For 25 years, now, one question has haunted Virginia Rogers James and her sister Ann. Why would someone attack and brutally kill their mother, Mena Richie?
July 24th, 1989, she was discovered by her granddaughter. Mena was dead in her Signal Hills home. "Mena lived by herself," explained Chattanooga Police Sgt. Bill Phillips. "She was 69 years old."
Eyewitness News file video shows officers combing the Hillsview house, that day. Investigators have said they believe someone was looking for cash Richie, a well-known and long-time employee of the Town & Country Restaurant, was rumored to have hidden.
"This doesn't appear to be a 'stranger came through the neighborhood and went into Mena's house' kind of thing," said Sgt. Phillips. He has worked the case his entire 20 years in homicide. He has been with the family as they have cried and laughed together. "I believe that local people know what happened."
We met with the family, Police Chief Fred Fletcher, incoming District Attorney Neal Pinkston, and current and original investigators at Mena Richie's grave site as they marked the solemn anniversary with prayer and balloons released in her memory. Virginia tells us, every day since that awful Monday morning has been hard. But, every year, this week is very emotional. "It's a crying week and a trying week," she said.
The event changed her life. She has been back to the home, a house her father built in 1941, just once since her mother was murdered. "I have big sticks under my doors, I have a big stick under my bed. I haven't taken a gun class, yet. And I dream of seeing people in my house," Virginia said. "I write down names that people say. I think about people that I think maybe could have done it," she added. "I just think about her and how much we miss her."
"We're not gonna give up," said Sgt. Phillips. "Our homicide cases are never marked anything other than 'cleared by arrest' or 'cleared' in some fashion, or they are 'pending' and this case is pending, which means we're actively investigating it."
If you think you know something, no matter how small the detail may seem to you, call Crime Stoppers. Let investigators decide how it fits into the puzzle they have been trying to piece together for a quarter of a century.
Have you been holding back? If you have kept a secret out of fear, 25 long years have passed. Now is the time to put your conscience to rest and to give this family some answers and some peace. "She would do anything for anybody," said Virginia. "Why? That's my only question. Why? We're just a tight close family and we want someone out there to please, if you know anything, please call. This is so hard for us every year."
Up to $1,000 reward is available for information in this case that leads to an arrest. And, as always, you never have to identify yourself in Crime Stoppers. A police officer may answer the phone or return your call if you leave a message, but he will never ask who you are.
Do the right thing. Call Crime Stoppers: (423) 698-3333