DAVINA BUFF JONES
FATHER AND MOTHER LOY AND HARRIET BUFF
EMAIL FROM ENGLAND REGARDING JONES' DEATH
> From: "Jesper Arnoldsson"
> Date: August 1, 2005 6:00:26 AM EDT
> Subject: Your Story on WPC Davina Jones
> I am writing to you via email from London, England about a
> you published recently about a woman, WPC Davina Jones from
> Head Island in your State of Carolina (as I am not familiar
> terms Sir, I address my query re: WPC Jones (Stands for Woman
> Inspector). Your story about her was Pulitzer Prize (if not,
> Nobel Peace) material to say the elast. I give you glory and
> for an impeccable job.
> One thing I don't understand Sir is: WHY did the people living
> this Bald Head (Or Balding Head-sorry, cannot recal the proper
> Island insist, nay, DEMAND that this woman's death NOT Have
> vain ? WHY did the Fire Service even consider for an INKLING
> destroy the scene where a female had been murdered ? WHY did
> Local law enforecmeent persons who remained working there insist
> something be done ? WHY is this woman's killer running free
? I am
> from Gothenberg, Sweden and REST ASSURED: HAD this event occured
> either GReat Britain, or, certainly, in Sweden, it would NOT
> unpunished. Had it been in Sweden, the persons responsible
> cover up would be in prison, along with any local officials,
> present, AND it would not be any of this innocent until proven
> rubbish, it would be GUILTY until proven innocent ? I have
> connections with London CID, Scotland Yard, Interpol, and even
> World Court at the Hague, Nederlands: all of them ask me ,
> hearing of this story on BBC World Service (somehow BBC got
> your bloody story) what kind of place would allow such a travesty
> AND I am told, through Officials at the Swedish Embassy in
> D.C. that some ignoramus who is a police officer in your area
> subpoena from your F.B.I. Director in Washington DC and tried
> the actual gun used in the murder ? What kind of Police officer
> do that ? Even worse, what kind would CARRY this poor woman's
> knowing it was used to kill her ? I submit that a Federal inquiry
> from your Law officials in Washington DC is in order. WHY there
> not people like the Mayor at that time , (a woman), and the
> took her place (a man who still lives there), WHY these people
> have their liquid assets and solid assets frozen and them being
> into Federal custody--WHY this is not done is beyond me. I
> you this: Your Bald Head Island has caused a bad rift, due
> sloppy handling of this case, in US European relations . People
> as yourself and the family of this poor woman deserve much
> Very Respecfully Yours, Jesper Gustaf Arnolldson, Kensington,
STAR NEWS EDITORIAL
Last updated: July 28. 2005 5:35PM
Lax investigations finally reopened
Lax investigations finally reopened
Heartbroken parents shouldn’t have to hire sleuths to prod
law enforcement officials to take a closer look at questionable
The families of two people who died six years ago had to do just
that, but their persistence has reopened the unrelated cases.
Police Officer Davina Buff Jones was shot in the back of the head
after answering a call on Bald Head Island. Her death was ruled
Patrick Crawford’s body was found floating, face-up, in the
Cape Fear River. Although no water was in his lungs, the death was
called a drowning.
Their parents didn’t buy the official story. After pleading
for further investigation, they did their own digging. To put it
mildly, law enforcement overlooked some obvious questions.
Brunswick County District Attorney Rex Gore and New Hanover County
Sheriff Sid Causey have agreed to reopen the cases. That’s
encouraging, if overdue.
It’s possible – likely, even – that the investigations
won’t yield much new information. But the parents of Officer
Jones and Mr. Crawford deserve to know that every clue has been
And the rest of us deserve reassurance that murderers aren’t
on the loose.
STATE PORT PILOT
July 27, 2005
Cold cases no longer
Public exposure leads officials to reopen death investigations
By Terry Calhoun
When John Crawford called The State Port Pilot Thursday, just to
say hello, he had no inkling his work of six years was about to
Monday, New Hanover County sheriff Sid Causey decided the case of
John’s son Patrick’s 1999 death deserved another look
“I’m very happy to hear the news,” said Crawford
Tuesday night after returning from a 12-hour shift at the hospital
where he works as a respiratory specialist. “There was a message
on my answering machine to call a detective at the New Hanover County
Patrick’s corpse was found in the Cape Fear River in May of
1999, floating face up near the ADM pier. His locked car was found
on the ocean beach at Fort Fisher.
The case bears almost no resemblance to the death a few months later
of police officer Davina Jones on Bald Head Island. Patrick Crawford
was 25, footloose — a sometime actor, sometime student who
usually worked as a bartender or coffee server in downtown Wilmington.
He left scores of examples of his artwork behind and his current
ambition was to write science fiction.
His earlier ambition, a more conventional goal, was to be a FBI
agent. That desire waned as he transferred from UNC-Asheville to
UNC-Wilmington and became a well-known denizen of Wilmington’s
Jones was a dedicated police officer who, colleagues say, loved
being a cop. The other love of her life was her Australian shepherds.
The similarity to the Jones case starts and stops with just a few
facts: Patrick Crawford’s death was ruled suicide hours after
his body was found. After what could only be called a casual investigation
by the New Hanover County sheriff’s office, a decision was
made by the officer in the field — based on comments made
by Crawford’s acquaintances about his seemingly irrational
behavior, and apparently based on the detective’s inferences
from Patrick’s art — that the unobserved, “unattended”
and otherwise unexplained death of the young man was suicide.
John Crawford has never accepted that verdict.
As in the Jones case, there was no suicide note. Conversations with
family and friends immediately before their deaths indicated no
“My wife and Patrick’s brother and I talked to Patrick
the Sunday before he disappeared. A long conversation, as we normally
had. There was nothing to indicate he was troubled. If there had
been any indication he was in trouble, I would have been in my car
on the way to Wilmington. If he was psychotic, there’s no
way he would have been able to hide that fact from me and his mother,
a nurse of 35 years,” said Crawford.
He said that during his medical training he had worked ten weeks
in a psychiatric hospital, enough to give him some insight into
He is convinced the state medical examiner replicated the detective’s
conclusion without a proper autopsy, one which, for example, failed
to include a comprehensive drug screening. The state medical examiner
wrote that Crawford had a history of schizophrenia, when in fact
there was no medical evidence that was true — so says John
Crawford, Patrick’s medical history, and a private investigator’s
report. The state drew its conclusion from remarks made to the New
Hanover County investigator by some acquaintances who might otherwise
have been considered “persons of interest” in his death.
“Was the body in the water four days, or was it not?”
Crawford still asks. To him, that important question would provide
the answer, and he has heard from experts and local river-savvy
residents who say a body which had been in the water for four days
in the Cape Fear River in May would have been covered with fish
bites, and likely festooned with crabs.
Crawford is no stranger to death. As a respiratory specialist, he
says, he has seen hundreds of people die. The detachment that he
learned in his work allows him to talk dispassionately about a corpse
from a forensic point of view.
“I’m just like anyone else. I want to know what happened
to my boy,” Crawford said. “I just want to know that
an honest effort has been made to find out the truth.”
Crawford, who lives and works in Transylvania County, believes his
son’s death was inadequately investigated simply because of
his lifestyle and the fact he had no family in the area. In effect,
Crawford says, no one cared.
John Crawford has made many trips to New Hanover and Brunswick counties,
talking with his son’s friends and looking for peace of mind.
He has found many to join him in questioning the findings in Patrick’s
death. He has found a friend and ally in the Loy Buff family.
Crawford, like Buff, profoundly questions the criminal justice system,
pretty much from top to bottom.
Thursday, Crawford was still asking, “What should I do next?”
He didn’t think there was any use in contesting the state
medical examiner’s report. Last year the sheriff’s department
had found no reason to reopen the case. He said he might try to
contact the New Hanover County district attorney to ask him to investigate.
Tuesday’s notification that the sheriff will reopen the investigation
overcame Crawford, whose voice quavered noticeably as he talked
on the telephone.
“You get so desperate for the truth,” said Crawford.
“It makes you irritable and angry and impatient. I know I’m
a different man because of these six years of anguish. It changes
your whole outlook on life,” he said.
District attorney Rex Gore is personally revisiting his ruling that
the 1999 death of Bald Head Island police officer Davina Buff Jones
resulted from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Gore said Tuesday he was reviewing all testimony presented to the
N. C. Industrial Commission which led to that panel’s refutation
last month of his suicide determination, and was not yet ready to
reclassify the death as something other than suicide.
“We met with all the investigators in the case all day Thursday
to follow up on questions raised by the commission’s ruling,”
Gore said. He said certain “issues” had been raised
by that state ruling which, if accepted at face value, could lead
to an “undetermined” death finding, but the D. A. said
he had seen nothing which would result in calling for reopening
of the case as a homicide investigation.
“We’re not doing that at this point,” said Gore,
who left that door cracked open, adding: “We are tracking
down a couple of things.”
Gore said he would have a statement, whatever his determination,
early next month.
Jones’ father, Loy Buff, said an assistant D. A. had communicated
with him through his attorney, asking for whatever evidence Buff
has in his possession, indicating Gore’s office was at work
on the case.
Buff is not bending over backwards at this point to cooperate.
“He had one of his deputy D. A.’s write a letter to
my lawyer requesting all the information that I had compiled for
our case including all photographs, all experiments, videos, reenactments
or records and evidence from private investigators or experts,”
“I had my lawyer write back and tell them that they had all
the information for six years and that I was not giving them anything,”
Enough information was presented to the N. C. Industrial Commission
to persuade that state panel Jones’ gunshot death in October,
1999, was not suicide, the ruling issued by Gore in the December
following the discovery of her body near Old Baldy Lighthouse on
Bald Head Island.
But Gore is not accepting that finding without his own review of
the testimony and evidence presented to the state panel, a commission
charged with reviewing claims for compensation under special survivorship
programs for police and emergency services personnel.
The panel last month upheld an earlier decision by a single review
officer, ruled that Jones was killed in the line of duty and doubled
the earlier $25,000 death benefit to $50,000.
Buff says the money is expected this week from the N. C. Attorney
General’s office, but he has already begun to incur more expenses
in his own crusade to prove Gore and Brunswick County sheriff Ron
Hewett wrong in calling his daughter’s death suicide.
Buff said he had already retained a private investigator to begin
reviewing a list of seven potential homicide suspects which evolved
after an incomplete Bald Head Island police investigation and his
earlier private investigations. He also expects a U. S. Justice
Department probe similar to the evidence gathering and review as
conducted by the Industrial Commission.
The estate has filed for federal compensation due the families of
law enforcement officers killed in the performance of their official
Former Bald Head Island police chief Karen Grasty charged earlier
this month that her superiors at Bald Head Island ordered her home
where she had been recuperating from a back ailment. Grasty never
returned to the force and was medically retired in 2002. She said
she had records of interim police chief Gene Hardee’s subsequent
investigation, but that Hardee had been denied assets to pursue
an investigation into the activities of three men whom he considered
suspects in the death.
Grasty said there was no doubt in her mind that Jones was murdered.
She was among the witnesses who presented testimony to the Industrial
Gore said he had not met with Grasty, either at the time of the
original probe, or since the commission’s report.
Jones, who was shot in the back of the head with her own automatic
weapon, had reported to her partner and backup that she was out
of her vehicle with three suspicious persons, and later keyed her
radio as she asked someone to give up a gun. The Brunswick County
Sheriff’s Department took over the investigation with the
assistance of the State Bureau of Investigations. Officers and officials
involved said that department immediately began to investigate the
death as a suicide upon hearing that Jones was having relationship
No one has publicly disputed the Industrial Commission’s findings
that the crime scene was “annihilated” beyond the possibility
for a proper homicide investigation. Other irregularities in the
case file, including problematic photographic evidence related to
a spent shell casing and a failure to explain blood on a police
vehicle, shown in a photograph presented by the sheriff’s
office investigators without explanation. Drag marks from her vehicle
to a spot near a picket fence was also cited in the commission’s
report as key in leading the panel to dismiss the D. A.’s
The ruling by the commission followed a review by three of its members
— two attorneys and a businessman.
Hearing room testimony, including sheriff Hewett’s inability
to justify his suicide theory, and demonstrations by an expert witness
hired by the Buff estate disputing the possibility that a person
of Jones’ physical size could have fired a shot with the trajectory
of the fatal shot were cited by the commission as important factors
which led to its decision.
Buff said he had not specifically called for the D. A. to reopen
the case because he was certain the outcome of the investigation
would be the same.
His counsel, Oak Island lawyer Ed Geddings, wrote the D. A. in response
to the request for evidence, “The family does not anticipate
the district attorney’s office changing its position regardless
of any new evidence before it.”
Buff adamantly holds to the idea that the failure to properly investigate
his daughter’s death was part of a coverup, with various explanations
for the reasons for a coverup, ranging from good-ol’-boy complicity
to hide incompetence, to image preservation at the resort community,
to more serious charges of official corruption and criminality,
charges for which he offers no hard evidence to support.
July 13, 2005
Davina Buff Jones case
Former BHI chief: ‘I know she was murdered’
By Terry Calhoun
It was murder, former Bald Head Island police chief Karen Grasty
The chief of police for the Village of Bald Head Island when officer
Davina Buff Jones was killed in the line of duty says she believed
all along Jones had been murdered and at no time considered suicide
a possibility — but Grasty said she was twice ordered to “go
home and shut up.”
Grasty, on medical leave from the department at the time, rushed
to the island on the night of October 22, 1999, upon hearing of
the shooting and attempted to protect the crime scene. But she said
she was too late.
“The N. C. Industrial Commission was right when they said
the crime scene had been annihilated. It was annihilated. It was
destroyed,” Grasty said in a telephone interview Monday from
her Holly Ridge home.
Grasty said she had never talked to the press before because of
a gag order put in place by former village manager Wade Horne. Now
that the industrial commission has issued its final ruling —
overruling district attorney Rex Gore’s December, 1999, finding
of suicide — Grasty said she is free to come forward.
Grasty describes a coverup, supporting accusations from the family
of the victim that no proper homicide investigation was ever carried
Grasty’s story begins shortly after the late-night shooting.
She said she was alerted at home by her daughter, an employee in
an island restaurant near the scene of the shooting. She said her
daughter heard the fatal shot, and shortly after, all employees
were ordered to report to the ferry landing to be transported to
Her daughter said as employees arrived at the landing Jones’
body was there at dockside on a stretcher, completely uncovered.
Grasty said the lack of proper procedures in handling the victim’s
corpse was just the first indication of what would later prove to
be a series of police bungles.
As the chief who put Jones on the force, Grasty said she was horrified
by the way the body was handled, but the way the investigation was
handled was equally horrifying.
“I was shocked — totally shocked. Everything was a total
shock to me,” Grasty said.
Grasty, a veteran of the Hickory, Newton and Claremont police departments,
said standard procedure called for the State Bureau of Investigation
(SBI) to take charge of an investigation involving a police shooting.
She said she spoke from previous experience, and from personal experience.
She had been wounded by a shooter while answering a domestic call
in Claremont, and had returned fire, shooting her assailant with
her service revolver.
She faults the decision to leave the investigation into Jones’
death in the hands of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department.
“As soon as I arrived on the island I specifically asked for
the SBI to be brought in,” Grasty said. “That’s
the proper procedure when an officer is shot.”
She believes the SBI would have preserved the crime scene, and that
the sheriff’s department’s failure to do so was crucial
to the outcome. Grasty places most of the responsibility for the
subsequent finding of suicide on sheriff Ronald Hewett.
A key error may have been made on the scene, an error repeated by
the local medical examiner. To a casual observer, Jones’ wound
might have appeared to be to the side of the head. That’s
what Brunswick County medical examiner Dr. Douglas Hiltz found.
But the state medical examiner in Jacksonville determined correctly
that the fatal shot was fired to the back of the head. Jones’
father, Loy Buff, speculates that the confusion was caused by a
“blow out” caused to the side of the head by the force
from the gunshot.
Family members who carefully examined the body confirmed the state
medical examiner’s description of the wound.
Once that error was made, if that was the case, and the crime scene
compromised, all forces lined up to cover up the botched investigation,
Right up to the night before D. A. Rex Gore’s ruling of suicide,
Grasty said, assistant D. A. Marion Warren assured her the death
would be classified as due to undetermined causes. Then, Grasty’s
husband, a law enforcement officer at Topsail Beach, heard a news
“They say she killed herself,” he told her.
She said she immediately called Warren for an explanation. She said
Warren told her that sheriff Hewett had talked with the press and
called the death suicide, putting the D. A. in a difficult position.
“I believed Marion,” said Grasty. “He told me,
‘We’re going to do whatever the sheriff wants,’
but at the time he thought undetermined would be the ruling.”
Grasty believes the decision was taken out of Warren’s hands.
She said she objected to the D. A. letting the sheriff make the
call in any case. She doubts that Gore had even reviewed the files
before issuing his suicide determination, leaving the task to his
assistant D. A.
Asked if she believed Jones had been murdered, Grasty replied, “I
know she was murdered. I saw the drag marks, I saw the blood splatters,
I saw the bloody handprint on the back of the truck. I saw her hands.
I saw her wound. I looked her over good. She was murdered.”
Asked if the drag marks could have been crawl marks instead, she
replied, “They were drag marks; I know the difference. Besides,
I saw the wound (a contact wound to the back of the head). She wouldn’t
have been able to crawl anywhere.”
Grasty said she joined the Hickory department in 1983 after completing
basic law enforcement training at the North Carolina Police Academy
at Salemburg, a prestigious 24-week in-residence training academy
operated by the Police Corps, a function of the North Carolina Department
of Crime Control and Public Safety. She later became a sergeant
with the Newton department before moving on to Claremont and to
Bald Head Island as chief. She said she was charged at Bald Head
Island with development of a professional police department.
“They didn’t even have evidence lockers when I got there,”
she said. Grasty returned to the topic of evidence retention later
in the interview.
Grasty said she saw village manager Horne as soon as possible after
Gore’s statement and urged him to allow an independent investigation.
“I said, ‘We need a statement to the press saying that
we don’t agree with the D. A. We know she was murdered; we
don’t have to follow suit,’” she recalled saying.
“I was told, ‘No. Let sleeping dogs lie.’”
She said those were Horne’s exact words.
“I was told as long as I was an employee of the Village of
Bald Head Island I was not to talk to the press,” said the
Indeed, all subsequent calls to the island police department concerning
the Jones death were referred to Horne, who was seldom accessible.
During one on-island conversation, Horne was asked his opinion.
“She was murdered,” he told a State Port Pilot reporter,
and promised elaboration later. None came before Horne left the
Grasty attributes the “annihilation” of the crime scene
to emergency medical workers and said then-emergency medical and
fire chief Kent Brown said he was just trying to save Davina Jones’s
life, even after her police partner, also an experienced paramedic,
checked for breathing and vital signs and found none. The Industrial
Commission found no record of any emergency personnel medical followup
to confirm partner Keith Cain’s initial check.
Cain told the Industrial Commission he picked up the instrument
of death — Jones’s Glock handgun — in case a shooter
was still in the area.
The Industrial Commission also indicated the single shell casing
was photographed in more than one location or position, suggesting
the possibility an attempt was made to restore the scene. The commission
also questioned why a photo of a vehicle showed blood evidence,
with no presentation of blood evidence analysis given.
As if moving the body, the gun and the shell casing, contaminating
the ambulance used to transport the body by using it for law officer
transport, inappropriate handling of the body, including not bagging
the hands, were not enough to justify the term “annihilated,”
Grasty said, against her specific orders Brown ordered the fire
department to hose down pooled and splattered blood from the area.
“I think that Kent Brown was the problem; I don’t know
if he thought he was doing right or what. His mentality —
I don’t know what he was thinking,” said Grasty. “I
don’t know who ordered that.”
But she thinks she knows: “Because they were having a wedding
the next day and they didn’t want all that eyesore,”
Jones’ body was found in the vicinity of Old Baldy Lighthouse
and the Village Chapel, an area which can be reached by road, golf
cart or foot and by a navigable creek. The chapel is often used
for weddings, something of a cottage business on the resort island.
“I raised hell. They sent me home,” said Grasty. “Wade
Horne and mayor Kitty Hinson called me in and told me to go home
and shut up.”
The former village chief said she had been contacted by the federal
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) some time before Jones’ death
to ask for cooperation in a drug suspect surveillance operation.
Grasty said there had also been cocaine found at a public place
on the island, but had been told by Horne not to speak of it further.
Grasty thinks the resort’s reputation was the concern.
She said a known drug dealer still lives on the island, a man who
had served time for trafficking elsewhere in the state, but who
had turned state’s evidence in a subsequent case in New Hanover
County. The man had been known to hire Hispanics, she said.
Grasty said Norman MacLeod, a sheriff’s department drug investigator,
had been recruiting Davina.
“Dee (Davina) had been at Norman’s house the night before,
talking about undercover drug work. I tried to tell her she didn’t
want to do undercover work in her own hometown,” said Grasty.
She said MacLeod appeared at the island ferry the night Jones was
killed with a ferry ticket provided by the Bald Head Island officer.
Three men Grasty calls “the Mexicans” — who left
the island on the first morning ferry October 23 — were treated
as suspects by acting chief of police Gene Hardee. One of the men
may have been Mexican; one was apparently Cuban and the third may
have been from Guatemala.
Grasty thinks Jones interrupted a drug transfer in which the three
men participated. She thinks one of those men took Jones’
Glock and used it to kill her with a point-blank shot to the back
of the head.
She said Horne denied Hardee the resources to follow his leads and
would not allow him to go to Charlotte to seek interviews with the
Grasty said Gore is aware of the suspects, and all the evidence
he needs to reopen the investigation and begin the search for Jones’
killer or killers is readily available, if he doesn’t have
“I have it; boxes of it,” said Grasty. She said the
evidence included Bald Head Island police, SBI and sheriff’s
department records and more.
But if some “cold case” team does try to investigate
now, there will be a problem. Grasty doesn’t know the whereabouts
of hard physical evidence, like Jones’ uniform or gloves.
“They cleaned the gun and tried to sell it,” she said
of the Village of Bald Head Island. “I don’t know if
they still have the rest of her stuff.”
July 6, 2005
Davina Buff Jones case
Investigative panel concludes:
Officer’s death wasn’t suicide
By Terry Calhoun
Davina Buff Jones, a Bald Head Island police officer, did not commit
A three-member panel finished the first comprehensive investigation
into the 1999 death last week and confirmed a hearing officer’s
earlier conclusion: Jones was killed in the line of duty.
The Buff family — father and mother Loy and Harriet and sisters
Beverly Sadler and Tanya Hart — was notified that last July’s
decision by a single hearing officer was upheld, and a $25,000 award
to the officer’s estate was doubled. The original hearing
was held in Wilmington, but was appealed by the N. C. Department
of Justice, which was represented at commission hearings in January
by an assistant attorney general.
Jones died on the night of October 22, 1999, from a single gunshot
fired from her own service revolver while investigating a stolen
golf cart call near Old Baldy Lighthouse on Bald Head Island. She
was 33. That much information, but little else, is agreed to by
all parties involved in the aftermath of her death.
The family plans to meet with district attorney Rex Gore to ask
him to review his December, 1999, decision which labeled Jones’
death a suicide, a decision it bitterly resented. Patriarch Loy
Buff’s vocal criticism of the D. A.’s decision and the
handling of the case by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department
have not diminished during the ensuing five years plus.
And while this weekend the Buffs gathered at the family home on
Augusta Drive in Oak Island to solemnly celebrate the Industrial
Commission’s final ruling, Loy Buff remains dissatisfied and
doggedly determined to reach his goal: “Justice for Davina.”
The next step — one already underway, the Buffs say —
is a U. S. Justice Department probe prompted by a request for federal
death benefits available to the families of police officers who
are killed on the job. The Duffs insist the claim for benefits has
nothing to do with the money.
“It’s the only avenue available to us,” said Loy
Buff. “It was the only way I could go get them.”
He says he has spent many times the amount of any possible monetary
rewards, including payment for his private investigator and expert
testimony from a nationally known suicide expert who testified Jones’
death was inconsistent with known suicide patterns. Buff has also
offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to solving what
he has always considered a murder.
Talking by telephone from his home Friday, district attorney Gore
said his position from the start had been that he would take a look
at any new evidence. But despite considerable work by the family
and the private investigator which has indeed turned up some new
information (see related story), the Industrial Commission’s
ruling considered much the same material Gore saw before making
his 1999 statement closing the investigation.
The Industrial Commission’s final opinion was issued in a
20-page report, but its conclusions of law were brief:
“1. On October 22, 1999, decedent was employed as a law enforcement
officer with the Village of Bald Head Island and sustained a hard
contact gunshot wound to the back of the head which was the cause
of death. At the time of her death decedent was a police officer
employed by the Village of Bald Head Island killed in the discharge
of her official duties and covered by the provision of N. C. Gen.
Stat. 143-166.1, et seq.
2. Decedent was not survived by a spouse nor any children nor any
dependent parent, therefore, the estate of the decedent is entitled
to be paid fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), pursuant to N. C. Gen.
The board also awarded payment of attorney fees equal to 25 percent
of the compensation and ordered reimbursement for all costs and
expenses incurred in obtaining the depositions of witness and all
expert witness fees. The board’s ruling, signed by chairman
Buck Lattimore on May 3, was not filed and delivered until June
District attorney Gore said Friday he had not seen a copy, and in
fact did not know that the N. C. Department of Justice had appealed
the original ruling by N. C. Industrial Commission deputy commissioner
“I expect Davina’s name to be cleared,” Loy Buff
said Thursday. “And the citizens of this county need to know
that their elected officials are either incompetent, or corrupt,
Buff, in his late 60s, suffers from a heart condition. Relaxation
eludes him. But wife Harriet says the fight against the local courthouse
machine has kept her husband alive since Gore’s ruling. For
her part, she has channeled her anger into political involvement
through the local Republican Party. Both Gore and sheriff Ronald
Hewett are Democrats.
“Why did they act the way they did?” Harriet Buff says,
is the unanswered question which has led to multiple conspiracy
theories, the chief one that drug-related corruption reaches to
the higher levels of government, well beyond the county line.
A less complex theory is that law enforcement so bungled the investigation
that no conviction for murder would have been possible, and that
the court system conspired to cover up the inept police work by
conveniently closing the case.
Gore concedes prosecution of suspects would have been difficult
considering the tainted physical evidence.
His December, 1999, statement began with the stipulation that there
were no suspects, and the Buffs incredulity began with that first
paragraph, since investigating Bald Head Island acting chief Gene
Hardee did indeed name three men as suspects. Whatever leads had
been followed which might have further implicated the three men
became moot when the D. A. released the statement calling the death
a suicide. The Buffs have been offered no explanation as to why
the three were never brought in and interviewed.
“Did you see what the Industrial Commission said about the
crime scene?” sister Beverly asked during a telephone conversation
Sunday. “Annihilated. Annihilated. That’s a strong word.”
Finding 40 of the Industrial Commission report reads: “The
crime scene was annihilated when it was hosed down, making the drag
marks between the pool of blood and the vehicle unexamined, as well
as any possible blood spatter analysis impossible.”
Asked how investigators explained the drag marks and scrapes on
Jones’ uniform pants in light of its suicide conclusion, her
sister said no explanation was ever given the family. She accuses
the D. A. of failing to communicate in any way before the report
She said the only way she has been able to talk to Gore at all was
under false pretenses, posing as a college student doing research
to interview him. Gore said she posed as a newspaper reporter for
The Charlotte Observer to gain access to his office.
Loy Buff also describes an angry confrontation between him and sheriff
Hewett during the course of the sheriff’s last election campaign.
Buff acknowledged he wore a sandwich-board sign to a campaign event
calling Hewett a liar.
The senior Buff knows the poisoned waters between him and the county
officials will make further communication between them difficult.
At first he declined to meet with the D. A., but by the next day
had changed his mind. In the meantime, Gore suggested a meeting
with the Buffs’ current attorney, H. Edward Geddings of Oak
Island. Attorney Henry Foy represented the family until his recent
retirement from the practice of law.
Gore said Friday if Buff had evidence, “as opposed to opinion”
— “I’d be glad to look at it.”
He said he ruled suicide based on the forensic evidence available
at the time. He also relied heavily on a federal ballistics report
which showed Jones’ Glock pistol had been the weapon used
to fire a single shot into her skull, a point the family says was
never at issue.
Sister Beverly wonders what the ruling would have been in the death
of another officer this year. Boiling Spring Lakes officer Mitch
Prince was shot with his own weapon, but there had been witnesses
and a backup officer had arrived to interview those witnesses. “What
if his body had just been found on the side of the road?”
Otherwise, the family didn’t speak of Prince’s death
But Harriet Buff teared-up slightly as she said she had not yet
cried over her daughter’s demise.
She describes her heartbreak, knowing that her daughter’s
friends, both in this area and in her native Charlotte, were lead
to believe her death was self-inflicted — a far cry from a
tragic but heroic death, as a police officer killed in the line
“Can you imagine how that felt?” she asked Friday.
ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORT
Published: Jul 5, 2005
Modified: Jul 5, 2005 3:00 AMNew evidence cited in cop's death
The Associated Press
OAK ISLAND -- The parents of a Bald Head Island police officer want
authorities to review their daughter's 1999 death now that a state
commission has reaffirmed a ruling that she likely died in the line
of duty, not by suicide.
Several developments in the case have only strengthened Loy and
Harriet Buff's conviction that Davina Buff Jones, 33, did not kill
herself with her service weapon, as investigators have maintained.
Brunswick County District Attorney Rex Gore said Friday he's willing
to review new evidence.
"I'm not vested in this being a suicide," Gore said. "I'm
vested in doing the best I can to make the right decision, and if
there is additional evidence, I would like to look at it."
The Buffs learned last week that a three-member N.C. Industrial
Commission panel rejected an appeal by the state Attorney General
Roy Cooper's Office of an earlier commission finding that awarded
$25,000 in compensation to Jones' estate.
A 2003 hearing officer, Deputy Commissioner Adrian Phillips, concluded
suicide was very unlikely. Three other commissioners considered
Cooper's appeal. Along with denying it, the panel doubled full law
enforcement officer benefits to Jones's estate, to $50,000.
"That really doesn't matter," Loy Buff said Friday at
his Oak Island home. We just want to prove that she didn't commit
Jones died Oct. 22, 1999, from a single gunshot wound in the center
of the back of her head fired from her .40-caliber handgun.
At 10:20 p.m., Jones had responded to a missing golf cart call at
the River Pilot Cafe.
At 11:30 p.m., she called a police officer with whom she had recently
ended a relationship. About midnight, Brunswick County 911 dispatchers
overheard Jones on her police radio asking someone to put down a
"There ain't no reason to have a gun here on Bald Head Island.
OK?" she was heard to say. "Now put down the gun. Come
on, do me a favor and put down the gun."
She was found dead an hour later near the Bald Head Island lighthouse.
Investigators have said Jones staged the radio transmission.
The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office and the State Bureau of Investigation
inquiry concluded that she shot herself near the Bald Head Island
lighthouse. Former Bald Head Island Police Chief Karen Grasty was
on medical leave at the time. Her investigation determined that
Jones was murdered.
The crime scene was contaminated when evidence and the body were
moved, authorities have acknowledged.
In their appeal review, commissioners heard additional evidence
from Washington clinical psychologist Alan L. Berman. The Buffs
hired Berman, who specializes in suicidology, to conduct a psychological
autopsy of their daughter. Berman found no motive for a planned
suicide and no evidence of impulsive behavior or that Jones was
of impulsive character, the Industrial Commission opinion states.
Witnesses who spoke with Jones the day of her death testified that
she was in an upbeat mood and her behavior was not unusual.
New evidence in the case surfaced last year, Loy Buff said. He was
contacted by a Fayetteville man who said that on Oct. 22, 1999,
he was on Bald Head Island near the lighthouse. The man said he
heard a loud boom and saw three men in a golf cart with lights off
leaving the area, according to a notarized statement Buff took in
Gore said the men were previously eliminated as suspects, but he
was not aware of the witness who spoke with Buff.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published,
broadcast or redistributed in any manner.