A tip from a Georgia sheriff and a jailhouse interview with a member of the “Dixie Mafia” led to the identification of four individuals that played a role in a triple homicide in Boone in February of 1972, according to details released by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office earlier this month.
Known as the Durham case — Bryce Durham, 51, his wife, Virginia, 44, and their 18-year-old son, Bobby, were found brutally murdered in their home during a snowstorm 50 years ago. Troy Hall, the Durham’s son-in law, found the family deceased after he and his wife — the Durhams’ daughter, Ginny — went to check on the family with the help of a neighbor.
The law enforcement community followed leads over the years with no resolution. Then in 2019, a phone call from a Georgia sheriff’s office provided the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office with information that helped tie four men to the crime: Billy Sunday Birt, Billy Wayne Davis, Bobby Gene Gaddis, and Charles David Reed. All four perpetrators were part of the “Dixie Mafia,” which is thought to have engaged in violent crimes in Georgia and elsewhere across the Southeast throughout the 1960s and 70s.
The only surviving perpetrator of the case is believed to be 81-year-old Billy Wayne Davis, who is currently a resident of a correctional facility in Augusta, Georgia.
During interviews with investigators, Davis admitted to being the getaway driver for the three other men at the Durham’s house. He also shared details of the case and scene that were unknown to the public, according to Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman in an interview earlier this week.
“He recalled being parked in a specific place,” Hagaman said. “That was verified by a couple of witnesses from way back. He knew about the scene inside the house; he knew about the snowstorm; he knew about almost getting caught. He knew enough data points to give law enforcement confidence that he was truly there. It wasn’t read from an article. He knew things that no one would have known unless they had first-hand knowledge.”
When asked about the murderers’connection to the Durham family and whether it was a possible hired hit, Hagaman said, “They wouldn’t have done it without being hired; they only did it for money. Killing for money is what they did, and they did quite well.”
He continued, “It’s speculation that there was cash in the house to the tune of about $30,000 or $35,000, and nobody could ever account for that money. And that was the going rate. Was that at the house? Possibly, but that’s nothing but speculation.”
Despite not knowing who solicited the crime against the Durham family, the Durham case has been closed.
“With any case, we have an incident report, and there are several blocks that you check off,” Hagaman explained. “We use the term case closed, even when it’s solved or not solved. There’s no real distinction between those phrases. With the Durham case, I consider it closed because we interviewed a person of interest who was there, and they reported or he pointed the finger at the rest of his comrades. The biggest thing is the surviving family feels the same way. They feel it is closed; they have some closure. It’s almost synonymous, whether it’s closed or solved.”
As for Davis, there will not be a new charge against him since his confession because of his age. He will remain in a state penitentiary for the rest of his life due to other crimes he committed.
“For an 81-year-old, he is as sharp as a tack, and he knows exactly what’s going on,” Hagaman described. “I’m convinced that he went into the house. He knew too much on the inside of the house, but he would not put himself in the house. He was that calculated. He was very careful in what he said and what he kept from me.”
A person of interest in the case from the beginning was Troy Hall, the Durham family’s son-in-law at the time.
According to reports, Hall received a phone call and later found the bodies of the three victims when he and his wife, Ginny, went to check on them. A few years later, Hall divorced Ginny and went to law school.
“It was strange, because the day that we got the call from White County, Georgia, there was a guy that came in here and said he had gone to school with Troy Hall in Wilkes County,” Hagaman said. “When they were in the first grade, he lost track of Troy after about two or three weeks. According to this guy, they promoted Troy to the third grade. And then evidently, later, he was promoted again. He was a very, very sharp individual. He went to Georgia and to John Marshall School of Law.”
The location of where Hall practiced law happened to be near the “Dixie Mafia.”
“He practiced law in Lawrenceville, Georgia,” Hagaman said. “Lawrenceville is pretty close to Winder. Winder is not far away from where these guys kind of headquartered. They were kind of all over, but that was their base of operation.”
Nothing was ever discovered about Hall that linked him to the Durham case, and he has since passed away.
“I don’t think the case will be solved because we don’t have someone to interview that set this whole thing in motion,” Hagaman said. “ I’ve had my suspicions for years and years, and I’m not the only one that had those suspicions, but the fact is that the one of most important people to ask is now deceased. We didn’t find anything out about Troy. I talked to Troy many, many times, and he wasn’t going to reveal anything. He was a very smart guy. He was an attorney; he had a legal mind. He knew the right things to say; he always did.”
Over the years, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office has kept in touch with the Durham family.
“As you can imagine, this has been very hard for Ginny,” Hagaman said. “She was very close to her brother. We had a couple of interviews with her previously to give updates. As things unfolded, there was a time when the FBI and my captain reengaged her, and it was during that time, she found out that Troy had passed away. So, that’s how she got the information. I believe she was genuinely scared of him.”
The new updates to the investigation and the conclusions have provided the Durham family members with closure.
Hagaman said, “We want the public to understand that the family feels that they have some form of closure and cannot gain any more information regarding the details of the case due to the fact that the most important people involved are deceased.”
Kayla McCorrison contributed to this story.