By ROGER ADKINS
PARKERSBURG — Police hear the term “cold case” all the time, but local investigators say they don’t consider a case to be “cold” unless it’s solved.
There are a handful of unsolved murders that are never far from the minds of investigators in the Parkersburg Police Department’s detective bureau. Two of the cases date back to the 1960s and 1970s while the others are more recent.
The passing of time may cause a case to become less active, but investigators say they never lose hope that the right piece of the puzzle may fall into place to bring about an arrest.
The oldest of the unsolved murder cases in the police department files is the 1965 slaying of Garry Cowdery, 18, of Belpre.
The case has come to be known as the “Burger Boy Murder” because it happened at the former Burger Boy Foodarama on Ann Street in Parkersburg. Cowdery, an assistant manager of the establishment, was found shot to death. About $700 from the restaurant’s daily proceeds were stolen.
After about four decades, a suspect in the case was indicted by a Wood County grand jury. However, the case was not strong enough for a conviction and the charges were dismissed, officials said.
The 1979 slaying of Ronzel Dornon is the second of the department’s older unsolved murder cases. The 27-year-old man was found lying face down in the burned rubble of a home on 622 Bird St. in Parkersburg.
Though many people were questioned during the course of the investigation, a suspect was never arrested in the case.
In both the Burger Boy and Dornon cases, police officials said they believe they know who the killers are, but there isn’t sufficient evidence for a conviction.
Lt. John Young of the detective bureau said both investigations are open and there is always hope that the right piece of information or the right witness might be discovered to change that.
“Any information we receive — and we do receive information on these cases from time to time — we follow up on it,” Young said.
In a more recent case, investigators are still trying to determine who killed 80-year-old Roy Matheny in December 2006.
Matheny went missing Dec. 26, 2006, and his truck was found abandoned the following day at Park Shopping Center, detectives said. His body was found Dec. 28 in a vacant lot at the end of Staunton Avenue. He had been stabbed multiple times.
Police said they have developed “persons of interest” in the case. The investigation is continuing.
“I feel the investigation is moving forward. I’m hesitant to say that we have a suspect, but we have developed persons of interest,” Detective Decker Moody said. “We have a couple of people we’re looking at.”
Police also are still working on solving the January 2006 murder of Darrel Boyce, 48. Boyce died in a fire at his residence at 1226 Swann St., detectives said. The fire was ruled an arson.
Investigators believe the fire may have started near the front porch of the residence. The investigation indicates an accelerant was used. Detectives are continuing to follow leads in the case, Young said.
Finally, the February 2005 killing of John Nestor III and Tracy Thompson is still under investigation. The two died in a fire at a home on 19th Street in Parkersburg.
Police made an arrest in the case, but the suspect had to be released due to a lack of evidence.
“These cases are always on our minds,” Young said. “I think it would be safe to say that in the majority of these cases, there’s someone out there with the right piece of information that could help us solve them.”
Until then, investigators won’t be thinking of these cases as “cold.”
“I think of them more as ongoing investigations than cold, inactive or anything else,” said Lt. Carl Sizemore, an investigator with the police department’s major crimes unit.
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