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Family hopes raising reward will bring out witnesses

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

With the outlook bleak for Nancy Stevens’ family ever seeing justice done, Gov. Bob Riley last week doubled a reward for information on the Decatur woman’s killing.

Motorists discovered the 46-year-old’s body on a roadside near Tupelo, Miss., on Aug. 8, 2005.

She had last been seen alive in Decatur.

“Somebody in Decatur knows what happened, when it happened and how it happened, but they don’t want to get involved because they’re afraid they’re going to get caught up in a whirlwind,” said Janice Merritt, Stevens’ sister who lives in Marietta, Ga.

“There’s somebody out there that knows something. I just feel this.”

Investigation

Police interviewed numerous witnesses, but leads didn’t pan out, said Detective Nadis Carlisle, head of the Decatur police robbery/homicide unit.

“The people that I talked to before the reward were pretty free with what they knew, but nobody knew anything specific. It was more background information.”

Leads exhausted, police and the Stevens family hoped the $5,000 Riley put up in September would bring new information. After six months with no progress, Riley on Thursday boosted the reward to $10,000 at District Attorney Bob Burrell’s request.

“The initial reward didn’t bring anybody forward,” Carlisle said.

“Maybe this will. I talked to a lot of people when it happened. Is there somebody that I didn’t talk to, that I missed? It’s possible.”

The reward is for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Stevens’ death.

“It’s frustrating. No answers. No clues,” said Merritt.

“It’s starting to look like there’s never going to be any justice,” said Nancy Stevens’ sister-in-law, Sonya Stevens of Decatur. “This is just a cold case that’s going to go into somebody’s file. We hope that since it’s doubled, maybe it will inspire somebody else to come forward.”

Shortly after the original reward announcement, family members distributed about 1,000 fliers in areas of Northwest and Southwest Decatur.

“After about two weeks, we got a lot of people coming back and giving us bits and pieces of what might have happened,” Merritt said.

“We told them they needed to call the tip line and give it to Lt. Carlisle, but they didn’t want to get involved.

“People in the surrounding neighborhood are just afraid to come forward. Their names will be withheld. Police know how to do that. People need to think that if it was them, their family, they would want someone to come forward, whatever the situation.”

Found by motorists

Two passing motorists spotted Stevens’ body, fully
clothed, shoeless and face up, beside Lee County 41 about three miles west of Tupelo, said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.

Investigators believe someone dumped her body there.

The Lee County coroner determined she died of manual asphyxiation.

Part of the mystery is how Stevens, who apparently had no connection to Lee County, came to be in Mississippi.

Stevens could have been killed somewhere in Mississippi or possibly in Decatur, which is within three hours of Tupelo, authorities said.

Stevens, a 1977 Austin High graduate who went to Calhoun Community College, was a straight-A student and an athlete who participated in track and high school volleyball, relatives said.

She worked for General Motors for a number of years
but was unemployed when she died. She was a single parent with one son, Adrian Stevens, 29.

Stevens attended Union Grove Primitive Baptist Church, where she helped with vacation Bible school.

Anyone with information may contact Detective Nadis Carlisle at 341-4635 or the confidential police tip line at 341-INFO (4636).

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