One of the detectives who investigated the Windmill Park murders says the name of the man arrested Thursday in Florida in connection with the case, 38-years after the crime, comes as no surprise.
Retired Fairmont Police Chief Ted Offutt joined the force about a year after the triple-homicide. He was involved in the search for the killer. He says Eddie Washington, then 21, was a key suspect from the start.
“One of the first theories of the case developed was that the three victims were taken out of their house,” Offutt told MetroNews Friday. ”There was a witness left behind and positively identified the people that took them out. It was believed Eddie [Washington] was one of the people who removed the three victims from the house.”
The victims, 20-year-old Guy Phillips, his wife 19-year-old Wanda Jane Phillips and 27-year-old Bill Ray Cobb, were found shot execution-style at Windmill Park on the morning of August 2, 1974.
Offutt says the time and investigative work that went into the case was immense and he always felt the department had a solid case.
“I believed there was always enough information in the file to indict and prosecute the individuals that were involved,” according to Offutt.
Past prosecutors felt they didn’t have enough hard evidence for a strong case, until now. Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Pat Wilson says back in September things changed.
“Within the last few months we had some information that led the police, through the cooperation with a lot of agencies, to make the arrest,” Wilson said Friday on MetroNews Talkline.
Washington was arrested Thursday morning while at a grocery store in Tampa, FL. He’d been living in that city for the past decade employed as a sanitation workers and most recently as a janitor.
Friends of Washington told the Tampa Bay Times, they couldn’t believe the man they called “Dad” could have committed a violent crime, let alone a triple murder.
Washington does have a criminal record. He was arrested in Florida in 2004 on cocaine possession. He served time in prison.
Times West Virginian Editor John Veasey, who worked at the paper at the time of the murders says he remembers thinking drugs were involved.
“Drugs were new then. We weren’t that familiar with them. But that’s what I thought.”
At the time of the murders, Wayne Stutler, later mayor of Fairmont and a Marion County commissioner, was chief of police. Offutt says Stutler, who died in December of 2011, would be very pleased with today’s outcome and so is he.
“I’m just glad that this one there’s at least an opportunity for justice to be served,” Offutt said.
Wilson feels the same way. “We still have family members of the victim that are alive. We have three people who were killed and they deserve justice.”
Wilson told Hoppy Kerchival on MetroNews Talkline Friday that there could be one other arrest in connection with the murders.
Fairmont police believe they have solved a 38-year triple-murder mystery.
U.S. Marshals arrested Eddie Jack Washington, 59, in Tampa, Fla., Thursday. He’s charged with the August 1974 murders in the Windmill Park area of Fairmont.
Fairmont police began re-emphasizing the investigation into the Windmill Park murders last Sept.
The victims were Guy Lester Phillips, 20, his wife, Wanda Jane Phillips, 19, and Bill Ray Cobb, 27. Police say all three victims were from the Montgomery Ave. area of Fairmont. They were shot execution-style.
Washington would have been 21 at the time of the murders.