Jonesville Police Sgt. Gregory Keith Martin was killed while on duty on October 5, 1996, and the person responsible for his death has never been found.
Martin, a well respected officer on the Jonesville PD, was working alone that night when he became the first officer killed in the line of duty in Jonesville history.
At the time of his death, Martin was 30 years old. He left behind a wife and three children.
Current Jonesville Chief of Police Roger Reece advised that the investigation into Martin’s death is the only active ongoing investigation of a murdered police officer in North Carolina. Martin was gunned down after pulling over a red Dodge Ram pickup truck on I-77 about a mile south of Jonesville at about 2:30 a.m.
After Martin stopped the vehicle, he asked the police dispatcher to send a state trooper to the scene. The state trooper who arrived moments later found Martin lying outside of his patrol car. He had been shot in the head.
In October 1996, The Tribune reported that the killer or killers abandoned the red pickup truck in the Lucia parking lot in Elkin and stole a white Lucia van. The Lucia van was subsequently found abandoned in Gastonia in a Home Depot parking lot. The red pickup truck Martin pulled over was originally stolen from Ramsey Dodge in Princeton, W. Va. Two individuals had looked at the red pickup truck at the dealership earlier in the day, and police believe those individuals were probably the ones that stole the red pickup.
Almost 16 years after the murder, no one has been arrested for the crime. Martin’s story has been aired on America’s Most Wanted three times, most recently in June 2006. Details of the crime and the evidence police have can be found on www.amw.com.
The Jonesville Police Department does have a cold case unit set aside to work on the case. Its members include Ron Perry, retired SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) agent; John Foster, retired SBI agent who was one of the original investigators on the case; and two FBI agents, Mike Garcia and Jim Meade. These investigators evaluate the information that comes in and chase down each lead, no matter how insignificant or bogus the tip may seem.
Perry and Foster work during retirement for nominal pay to try and solve the case. Perry says he usually works more than 40 hours per week just trying to solve Martin’s murder.
“I have nothing else to do but that and keep the grass cut,” Perry said lightheartedly. “It’s not about money; it’s about solving the case.”
The cold case unit meets every Tuesday to discuss the ongoing investigation. New leads are constantly coming in, usually from citizens who have seen or heard something about it on the news. According to Perry, approximately 15 leads have come in since January of this year.
“This case is like a roller coaster ride,” Chief of Police Reece said. “You have highs and lows; you might get a lead that sounds good and then it falls apart.”
Perry said that in addition to the cold case unit running down the leads that come in week after week, the group is constantly reviewing the evidence they have collected to see if there is anything else the lab can do now that they were unable to do in 1996. They re-submit any evidentiary items that can be re-tested.
Chief of Police Reece says that the unit is focused on the evidence they do have in the case. He said that the two individuals who stole the red pickup truck in W. Va. were in a green Dodge truck when they looked at the red truck earlier in the day at the dealership. Chief of Police Reece says the car salesman at the W. Va. dealership believes the green Dodge had Florida tags on it.
“If we find the green truck, it might lead us to the killer(s),” Chief of Police Reece said.
Last Friday, Jonesville United Methodist Church held a memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers of Surry and Yadkin County. Martin was honored at the service. The service was held in conjunction with Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15, which was established in 1962 by former President John F. Kennedy. The week in which Peace Officers Memorial Day falls is commonly known as National Police Week.
If anyone has any information regarding the case, they are asked to call the Jonesville Police Department at 336-835-5020 or the SBI hotline at 800-334-3000. There is currently a $130,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Martin’s murder. Chief of Police Reece says he is actively working to get N.C. Senate Bill 61 passed so the reward can be increased to $230,000.
“There are ups and downs to it. It is time consuming. You want it to solve the case as quickly as possible but that’s not the way it happens sometimes,” said Perry.