17 years later: Chattanooga priest's murder still unsolved
Father Marty Davis, 35, was brutally killed on July 16, 1997 at his home in the 1300 block of Sunbeam Ave.
Wednesday, July 16th 2014, 6:42 pm EDT
Wednesday marks 17 years since a Chattanooga priest was found murdered inside his home. The case is still unsolved.
Father Marty Davis, 35, was brutally killed on July 16, 1997 at his home in the 1300 block of Sunbeam Ave. A neighbor discovered the popular Episcopal priest shot to death in his living room.
For years, a reward has been offered for information in the cold case, but police say leads have dried up -- leaving Davis' family, friends and former parishioners still without answers.
"I was mad. He wouldn't hurt a fly. That's the kind of nice fella' he was," said Willie Anderson, a 25-year parishioner of Thankful Memorial Episcopal Church in St. Elmo.
Anderson remembers when Father Marty was a priest there -- before someone murdered him 17 years ago.
"Every time I come in church, I can't help thinking about it," he said. "Whenever I get ready to go to bed, I just pray about it."
Father Marty was well-known in the community, and made it his mission to help others. Whether it was in his own church or homeless strangers, many people would come and go through his house on Sunbeam Ave.
Through the years, police have cleared 36 suspect names -- but are still at square one. The passing time doesn't help, said retired Chattanooga homicide detective Tim Carroll.
"In 17 years, a lot of things happen," Carroll said. "It's hard to find people. People move; people pass away."
Carroll helped work the case back in 1997.
"It would be nice to have the luxury of someone looking at these cases full-time," he said.
Right now, Homicide Sgt. Bill Phillips is the only person currently making up the department's cold case unit.
"That's where our movement at this point is going to come from -- somebody calling in saying, 'Hey, I don't know if you guys ever knew'," Phillips said.
Police released a composite sketch of a man years ago, and are still working to identify him. On the morning of the murder, neighbors saw a black male in his late teens or early twenties, who was roughly 6 feet tall, walk inside Davis' home and leave. Neighbors also noticed him walking around the neighborhood around the time of the murder.
Phillips believes he's the killer.
"It appears he was alive and well when that man walked in the house, and he was dead when the man left the house," Phillips said.
As years have passed, Anderson said his prayers haven't stopped. His hope, however, is running out.
"I don't think they'll ever solve it," he said. "If they were gonna solve it, they'd have solved it a long time ago."
There's still a cash reward for information that helps solve the case. Police say anyone who knows anything -- even if they think it's an insignificant detail -- can call CrimeStoppers anonymously at (423) 698-3333.