isn’t something OSBI would miss.”  

There was no indication of a domestic struggle, and no signs of robbery. The ME report showed defensive wounds to Paul’s hands. “He fought for his life,” said Mrs. Jones quietly.

No forced entry, no weapon

There was no sign of forced entry. The Jones family can only wonder how the killer entered the home, regardless of where Paul was murdered.  

No weapon was recovered. When the Jones family went through furnishings and other household belongings in June of 1983 they said they discovered a pair of scissors in a drawer and immediately turned them over to OSBI for processing. The family believed the scissors matched the wound site.

According to an OSBI document, an OSBI agent transported the scissors to the medical examiner’s office to compare it to skin samples taken from Paul’s body.

However, the skin samples had vanished. The document is dated April 16, 1985 and reads: “On March 19, 1985, Special Agent Salmon transported the scissors to Nick Graham, Investigator’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. On March 26, 1985, Graham contacted Special Agent Salmon regarding the tissues that had been retained at the time of autopsy. The tissues have been misplaced according to Graham.”

Misplaced motives

While Mrs. Jones said her son was a no-bar hopping, no-smoking, straight-laced English boy, the couple reportedly may have been using marijuana.

“Absolutely not,” said Mrs. Jones. “He wasn’t like that. Neither of them used drugs as far as I know.”

The medical examiner report showed no alcohol in Paul’s body but the report does not indicate if he was tested for drugs. News reports do not show that investigators have ever reported Paul’s death and Melody’s disappearance as possible drug related crimes.

Paul had a life insurance policy, a fact which raised suspicions for his mother.

“He was a healthy boy,” said Mrs. Jones. “Why did he need an insurance policy? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Mrs. Jones showed Red Dirt Report a life insurance policy that went into effect less than a month before the murder. It is dated April 22 and Paul was murdered May 4. Paul Jones signed the policy. Melody’s name and signature are not on the document so it’s not known if anyone other than Paul had knowledge of the policy.

The policy document reads that the beneficiary would be the surviving spouse. If not the spouse and no other beneficiary is named, it would be absorbed into the estate. Per the documents provided to Red Dirt Report, Paul did not name a beneficiary.

It is not known if anyone ever collected on the policy. As of April 24, 1985, two years after it went into effect, it appears no claim had been paid, according to the document.  

That policy did not appear in probate records. Court records show that there may have been more than one. Judge Glenn Dale Carter granted Jack Jones’ petition, Paul’s father (deceased), to act as administrator of his son’s estate. He submitted a receipt dated February 11, 1987 to the court which was noted as “Insurance of American General Life, $960.78,” a different policy than the one Mrs. Jones showed Red Dirt Report.

Mrs. Jones was not aware of the American General Life policy until her return this week, but speculated it may have been taken out with Paul’s employer. It remains a mystery why Paul would have had one policy, let alone two.

Probate records indicate there was some financial trouble for the couple who were trying to get their start in life. An overdrawn checking account was closed in February, another account opened at a different bank. A credit card statement dated 5/9/83 showed the account was overdrawn with a prior cash advance of over $400.

Sightings: Is Melody alive?

In the weeks and months following Paul’s murder, Undersheriff Palmer confirmed there had been reported sightings. Mrs. Jones isn’t surprised since she claimed to have seen Melody herself driving on the same road where the couple lived.

“I saw her,” said Mrs. Jones who said she passed Melody. “It was her. A neighbor also told me they saw her on the property and there was a bus with Mexico plates on it,” said Mrs. Jones.

A sighting was reported in Port Lavaca, Texas, where Mrs. Jones claims the family had a cabin. “A woman said she gave her a ride to Cutle, Texas,” she said.

There was also a reported sighting in Oklahoma City.

Undersheriff Palmer said the sightings were not always consistent with Melody’s description. He said OSBI was never able to verify the sightings because they never found the women whom witnesses claimed they saw.

Family was scared

In the days that followed, Mrs. Jones said she asked a nearby neighbor if they heard or saw anything. “They said they heard yelling and screaming and doors slamming. Car doors slamming and screeching to a halt,” she said.

To her dismay, the neighbors told her they didn’t want to get involved and were scared to talk to authorities.

After the murder, Mrs. Jones began to wonder at some strange things she claims her daughter-in-law told her while they worked together as maids for a Shawnee hotel. “Melody was always watching soap operas and had to have them on in every room. She says to me, ‘I could get away with murder.’ I told her, ‘What, you’re taking these shows too serious.’ She told me she could get a new social security card and driver’s license for $50 on the street,” said Mrs. Jones.

She told Red Dirt Report that she stopped taking information to authorities because they received threatening phone calls, including a death threat. “I never found out who it was. It was a man’s voice,” said Mrs. Jones. “I was asking too many questions.”

In a 2008 interview OSBI spokeswoman, Jessica Brown, told News 9 there was no reason to believe that Melody had anything to do with her husband’s murder.

Investigators have ruled out three bodies: in Kentucky, Texas, and Wewoka, Oklahoma.

The Gartons have cooperated with the investigation, providing DNA samples in effort to assist police in finding Melody.

PCSO asking for information

Mrs. Jones said Sheriff Booth and Undersheriff Palmer were helpful in answering her questions and hopes the investigation can make progress.

Undersheriff Palmer said they hope someone will come forward. “We want to solve this case. Someone out there knows something,” he said. “Even if it seems like a small thing, let us be the judge of that.”

Mrs. Jones said, “I think about him every day. It’s been 33 years. It’s about time someone came forward.”

Anyone with information can contact Undersheriff Travis Palmer at 405-275-2526, ext. 111.

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About the Author

Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy Ragan Wood is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in investigative and...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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