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Sheriff: 30-year-old mystery solved with victim’s ID
Body identified by DNA testing as Athens man

GUNTERSVILLE (AP) — A statement from a dying man and DNA testing have allowed Marshall County authorities to close the books on a 30-year-old murder mystery of a Limestone County man.

A body exhumed in May has been identified through DNA testing as Bobby Joe Kellum of Athens, Marshall County Sheriff Scott Walls said this week.

Walls, who worked on the case as an investigator in 1988, had the body exhumed from Arab City Cemetery after Kellum’s family gave him a high school yearbook picture of the victim.

TVreport of cold case

The family had contacted the sheriff’s office after seeing a report on Huntsville television about the 30th anniversary of Kellum’s death. It included a picture of his body taken shortly after he had been killed.

Kellum’s brother, Dean, who lives in Athens, said he and his family never knew what happened to his brother after he left home with a girlfriend 30 years ago.

Funeral to be Saturday

Kellum’s remains will be buried Saturday at 1 p.m. in Antioch Cemetery in Elkmont, his brother said.

Investigators determined that the girlfriend’s father, DeWitt Thrash of Anniston, killed Kellum, who was 19 at the time, after learning that he had been dating his 17-year-old daughter, the sheriff announced at a news conference.

Witness account

Walls said the account came from Clarence W. Brooks, who had been with Thrash, Kellum and Troy Barnes at Martling Cemetery near Albertville where Kellum was murdered on May 15, 1977.

Walls said Brooks told investigators that he was in the back seat when Thrash and Barnes pulled Kellum out of the vehicle and Thrash cut Kellum’s throat.

Thrash, in his 80s, and Barnes, 57, died in 2005, he said.

Walls said Brooks, who is living in Louisiana and near death, will not be charged. Walls said Brooks told investigators that he decided to talk because he did not want to die without telling about the murder.

Walls said information about the murder had been known for years, but charges couldn’t be made without the body being identified.

P.T. Williams of Arab, coroner from 1975 until 1979, said it was the only body he could not identify.

Body mutilated, burned

Kellum’s throat had been cut “from ear to ear,” Williams said, and he had been stabbed in the chest and his body covered with yellow latex paint. Gasoline was used to burn the body.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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