Recent interviews with a hunter who discovered the body of a missing Forsyth County boy conflict with long-standing, public comments made by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
After 19 years, the case remains cold.
It was at 6:50 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1997, when Levi Frady, 11, was last seen alive. A resident noticed the boy traveling on his red bicycle down Little Mill Road, less than a mile from his home, according to a GBI timeline that took the agency seven years to produce.
Multiple sources, including House Rep. Kevin Tanner, said no one actually saw the boy being abducted. Tanner worked the case as a young deputy.
Highs that day were in the mid-60s with a low of 48 and light rain. GBI’s timeline also shows that Levi’s grandfather and other relatives found Levi’s bicycle and took it home to Levi’s mother’s house.
The boy’s mother, Marilyn Parkman, waited until after the bicycle was put back outside before reporting her son missing at 8:00 a.m. — 12 hours and 10 minutes after he was last seen — according to the timeline.
A retired Dawson County law enforcement officer said the bicycle had been wiped clean of fingerprints — including Levi’s.
Levi would have turned 30 this year. A professional age progression photo shows how he would have looked today.
It was a short 3 1/2 hours later at approximately 11:30 a.m. when a deer hunter observed Frady’s body in a rain-filled pit 14 miles, and one county away, in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management area.
It was the opening day of deer season.
The murder of a child who loved his bicycle, playing in the creek with his cousins, his nanny’s pancakes, and playing piano remains “open and active.” This status prevents the media, the family, and the public from accessing any files on Levi Frady.
As recently as January 2012, GBI Special Agent Mitchell Posey, told CBS 46-Atlanta that he believes Frady fought an abductor and was subsequently shot three times in the back as he tried to get away.
“Levi was a fighter,” Posey said.
Family members, however, were told Levi was shot in the head, according to a Nov. 9, 1997 Atlanta Journal Constitution report.
If Frady were murdered in Dawson Forest, than Dawson County’s jurisdiction for the past 19 years would be legitimate. But, what if, Levi wasn’t murdered in Dawson Forest? What if he was killed in Forsyth County?
Eyewitness Rev. Larry Kelley of Ellijay, who first found Levi’s body, remembers things differently than what GBI has told the public.
He was the first of three hunters, in two separate parties, to walk up on the scene. It was also the first time Kelley had gone deer hunting in years because of an illness in his family. His wife encouraged him that week to take a break and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. He thought it was a good idea and packed a lunch for the day.
He drove his truck south on Highway 9 to Dawson Forest Road and turned right. He then traveled about two miles past a faded Dawson Forest Wildlife Management sign, and past an abandoned Lockheed Martin nuclear reactor, now separated from the public by a simple chain-link fence and ‘no trespassing’ signs. The road dead-ended in a cul-de-sac, with one dirt road to the left and one to the right. The reverend took the one on the left.
News outlets at the time of the murder reported a large pool of blood near Levi’s body and his book bag nearby in some weeds.
Eighteen years later in 2015, Kelley and his wife drove an investigative reporter to the same spot where he had parked his truck that unforgettable day. While his wife waited in the vehicle, the pair stood together in a cul-de-sac of broken gravel, a graffiti-covered cement wall, and swaying Georgia pines.
“I have to be honest and tell you I’ve had diarrhea for three days before coming to meet you,” Kelley said. “It’s about a quarter-mile up the road that way. I don’t think I’m gonna be able to make it.
“This place has the feeling of death all over it. Every time I even think about coming back in here, the hairs on the back of my neck stands straight up.”
Kelley said it was the first time he’d been back in Dawson Forest since 1997, but his memory hasn’t faded.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “It’s burned into my brain. What I saw just didn’t look real. I’d never seen a dead body before. I thought maybe some kids were just playing a Halloween prank on their friends. It was real close to Halloween.”
Description of crime scene
According to the reverend, the boy was lying face up in a rain-filled pit near a mound of dirt. He was mostly submerged except for the bottom half of his legs.
“The water was so clear I could see his eyeball and eyelid were, like, floating,” he said. “It just couldn’t be real.”
Levi was wearing dark-colored pants, a light-colored shirt that was pulled up over his chest, and checkered boxer shorts.
“The boxers were pulled up over his pants like you see kids wear today,” Kelley said. “Another thing I remember vividly is his shoes. They were really clean, new looking. I don’t know why, I just remember thinking that’s kinda weird they were so clean.” He described Levi’s shoes as being two-toned in color.
“I didn’t see any blood, anywhere,” Kelley said. “And I didn’t see a book bag.”
Disclaimer: This link includes a professional artist’s re-creation of the Levi Frady murder scene. It is not a crime scene photo. Artist’s re-creation of Levi Frady murder scene.
The question is: Was Levi wearing the same clothes when he was reported missing or had someone changed them?
Believing the body was a Halloween prank, Kelley left the scene and walked back to his truck parked approximately one-quarter mile away.
“I sat there, ate my lunch,” he said, “but something kept bugging me. Something wasn’t right. You know how you get kind of a sick feeling in your stomach?”
He headed back, and for the first time, met hunters Jimmy Davis of Ellijay and an unnamed Vietnam veteran — one older, one younger — who also observed the body.
A call was placed to Dawson County 911.
Law enforcement officers from Dawson County, Forsyth County, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Natural Resources, and other agencies combed the area around the body for most of the night,” according to an Oct. 30, 1997, Dawson News & Advertiser report.
Kelley said GBI took impressions of his boots and questioned him.
“That agent, I can’t remember his name, was very aggressive,” he said. “He tried to tell me I wasn’t telling him everything I knew and kinda got up in my face. I stepped back for a minute and said, ‘I’m not interested in your politics,’ then he kinda backed off.”
No one from GBI, Dawson County, or Forsyth ever contacted him again, Kelley said.
When Forsyth County Sheriff, Denny Hendrix, and Lt. Bill Miller arrived on the scene, Hendrix was blocked from entering.
“… when we arrived we were told to leave by then Assistant District Attorney Jessica Moss,” Hendrix wrote in a private letter of complaint Sept. 2, 1998 to GBI Director Buddy Nix — nearly a year after the murder.
“Until someone can produce evidence to the contrary, I do believe a crime occurred in this (Forsyth) county,” Hendrix explained.
In a July 12, 2000 article in The Forsyth Herald, Hendrix more strongly expressed his feelings about the GBI/Dawson investigation.
“I am ashamed for the GBI and for Sheriff (Billy) Carlisle,” he said. “I would hate to think my boy was murdered and the law enforcement agencies couldn’t get together … What are we coming to in law enforcement?”