Their stories are similar: the words “last seen” are used to describe their final days on earth, and their families searched for weeks before having their worst fears realized.
It was May 7, 1982, and a mother of four was last seen leaving Mary’s Supper Club, a tavern on Rockmart Highway, around 9 p.m. Her family described her as a good mother who was blowing off some steam.
She was expected back at her Pleasant Valley Road home later that night. But it wasn’t until much later that year she was found — within a mile from where she was last seen.
On November 1, 1982 a woodcutter found the 30-year-old Barbara Edwards' skeletal remains in a slightly scattered position about 60 to 70 yards from Rockmart Highway.
The cause of her death was never determined, but investigators treated it as a homicide from day one.
A report from the Nov. 16, 1982 Rome News-Tribune stated the investigation was focused on two suspects. They were not identified, but the lead detective in the case said that the investigation keeps pointing at two people.
“We had leads and a strong suspect but could never get the evidence needed for an arrest,” Floyd County Police Capt. Tommy Shiflett said.
Police also questioned a murderous couple that had been in the area about the same time of the disappearance.
The questioning ruled out an involvement by Judith and Alvin Neelley, a Tennessee couple arrested earlier in the year in connection with the gruesome death of two teenage girls.
Click to read the 1982 news report Lured into a trap
Police suspect a man who was reported missing on March 25, 1992, was killed after being lured into a robbery.
Mendoza’s blue van was found several days later on March 28, abandoned at an Oostanaula River floodgate several yards from where his body was found nearly a month later.
Juan Mendoza, 36, was found on Saturday, April 25, 1992, by a group of men playing soccer near a busy area behind 607 W. 12th St.
“The feeling was a prostitute brought him in, and her boyfriend robbed him and killed him,” Rome Police Department Capt. Terry Autry said.
He remembers the case vividly; he was the patrol officer who responded to the call. It appeared Mendoza had been beaten to death and an animal had apparently disturbed the remains.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years and it was the most gruesome thing I’ve seen,” he said.
Suspects in the case had been convicted of a series of similar robberies. The woman would lure a victim in and her boyfriend would roll them — although they denied this particular incident.
“Even then they had a pretty strong suspect, just no physical evidence,” Autry said.
The two suspects were questioned in the incident but not charged.
Click to read the 1992 news report Hammond worker’s remains found
February 27, 1980, was a mild mid-winter day, with highs in the 50s. It was also the last day a Floyd County man’s family saw him alive.
The 58-year-old Sam Chapman was last seen leaving work at Plant Hammond on Alabama Highway.
The next day his pickup truck, a cream-colored 1967 stepside Ford pickup, was discovered by police in the parking lot of Gala Shopping Center on Redmond Circle in West Rome.
A week later, on March 6, the missing man’s nearly obliterated skeletal remains were found inside a burned structure on Big Texas Valley Road near Antioch Road. He was identified by his dental records and through X-ray records.
“We think they piled tires on him and burned them,” Shiflett said.
Even months after his remains were found, people in the area found evidence of the crime. On April 8 near Huffaker Road, a Georgia Power Co. mower came upon a lunch box bearing Chapman’s name along with “personal papers” and car keys.
Police still have suspects, and over the years more evidence has been unearthed near the scene, but none of it enough to make a case.
Click to read the 1980 news report
For those who may have information regarding the Mendoza case, RPD Capt. Autry can be contacted at 706-238-5121. For those with information regarding the Edwards or Chapman case, FCPD Capt. Shiflett can be contacted at 706-235-7766.
The rest of the series Sunday - Suspects but not enough evidence
Tuesday - Minding their own business
Wednesday - Spider Webb Drive
Thursday - Convenience store killings
Friday - Almost enough
Saturday - “Pressuring the wrong man”
Sunday - Family history