A three state cold case task force is comparing notes on unsolved murders of women in Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio. There is only one person of interest. Now that person is at the center of another murder investigation, from almost 50 years ago. Local 12's Deborah Dixon says police reopened the murder case of a young woman who may have been his first victim.
"Fr that to happen to Betty Gail Brown was so shocking, you couldn't believe it. I kept thinking it was a bad dream."
Betty Gail was on campus at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, studying a biology with friends. She left for her car parked in a lot. That's where she was found early the next morning. Police believe the blood on the dashboard is where Betty Gail's killer smashed her head down, knocking her out. Detective Rob Wilson of Lexington Police says, "Betty Gail Brown's bra was method used to strangle her. He pulled it around her neck and choked her to death."
Betty Gail lived in town... an honor student from Lafayette High School who was a member of the elite singing group The Charmettes and a Phi Mu sorority sister at Transylvania University. The 19 year old was still active in her church where she sang in the choir. Sonya Ross grew up with Betty Gail: "She was sweet with big brown eyes, giggly, full of life."
The feeling was, if this could happen to Betty Gail Brown, it could happen to anyone. Jackie Hopkins also grew up with Betty: "It made you think.. did someone I know do this or what?"
Back then no one thought stranger murder. The entire male student body at the college was fingerprinted and given lie detector tests. But the case went cold, until 1965. An alcoholic drifter from Oregon named Alex Arnold said he killed Betty Gail. He confessed. but... he also talked to dots on the wall. Arnold's stories kept changing. He was tried anyway and acquitted. "I'm sure there was a lot of pressure to make an arrest in this case."
Now, decades later the boxes of evidence have been dusted off... again. "It's odd, almost fifty years later information keeps tapping us on the shoulder, saying let's keep doing this."
The information this time centers on a man named Nolan Ray George,a suspected serial killer of young women from London, Kentucky, 76 miles from Lexington. George is suspected in seven murders in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. He's done time for two, and at 67 years old was living in Amelia when cold case detectives in the four states started looking at strangulation murders of young women. That led to his arrest in July for a 1968 murder in Pontiac, Michigan.
His method of operation is strangulation... usually with undergarments. George told a cellmate he got sexual satisfaction from strangling. "The manner of death, the absence of sexual activity, the violence-there are certainly similarities. That's why we're going through the enormous case file one more time."
And tracking George's past. In 1960 he was arrested in Richmond, Indiana for disorderly conduct. In 1962 he stole a car in Frankfort. There is no record of where the teenager was in October 1961 when Betty Gail Brown was strangled. "We're going to look at Mr. George. We're going to do everything to put him at the murder scene or prove he was somewhere else."
There have been other suspects over the years, rumors of coverups to protect wealthy families and talk of a satanic cult. Betty Gail's murder still haunts Lexington and the detectives who inherit "The Brassiere Murder."