A confidential letter between law enforcement agencies working the unsolved murder of an 11-year-old Forsyth County, Ga. boy reveals crime scene photos, polygraph tests, a search warrant, and other critical information were withheld from local authorities, according to documents obtained by the author of this website.
It was Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1997, when Levi Frady, 11, went missing while allegedly riding his red, 20-inch bicycle near his Burruss Mill Road home. A GBI timeline released seven years later confirmed family members moved the bicycle before authorities were notified.
Authorities close to the case said the bicycle had been wiped clean of fingerprints, including the boy’s. His body was found the following day by deer hunters in the Dawson Forest Wildlife area, approximately 19 miles — and one county away — from his home.
Frady had been shot three times, once in the upper body and twice in the head, according to authorities familiar with the case. Further, the shots were not all fired at the same time or at the same location.
Sept. 2, 1998
On Sept. 2, 1998, eleven months after the child’s murder, Forsyth County Sheriff Denny Hendrix wrote a letter to then GBI Director Buddy Nix.
“Since the death of Levi Frady in October 1997,” Hendrix wrote, “I have asked for meetings with Jim Hallman and Sheriff Billy Carlisle to update us on the progress of the case. Until Tuesday (11 months after the murder), there had been no meeting.
“In addition, we have also dealt with these issues:
CRIME SCENE PHOTOS – We have asked on several occasions for photos of the crime scene, but have yet to receive them.
POLYGRAPHS AND INTERVIEWS – We have not been informed at all about polygraphs given or who has been interviewed regarding the case.
GBI-ISSUED SEARCH WARRANT – A search warrant was issued by the GBI in Forsyth County for the mother’s home (Marilyn Parkman) not long after the murder. Our agency was not informed of this when it was happening. Editor’s note: A former Forsyth County deputy told LeviFrady.com that it took GBI six days to arrive on the scene with a warrant.
FORSYTH SHERIFF TOLD TO LEAVE CRIME SCENE – When we arrived at the scene of the murder in Dawson County, we were told to leave by then Assistant District Attorney Jessica Moss. (Forsyth) Lt. Bill Miller was finally allowed to view the crime scene.”
Two years later in February 1999, Lt. Miller a 10-year veteran of the force, abruptly resigned. In his resignation letter he stated he been falsely blamed for a high turnover rate in the criminal investigation division and was in the process of being unfairly transferred to internal affairs by Hendrix, according to a Feb. 18, 1999 Forsyth County News report.
But the question lingers: why was Sheriff Hendrix prevented from seeing the crime scene? Would it have confirmed suspicions that Frady was murdered in Forsyth?
“You may ask yourself why am I so concerned about this case,” Hendrix continues in his letter, “… Until someone can produce evidence to the contrary, I do believe a crime occurred in this county. GBI Agent Hallman has told me on several occasions that we didn’t have a crime committed here in Forsyth County, I guess to legitimize his reasoning for not sharing any information with us.”
Until someone can produce evidence to the contrary, I do believe a crime occurred in this county.
— Forsyth County Sheriff Denny Hendrix
GBI Agent Hallman reported to Nix and was responsible for coordinating law enforcement efforts in Forsyth and Dawson counties. Nix was appointed to head GBI by Gov. Roy Barnes.
A retired law enforcement source familiar with such matters said that if Frady were murdered in Forsyth, jurisdiction would change.
“GBI says Dawson has had jurisdiction from the beginning,” the source said. “But, if Levi was murdered in Forsyth, it changes everything.”
GBI calls Sheriff Denny Hendrix a liar
Hendrix’s Sept. 2, 1998 letter also details a meeting held the previous day between GBI, Forsyth, Dawson authorities, and two district attorneys. During the meeting GBI Agent Hallman called Sheriff Hendrix and his lead investigators, Maj. Ernie Born, liars.
“When Major Born completed his presentation of what had taken place over the last few days. Agent Jim Hallman proceeded to tell Major Born he was a liar and that Sheriff Denny Hendrix was a liar ..,” Hendrix wrote.
Hallman apparently was upset that Hendrix and other Forsyth officers twice visited the Phillips Correctional Institute to interview an unnamed inmate who claimed to have information about the weapon used to murder Levi Frady.
According to Hendrix, the inmate’s first questions was: “Are any of you from the GBI? If you are, I’m not talking.”
Are any of you from GBI? If you are, I’m not talking.
— Inmate questioned about Frady murder weapon
At the time, Tommy Albert Samples was in jail for stabbing Marshall Tallant more than 70 times. The assault occurred 39 days after Frady was murdered. See LeviFrady.com post No. 5 for details.
“During my years in Fulton County, I was familiar with this inmate as he had worked as an informant for me and apparently he had come to trust me,” Hendrix wrote.
It is unclear if the inmate Hendrix’s refers to is Samples.
Present at the meeting were Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle (who plants to retire Dec. 31, 2016), Dawson Investigator Kevin Tanner (now a Georgia House Representative), GBI Agent Hallman, Forsyth County Sheriff Denny Hendrix, FCSO Maj. Ernie Born, FCSO Col. Earl Singletary, and FCSO Lt. Bill Miller. In addition, three district attorneys attended: Phil Smith and Frank Frazier from Forsyth, and Lydia Sartain for Dawson and Hall counties.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s office says it will work Frady leads
Hendrix wrote that he would continue working leads in the boy’s murder even without cooperation from GBI or the Dawson County Sheriff’s office.
“In addition, I will not stop working leads which are sent directly to my office,” Hendrix writes. “I want to work with other agencies involved in this investigation, and I have made an effort to do so, with little to no cooperation from the GBI or the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.”
His efforts, however, continued to be thwarted.
“… In my over 28 years of law enforcement experience, including those involved in solving murder cases, I have had to work with other jurisdictions. I have never worked with people who continue to refuse help that is offered to them and who continue to leave an agency that could bring this case to a conclusion out of the communication loop.”
I have never worked with people who continue to refuse help that is offered to them and who continue to leave an agency that could bring this case to a conclusion out of the communication loop.
— Forsyth County Sheriff Denny Hendrix
Frady’s aunt, Priscilla King, calls on Gov. Nathan Deal to take action.
“This website has exposed unimaginable irregularities within the Levi Frady murder investigation,” King wrote in a June 6, 2016 email. “In 19 years, no agency has taken responsibility for the lack of action in this case. Now that Governor Deal and leaders in law enforcement have been informed, perhaps he will conduct an inquiry and finally bring justice to our Levi.”
Nix responds to Forsyth County Sheriff
About two weeks later on Sept. 17, 1998, Hendrix received a written response from GBI Director Nix, according to documents obtained by the author of this website.
“… this agency takes the Levi Frady investigation very seriously,” Nix wrote. “It is a challenging case and as always, it is our intent to conduct a quality investigation that is coordinated with local authorities.
“I have spoken with Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jim Hallman regarding your concerns and again he extends his apology for the discomforts he has caused you and your staff. …This agency looks forward to working with you and Sheriff Carlisle in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.” Click to view Nix’s letter
GBI and Dawson County, however, declined to participate with Forsyth in a joint task force two years later. See LeviFrady.com news post No. 6 – Agencies fight over Levi Frady task force efforts.
GBI short on employees during Frady murder investigation
According to a May 14, 1998 Associated Press report, nearly two-thirds of GBI’s 100 employees departed the agency between 1993 – 1998. The migration resulted in lab backups and the slowing of arrests and trials throughout the state.
Crime lab employees at the time were handling twice the nation’s average of 250 cases per person. Average caseload at the lab numbered nearly 600 and according to one chemist can sometimes exceed 2,000.
“You work every case with everything you’ve got to keep from making a mistake,” said former Crime Lab drug analyst Steve Ellis, who left the agency in February after 25 years. “But obviously when you’re pressed for time and you’ve got only so much time for a case, instead of continuing to work it, you might just stop and say, ‘I’ve done all I could,’ and give an inconclusive.”
“But obviously when you’re pressed for time and you’ve got only so much time for a case, instead of continuing to work it, you might just stop and say, ‘I’ve done all I could,’ and give an inconclusive.”
— GBI crime lab analyst, Steve Ellis
Gov. Barnes appointed GBI director Buddy Nix
In addition to serving as the director of GBI, Nix was named to a vacant slot at the Georgia Pardons & Paroles Board in 2002 by Gov. Roy Barnes after two of its board members resigned amidst allegations of corruption. Previously, Nix was a career FBI agent before Zell Miller appointed him GBI director in 1993.
Nix’s name appears on the 2003 Parole Discharge paperwork of Tommy Albert Samples, who stabbed Marshall Tallant 70+ times in December 1997. He was paroled after serving five years and ordered to have no contact with Marshall Tallant. See LeviFrady.com post No. 5.
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