CRIME STOPPERS: 10-year-old Chattanooga boy's murder is still unsolved after 14 years
Her youngest brother, Josh, would be 24 years old. But the little boy she remembers never grew out of his 16-inch red bicycle or his boyish grin.
Wednesday marks 14 years since the 10-year-old was found murdered in East Lake.
"We just couldn't find him anywhere," Crystal remembered.
December 8, 2000. It was a Friday afternoon. Kids were out of school. Josh was out in the neighborhood, trying to find help fixing his bike's flat tire. He was last seen riding it near his home on 14th Avenue that afternoon.
But hours passed. The sun went down.
Josh never made it back home.
"I just kept getting a horrible feeling because it was not like him not to come home," Crystal said.
Although wasn't unusual for him to stay the night with friends, she said Josh was always back at the same time -- no matter what.
"He slept in his shoes and socks anywhere he went, so he could hop up and be home at 7 o'clock in the morning," said Crystal.
That night, everybody split into groups to start looking. The search continued the next day. Josh's brother and some neighborhood kids went up by East Lake Park, where they always rode their bikes.
Up in the woods, the kids found a little foot -- without any shoes or socks -- sticking out of the leaves. Crystal didn't want to believe it could be her missing little brother.
"I thought that was some other kid back there, and I needed to go home and wait for my brother to come home," she recalled. "He could've been there, sitting and waiting on us."
But deep down she knew her nightmare was real.
"Why him? What did he do? I mean, what could a 10-year-old do to deserve to die?"
According to his oldest sister, Josh was just like any other 10-year-old kid. He loved video games, football, riding his little red bike -- and he loved helping other people.
"All the little old ladies in the neighborhood just loved him," Crystal said. "He was always going to their house every day checking on them, seeing if they needed their grass cut."
So why would someone would murder the young boy? It's a question that still haunts the boy's sister 14 years later.
"I feel like my kids were robbed of an uncle. I was robbed of a brother," she cried.
An autopsy determined the boy had been smothered to death. Acid was poured on his body.
Crystal was just 17 at the time. She said her brother's death changed her life forever. She's now an overprotective mom of five kids.
"People will tell me I keep them sheltered and everything, but it's because this person's still out there," she said.
Josh's shoes, socks and his 16-inch red bicycle were never found. And ever since it happened, Crystal has never found peace, either, knowing her youngest brother didn't deserve to die.
"If anybody knows anything, no matter how little it is, no matter what you think if it matters or if it don't matter," she pleaded. "Any little thing could help."
Anyone with information should call CrimeStoppers at (423) 698-3333.
By: GREG GLOVER
This week's Crime Stoppers case is one reason Mike Mathis took on the District Attorney's Cold Case duties in his retirement. "This was a 10-year old kid," he said. "It's close to a lot of us."
December 10th of 2000, investigators were called to 3100 6th Avenue. Joshua Walden, missing for more than 24-hours, had been found by one of his brothers. His sister Crystal was the last person to have contact with the youngster. She was changing her newborn's diaper while Josh was in the kitchen trying to line-up a repair for his bike. "It's like a movie that plays in my head everyday," she explained. "I remember hollering for him and asking him where he was, you know? I remember saying, 'Josh, where you at?' And I never got an answer."
He did not return that night. Soon, the family fanned out to search eventually making the awful discovery. "This was a 10-year old kid and we don't have a lot of child murders," said Mathis, "and, so, it became a very high profile case as soon as he was found. And immediately after his body was found, we reached out to the FBI and other agencies that had more expertise than we had locally."
A decade's worth of investigation has not resolved the case, so we are once again asking for your help. Any bit of information, no matter how small it may seem, could be the key detectives need. "We cannot share everything about this case," Mathis said. "We need to keep a lot of things that we do close to the case and the case agents that are working it. So, the public doesn't know, what they know, how important it could be. So, anything, even if it's an idea, it's a hunch, just 'somebody acted differently weeks after that.'"
This heinous crime changed a family forever. "I used to be the most outgoing person in the world," said Crystal Walden. "I would get along with anybody, but now I just, I don't know, I feel like I stay in my shell so I'm safe. You know? And I keep my kids in that shell with me to keep them safe."
Help them finally find some answers. "I mean, I forgive them," said Walden. "I mean, I just want them to come forward and say, just explain to me why."
If you know anything, if you have been keeping a secret, if you have been protecting someone or protecting yourself for the last ten years, it is time to come clean. With Crime Stoppers, you never have to identify yourself and if your tip leads to an arrest, up to $1,000 reward cash could be yours.
Call (423) 698-3333. Remember, a police officer may answer the phone or return your call, but he will never ask your name.