Filed under: Marcia Trimble

Jerome Sydney Barrett Indicted in Trimble Case

Click here see my previous entries about the unsolved murder of Marcia Trimble.

Today, Nashville District Attorney Torry Johnson finally announced charges against convicted sexual predator Jerome Sidney Barrett for the murder of the Green Hills school girl on Feb. 25, 1975. A grand jury handed down the indictment on Tuesday.

Barrett is currently locked up on another charge connected to the 1975 murder of college student Sarah Des Prez. He previously served several years in prison for rape. During that time he fought against being labeled the kind of predator who targeted children, even though he wasn’t connected to the Trimble case until 2007.

The story of Marcia’s murder , which haunted my hometown and my generation of Nashville natives in particular (since Marcia was a member of that generation), may now be on its final chapters after all. It really may have been a stranger all along — the very thing no one believed about the Trimble case when it first hit the news 33 years ago.

Also see this detailed article in the Nashville Post: “Arrest made in Trimble case.”

Talking About Marcia Trimble *UPDATED*

The following are links to previous entries I’ve written about the murder of Marcia Trimble, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s most infamous unsolved crimes. Marcia was murdered 33 years ago yesterday, on February 25, 1975:

Recently, my friend Meredith Harris — referenced in the first post linked above — went to Nashville to speak with journalist Demetria Kalodimos, one of the long-time anchors at Nashville’s legendary NBC affiliate, WSMV, Channel 4.

The online article about Meredith’s interview can be read here:

Marcia Trimble’s Friend Discusses Case.”

The video of Meredith’s interview can be seen here. I strongly recommend watching the video, if possible. Demetria let images, archival tapes, and of course Meredith herself tell Meredith’s part of the story with care, without any added drama. It’s truly compelling, even if you’ve not been following the Trimble case for 3 decades, as I have.

If the video is ever available in a YouTube-like format, I will definitely post it here.

Another installment of Meredith’s interview will be shown tonight. This post will be updated once that segment and an article are both available via WSMV’s website.

UPDATE, 2/26/08

The second article covering Meredith Harris’s interview is here:

Friend Says Trimble’s Death Changed Lives.”

The video of the segment is here.

Marcia Trimble’s Murder… Solved **UPDATED, 12/06**

(NOTE: This was first posted 12/03/07 at 6:04 p.m. ET. On 12/06 it was updated and the post date altered to place it at the top of the blog’s index page. If you’ve already read the entry you can scroll down for the update.)

Thirty-two years later, it appears that Marcia Trimble’s murder may be solved.

Nashville’s NBC affiliate, WSMV, is reporting the following:

Sources confirm to Channel 4 that prosecutors plan to charge Jerome Barrett, 60, with the 1975 kidnapping, raping and killing of 9-year-old Marcia Trimble.

[…]

After hundreds of people were questioned over the years, several sources confirm to tChannel 4 News that investigators made a DNA match to Barrett that could solve the case.

I wrote about Jerome Sydney Barrett’s arrest and his possible connection to the Trimble case here. His DNA was likely tested against samples found on Marcia’s body when she was discovered on Easter Sunday, 1975, in a shed 200 yards from her home in Green Hills, West Nashville, TN.

One of the first girls I ever had a real crush on as a teen, Meredith Harris, was one of Marcia’s neighbors and a fellow girl scout. Julia Hatcher, the first girl I ever seriously dated, was in the same Girl Scout Troop with Meredith and Marcia, and all three girls attended Julia Greene elementary school together.

My friend Missy, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, called me to tell me she’d heard this on the news.

That was so appropriate. She was one of the girls in 1st grade advanced reading group with me the year Marcia Trimble disappeared. She was spunky, skinny, blond, and freckled. Probably a lot like Marcia Trimble. I always liked Missy, and was happy when she looked me up again on MySpace a year or so ago. Missy was one of the girls I would see at school while Marcia was missing, and imagine with dread some “prevert” taking her, too.

Thanks, Missy.

Here is another entry I wrote about Marcia Trimble, and my connection to her long-unsolved disappearance and murder:

Marcia Trimble, Meredith Harris, and Me.

Imagine you heard they made a match to DNA in the JonBenet Ramsey murder. For long-time or native Middle Tennesseans this news is that big.

This entry will be revised and updated. I have some phone calls to make.

UPDATE, 12/06/07

The following piece on WSMV’s website, reported by Demetria Kalodimos, is an important read:

Ex-Detective’s Hunch Could Prove True In Trimble Case.”

Highlights, comments:

A dedicated rape detective said he had a 30-year gut feeling about the Marcia Trimble case.

Sgt. Ralph Langston was the first to put Jerome Barrett in jail in Nashville.

He said he was putting the pieces together back in 1975, but no one would listen…

Langston wasn’t listened to because the Trimble case may have been sabotaged by investigators forming a theory of what happened to Marcia, and then trying to shoehorn the facts into their theory. Everyone was convinced that Marcia had been murdered by someone in her neighborhood, someone known to her. More:

Langston said he was convinced Barrett had done much more, and all on foot.

“He was the truest predator you’ll ever see,” he said.

Langston said Barrett would walk the streets and knew every alley and shortcut.

“He’s watching for these opportunities and he got them,” he said.

After a long interrogation, he said, Barrett cried while he confessed, but only to crimes police knew about.

Then Barrett had a strange reaction, Langston said.“I didn’t bring up the case, I brought up the street. … ‘What about the street, Estes Street, right up there?’ And I remember him hitting (the table), ‘You’re not going to pin that on me.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about? I’m just talking about the area where you worked.’ ‘That little girl, you’re not going to pin that on me.’ He wouldn’t open his mouth again,” he said.

Langston talked a lot through the years by asking different colleagues to consider Barrett as a suspect in the unsolved slaying of Vanderbilt student Sarah Des Prez and in the Trimble case.

“Have you all still not thought this might be an unknown, random suspect? And I was made to feel like an idiot anytime I brought it up. … I said, ‘Why do you know it’s a known suspect when nobody knows nothing?’ So would put it on the back burner, because every time I would bring it up, I would feel like an idiot. So, I let that go and let it go. … I never forgot it. I said, when we get back to Nashville…I want to see justice is done for those families because they deserve that,” he said…

I’m just talking about the area where you worked.” So… Barrett had reason to be in the area. If he worked there, as Langston said, he was a familiar enough face for others to not pay undue attention to his presence there.

Langston felt stupid, but now it appears he may have been the ultimate voice in the wilderness. A voice that could have saved years of grief for many, many people, if it had only been heard.

Solving Marcia Trimble’s murder is a great thing. But it doesn’t erase questions as to why it took so long. It doesn’t alter the fact that in the process, many innocent lives were damaged in the hunt for the little girl’s killer.

UPDATE, 12/07/07

Writing in the Nashville Post, Tom Wood and Ken Whitehouse address some things that I’ve discussed with others privately quite a bit over the last year or so. I’ve added emphasis to a part of the quote:

[Many] Nashvillians say the Trimble case changed forever the sense of security they felt in a city that previously had still felt in many ways like a small town. And the cloud it cast over the lives of several men who grew up with Marcia as a neighbor has lasted for decades. Police repeatedly floated their names as potential suspects, and to this day the authorities have said nothing to allay they suspicions they raised.

The suspicion cast on some of these men was undoubtedly devastating. The stories I’ve learned of how the police handled some of their suspects over the years are appalling — jackbooted thug appalling, in a couple of instances.

This piece on WSMV’s website about the contemporary reporting on Jerome Sydney Barrett is eye-opening, to say the least. The now-defunct Nashville Banner had devoted a good deal of coverage to the rapes and murders attributed to the convicted pedophile and rapist:

[Barrett’s] name wasn’t hard to find in the old Nashville Banner archives. There was an envelope, packed with yellowed clippings from the 1970s all about him.

The clippings mentioned the Belmont student, how the school was criticized for a shocking lapse in security, how a housewife was raped and how Barrett was indicted.

ADDITIONAL LINK: A post I originally wrote for Corey Mitchell’s In Cold Blog:

“Dead Girls, and the Boys Who…”

A break in the Marcia Trimble Case?

(Note: I am still somewhat out of pocket until late Sunday — early Monday, but I had to make time to write about this. The reason why will be obvious to anyone who has read my blogs for a while. ~ Steve)

In 1976 a man named Jerome Sydney Barrett was convicted of raping a student at Belmont University (then a college) in Nashville, Tennessee.

The rape occurred on February 17, 1975.

Barrett spent 26 years in prison for his crime. He was released in 2002.

On November 19, 2007, Barrett was arrested in Memphis, TN. The Metropolitan Nashville Police tell why he was arrested again:

Thirty-two years after the brutal murder of 19-year-old Sarah Vannatta Des Prez, the man suspected of killing her is being brought to justice.

[. . .]

Scientific evidence developed over the past several months by the police department’s Cold Case Unit, with the assistance of the TBI, led to the identification of Barrett as the man responsible for Des Prez’ February 2, 1975, murder…

So… in February of 1975, Jerome Barrett was allegedly on a sexually violent rampage in and around the West side of Nashville.

Marcia Trimble vanished on February 25, 1975.

Now some in Nashville are wondering: could Barrett have been responsible for Marcia Trimble’s murder? From WSMV Channel 4, Nashville’s NBC affiliate:

Police confirmed that the DNA evidence used to make that arrest is being used to determine whether Barrett may be connected in the slaying of 9-year-old Marcia Trimble…

Marcia’s family lived at 4009 Copeland Drive — 4 miles or so from 20th Avenue South, where Sarah Vannatta Des Prez was murdered. Belmont University, where Barrett’s rape victim was a student, was about the same distance from the Trimble residence.

If Jerome Barrett was mobile — had his own car — and knew that side of Nashville well, he would not have had to go far to spot Marcia Trimble one February evening, finishing up her Girl Scout Cookie sales.

The Wikipedia entry on Marcia Trimble’s murder is extremely well-sourced and well-written. It details some less-heralded developments in the case, one of them being that the legendary Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who created The Body Farm, determined in 2002 that Marcia had been murdered the day she vanished.

Around the time she vanished, Marcia was seen near the Geddes-Douglas tree nursery, close to the intersection of Hobbs and Estes Road. Marcia’s remains were discovered on March 30, 1975, Easter Sunday, at 4007 Estes Road — about 200 yards from her home.

While Copeland Drive was (and still is) a kind of self-contained loop where many neighbors knew each other well and tended to watch out for each others’ kids, Estes and Hobbs were more well-trafficked roads, likely to be used by someone just passing through the area on their way to another destination.

It doesn’t stretch credulity to think that Marcia’s murder was the act of a sexually predatory stranger. For me, this has always seemed like a strong possibility, especially after my friend Meredith Harris and I corresponded at length about the murder. I’ve already linked it once, but in this blog entry I wrote of my friendship with Meredith and how we re-connected after she found some of my writing about Marcia online.

Meredith was supposed to go with Marcia that day. Police were still occasionally interviewing Meredith when we were teens, though I don’t recall having any knowledge of this at the time.

One of the prime suspects in Marcia’s murder, Jeffery Womack, babysat Meredith and her sister. Jeffery was 15 when Marcia was killed. Police tried to make a case against Jeffery for Marcia’s murder in 1979, but it was dropped — they had no real evidence against him. Even though the case was dropped, Jeffery remained under a cloud of suspicion until DNA tests cleared him.

The subject of DNA brings up one reason to not attach too much hope to Jerome Barrett’s arrest. Metro Davidson County PD Captain Mickey Miller is cited in the Wikipedia entry, indicating that DNA indicated more than one person raped Marcia that day. Unfortunately, very little DNA remains from the Trimble case that could be used to make a conclusive match.

There are other reasons Barrett may be a long shot. One of them is the location where Marcia’s body was found. She was in a shed behind a home, covered with a shower curtain and kiddy pool. It seemed to be the sort of hiding place that might only be known to someone familiar with the neighborhood.

Additionally, Barrett is African-American. West Nashville in 1975 was a very white place to be. It’s probably still a very white place. But in 1975, Nashville in general would have also had a larger share of bigots more openly suspicious of black men hanging around mostly-white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods like Marcia Trimble’s.

I can recall no substantial reports from the time nor have I found any in my recent research indicating that police ever sought a black suspect in Marcia’s murder before.

If Barrett’s DNA is a match, the cops investigating the Trimble murder wouldn’t be the only ones sighing with relief.

I recently wrote about Jodi Parrack, a little girl who vanished in Constantine, Michigan, only to be found mysteriously murdered in a cemetery the same night she disappeared. Another friend I made in my teens was in Marcia Trimble’s Girl Scout Troop, and she went to school with Marcia and Meredith. That friend now lives a few miles from where Jodi was murdered. She’d already spotted the (purely coincidental) physical resemblance between Marcia and Jodi when I brought it to her attention.

My friend in Michigan says that once she became a mom, she found herself thinking about Marcia constantly. Murders like Jodi Parrack’s only intensify the old feelings of fear and anxiety that were first born when Marcia vanished.

I visited Nashville late in 2006 for a number of reasons — to see some old friends, to sing, and to visit Marcia’s neighborhood with Meredith.

There is a lot to say about that trip, and I’ve never written it all, but the experience that brought home to me the deep impact of Marcia Trimble’s murder on my hometown came out of the blue while I was there, in a conversation with a stranger.

I’d just crossed the Davidson County line. I pulled off at an exit I knew like the back of my hand — Old Hickory Boulevard and I-24. If I drove just a few miles up Old Hickory I would pass the Starwood Amphitheatre, where I worked on a crew installing seats in 1986. I could have then crossed Murfreesboro Pike and traveled on Hobson Pike down to Hamilton Church Road. A left turn onto that road would have had me heading towards the home where I grew up, at 3183 Hamilton Church… only now that address is owned by (of all things) a Coptic Christian Church.

I pulled into a motel and entered the lobby to get my room. That was where I met Rheda, the night clerk.

Rheda was in her 50s, had short, reddish-brown hair, a friendly face, and square-rimmed glasses.

I know people do this elsewhere, but when someone asks me, appropos of nothing, what “I do,” — as in what I do for a living — I always wonder if they are from Nashville. For some reason, that’s part of the training you receive growing up in the Music City — get basic info about someone (my Granny Huff would say “about a body”) and then see what they do.

Rheda asked me what I did, of course. I wouldn’t feel nearly so strange giving this answer now, but at the time, I sheepishly told her that I was a writer. She pressed further — in that honeyed way only southerners can truly press. What kind of writer?

I’m sure I sighed. I said I wrote about true crime.

Her eyes widened behind the glasses. “Oh,” she said, “Have you ever heard of that girl out in Brentwood somewhere, who got kilt [killed] back in the 70s? Marcia-“

“Marcia Trimble? Yes. It was in Green Hills.”

I wrote this down after it happened, and I recall that I hid my surprise at Marcia Trimble coming up like that by correcting the lady as to the location of the crime.

I was only a mile or two inside the Metropolitan city limits, and a good 20 miles from where Marcia died. I was having an idle conversation with another native Nashvillian, and all it took for Marcia Trimble to come up was me saying I wrote about crime.

It turned out that Rheda went to the charismatic Christian church once attended by the Trimble family, and even 30 years later, rumors still flowed in that community. Before I went to my room, feeling unsettled by the whole thing, Rheda gave me the name of the former pastor for the church and hinted at some of the rumors that had been stirred up in that church about Marcia’s murder. At one point, some folks apparently believed that Marcia had fallen victim to a family member.

I gave no credence to this. I couldn’t recall anyone in Marcia’s family having been mentioned as a suspect before. They’d likely been cleared by DNA if they were.

The unsettling thing was how quickly this particular case leapt to mind for one random person. Someone with whom I’d normally have had no more than 2 minutes’ conversation at best — getting my room key was a business transaction, no more.

It was proof I didn’t really need that what Mickey Miller once said about the Trimble murder was true: “In that moment, Nashville lost its innocence. Our city has never been, and never will be, the same again…”

Miller’s words held true for Meredith Harris. They were true for my friend now living in Michigan. They were true for me, just 7 when I first began seeing the missing girl’s face on the news each night.

Without Marcia Trimble’s ghost, this blog might not exist. For her to finally be put to rest, have some justice, some peace, would be a great thing. But this blog would remain. I’d be stuck with my memory of the ghost girl hanging there each night over the anchorman’s shoulder, looking like any girl in my class, on my bus. Stuck with my awareness that there are many more Marcias out there still, and still more kids like me and my friends, though we’ve moved from child to parent. Each time we open the door and watch one of our own children go out, we are haunted, wondering, and worrying.

Of Mysteriously Murdered Girls

They could be sisters.

One girl, had she lived, would be in her 40s. The other would still be 11. She’d still be riding her bike around town. Just a kid.

I have written before about Marcia Trimble, and how her disappearance and unsolved murder in 1975 influenced the writing I do now. How the crime seemed to affect my hometown, Nashville, and my generation.

Constantine, Michigan is much, much smaller than Nashville, Tennessee. Even the Nashville of 1975 was 10 times the size of Constantine.

On Thursday, November 8, Jodi Parrack was riding her bicycle home in Constantine when someone apparently snatched her.

She was quickly reported missing, and unlike Marcia Trimble, who was missing for more than a month, Jodi was quickly found.

Her mother found the girl’s body in the Constantine Cemetery just before 11 that night. There were no outward signs of how she died. She simply lay in the graveyard dead, not far from her silver bike.

Early reports of Jodi’s death were vague. Only today did police declare that the girl was indeed murdered. They warned parents in the area to stay alert.

The thing is, parents in the area had been on alert for a while. There’d been reports in the area for weeks of mysterious vehicles following kids as they walked to school. One source reported to the True Crime Weblog that they’d even escorted their kids to school a few times out of worry over the mysterious vehicle(s). This source didn’t live in Constantine, but they did live nearby.

The same source had been in Brownies and Girl Scouts with Marcia Trimble. She’d lived in the same neighborhood as Marcia.

I knew that the mystery of Jodi Parrack’s death was troubling me for all the normal reasons — how does a little girl just vanish, only to end up dead in a cemetery hours later? If the murder was sexual, why was it so hard to determine prior to autopsy whether or not the girl was the victim of a homicide?

But there was something else, too. Today it hit me, and I found the color photo of Marcia Trimble to compare with Jodi’s photo.

As coincidences go it may not even be all that unusual, but it still raised gooseflesh on my arms. I sent my comparison to my source, the woman who’d been a girl with Marcia in Brownies and Girl Scouts, who now was a parent living in the same area as Jodi Parrack. She wrote back: “[Seeing] the pictures side by side – unbelievably scary. It took me a bit to realize what was troubling [. . .] Saturday I had my assistant’s two girls (4 and 9). We went down to the park near our house. There were a few kids out but every parent was watching unbelievably close.”

Every death is individual, and murder is committed for a variety of reasons. The connections between Marcia then and Jodi now are simple coincidence — about the same age, both popular, well-liked girls who disappeared about the same time of day. The resemblance between the two may be more a matter of camera angles and light than actual appearance.

Who killed Marcia? In 1979 Nashville thought the answer was near. Then a young man who’d bragged of killing the girl was acquitted for lack of evidence. In the 21st Century his DNA proved beyond a doubt that Jeffery Womack didn’t kill Marcia Trimble.

Who killed Jodi Parrack?

The pool of suspects may be smaller in Constantine than it was in Nashville. At least one registered sex offender lives on Peachtree Lane there in Constantine, spitting distance from the cemetery where Jodi was found and not much further from her home.

But cops may have already eliminated most local sex offenders, as it is pretty common to simply go down the local list and talk to each offender when a crime like this occurs.

At the moment, Jodi’s death remains a mystery.

My and my friend’s responses to Jodi’s image, to her tragedy, prove that we carry ghosts with us wherever we go. They are like bells in our hearts, tuned to certain frequencies, and they ring sometimes when we were on the verge of believing we were no longer haunted.

There are greater, longer-lasting tragedies spinning out from crimes like this. For in 29, 30 years, there may be someone out there who once knew Jodi Parrack writing out their memories because they have once again seen a young face in the news, the word “murdered” or “vanished” beside it. Memories of a funny, spunky girl who glittered, for a time, and then was too soon gone.

Source: WSBT.com.