Body found in Crenshaw County identified

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

Authorities in Luverne are now in the midst of a suspected homicide investigation, following the un-earthing of a body near a dilapidated home in the "Friendliest City in the South." The Alabama Department of Forensic Science has identified the body as being that of Alvin Christopher Jones, reported missing from Luverne since Nov. 4, 2003.

Luverne Police Chief Bob Davis told The Luverne Journal on Thursday that at approximately 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, January 28, a man operating a tractor with a grader box, clearing abandoned land on the Grove Avenue Extension, discovered the body buried approximately one foot beneath the ground in wooded area.

"Lonnie Mitchell was clearing some land for Mr. Gene Liptrot, using a tractor and grader attachment," Davis said. "On one of his passes with the tractor, as he traveled backward down a steep grade he observed what appeared to be two legs sticking up from the ground."

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Davis said at this point Mitchell stopped his tractor and called E-911 to report the find.

"We responded to the scene, and found that Mr. Mitchell was in fact correct. What we saw were two legs, clothed in blue work trousers, and the victim's feet were bare n no shoes or socks," Davis said. "Also part of the torso of the body was un-earthed."

Davis called the Alabama Department of Public Safety's investigative arm, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI) for assistance, along with the Department of Forensic Science (DFS), for assistance with the discovery, along with District Attorney John Andrews.

Although the Luverne Police Department rarely sees homicides, Davis is no stranger to the proper way to conduct a murder investigation. He retired from the Robbery/Homicide Division of the Montgomery Police Department after 22 years of decorated service before taking the top post in Luverne some 10 years ago.

"As we dug the body out of the shallow grave, we found that it was partially decomposed, but there was an absence of any insects near the body," Davis said. "We were not able to make a physical identification of the body, other then it appeared to be a black male, wearing blue work trousers, and a gray T-shirt that read Guaranteed-Miller Time' n the clothing matched the description of a man we have been searching for since his disappearance on November 4th."

As reported in November by The Luverne Journal, Jones was last seen driving a white Toyota Corolla, which was later discovered abandoned behind an old chicken hatchery on Joseph Street in Luverne. Davis confirmed that third shift officers, upon returning to the hatchery after the car was located, found a shovel that appeared to have been thrown into a tree overhanging a creek. The shovel had a broken fiberglass handle.

"Once DFS took the body back to their lab in Montgomery, testing began, along with x-rays," Davis said. "The x-rays showed no signs of blunt force trauma, and they also found no bullet wounds."

But Davis said further investigation came back positive on the body's identification.

"Although much of the body was decomposed, the victim's hands were still intact, and fingerprints were obtained," Davis said. "Fingerprints taken from the body matched fingerprint records of Jones on file with the Department of Corrections."

Davis said a determination on the cause of death would be a key element regarding the route his department would take in establishing a modus operandi (M.O.), and helping to rule out one of two possible scenarios involving Jones' disappearance.

"On the one hand, we have an alleged love triangle,' because it was reported that Jones was involved intimately with a married woman," Davis said. "And on the other, we have reason to believe foul play can be attributed to drug involvement. Jones was a witness for the state in a criminal case involving illegal drug activity, and he disappeared just before the trial date."

Davis said on Thursday that he a sad task at-hand n notifying Jones' next-of-kin that the body found had indeed been that of Jones.

"No officer likes to be the bearer of bad news," he said. "But his family has been looking for closure in Mr. Jones' disappearance, and now they can go through the grieving process."

Davis admitted that his department had few leads to follow, although they do have a suspect in mind n someone local.

"We are now treating this as a possible homicide, and are asking anyone who might have information to contact us," Davis said. "Anyone with knowledge of this case is asked to call us at 334-335-3334 n they do not necessarily have to leave a name. We just want to bring the person or persons responsible for this man's death to justice."