New evidence solves cold murder case 28 years later

28 years after one woman was murdered and one was sexually assaulted in Starkville, 51 year-old Michael Devaughn, of Rienzi, has been been charged with capital murder and sexual battery.

Sergeant Bill Lott, the current lead investigator on this case,  said on September 3rd, 1990, a man knocked on the door of a house in Starkville. Betty Jones answered the door and he immediately attacked and killed her. He then proceeded to go in the room Kathryn Crigler was in and raped her. Sergeant Lott said he wouldn’t go into details about the assault, but Crigler did survive. She died months later from her injuries and deep depression.

The attacker left the house and Crigler was able to dial 911. Sergeant Lott said the phone next to her bed was damaged and she had one amputated leg, so she crawled to the kitchen and was able to pull the phone down by its cord. Police arrived at the scene where they had to kick the door in because it has been locked.

Crigler was then taken to OCH Regional Medical Center where a rape kit was performed and sealed. Sergeant Lott explained that DNA testing was not a thing in 1990. It was not available until 1995, but only in seven states.

Sergeant Lott said he got handed this case in 2004.

“I got handed the case because the captain who had it was becoming chief and he said, ‘I can’t carry this anymore and you’re going to have to carry it’,” said Lott. “He said, ‘you’ve been through all this training and I figured you’ve realized what was coming next’.”

Sergeant Lott said he took this case and was working with one of the best detectives that the department has ever had, Detective William Durr.

“Its been a long journey,” said Lott, as he started to get emotional.

In 2005, Sergeant Lott sent in the rape kit to to hopefully get a DNA profile test back because he said science was the best opportunity.

“The science has allowed us to get where we are today,” said Lott. “We’re at a good place and I feel confident with our District Attorney’s office. Once this case gets in his hands I believe we’re going to get justice served and it’s well overdue.”

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said this was a historic day and she stated how proud she was of the Starkville Police Department and Sergeant Lott, who pushed and pushed to make this happen.

“Technology has done a wonderful thing for us,” said Mayor Spruill. “I am delighted that Starkville has pushed through and gotten the resolution and comfort that the families wanted.”

District Attorney Scott Colom also expressed his appreciation to the Starkville Police Department. He said this case proves that no crime remains unsolved as far as effort goes, and that any expense and any work ethic that’s required  to solve a crime, the Starkville Police Department will do it.

“Sergeant Lott deserves a tremendous amount of credit,” said DA Colom. “Every time I’ve met with Lott since I’ve been district attorney, he’s mentioned this case to me. He’s so passionate about it and solving that crime and if it wasn’t for that passion we probably wouldn’t be here today.”

He also expressed his remorse to the families of the two victims.

“To the memory and legacies of these two victims that were victims of horrible crimes, I want to let them know that my office will do everything in our power to prosecute the young man to the full extent of law,” said DA Colom. “It has already been too long, so we’re going to do everything that we can to help the families through this process and make sure that justice is finally received for their memories.”

Chief Frank Nichols said these ladies were very liked and he hasn’t met anybody whose lives they haven’t touched.

“I can’t say enough about Sergeant Lott,” said Nichols. “Law enforcement needs him, he refused to give up.”

Devaughn’s bond was set at $10 million for capital murder and $1 million for sexual battery. He is being held at the Oktibbeha County Jail.

He was out on bond for an unrelated felony charge from the Tishomingo County Sheriff’s Office.