Georgia inmate helps North Carolina authorities solve 50-year-old triple homicide

Watauga County authorities said interviews with Billy Wayne Davis, a Georgia inmate, helped...
Watauga County authorities said interviews with Billy Wayne Davis, a Georgia inmate, helped them solve a 50-year-old murder case in Boone.(Source: Georgia Department of Corrections)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 6:05 PM EST
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BOONE, N.C. (WBTV/Gray News) – Authorities said they’ve been able to close the books on a 50-year-old triple homicide case that happened in North Carolina thanks to the help of a Georgia inmate.

Bryce Durham, 51, his wife Virginia, 44, and their son Bobby, 18, were found murdered in their Boone, North Carolina, home during a snowstorm on Feb. 3, 1972, according to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.

The family was found by their son-in-law after he and his wife went to check on the family with the help of a neighbor.

Investigators said that 81-year-old Billy Wayne Davis, who is currently an inmate in a correctional facility in Augusta, Georgia, is believed to be the only surviving perpetrator in the Durham case, WBTV reports.

The other perpetrators have been identified as Billy Sunday Birt, Bobby Gene Gaddis and Charles David Reed, and are all dead, according to the sheriff’s office.

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said his office received a phone call in 2019 from the White County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in Georgia with information they recognized as possibly being important to the Durham case.

According to Hagaman, the new leads were investigated and in-person interviews were conducted with Davis in September 2019, October 2020 and August 2021.

“It was these interviews that ultimately helped us determine who was responsible through the corroboration of evidence. We are confident that we now know who committed these crimes,” the sheriff said.

Interviews with two sources corroborated evidence from the Durham crime scene, and the circumstances of the crime were similar to a 1973 case in Georgia, known as the Fleming Case, in which Birt, Gaddis, Reed and Davis were all involved, authorities said.

Davis, Reed and Gaddis were part of a loosely organized network led by Birt known as the Georgia-based “Dixie Mafia,”, which is thought to have engaged in dozens of violent crimes in Georgia and elsewhere across the southeast in the 1960s and ‘70s, according to law enforcement.

The 2019 lead first surfaced when Birt’s son, Shane Birt, was at the WCSO to participate in research for a book about crimes that had taken place in Georgia, including the Fleming Case.

According to investigators, Shane Birt shared that he was very close with his father and recalled a story Billy Sunday Birt had told him during a prison visit when he admitted to killing three people in the North Carolina mountains during a heavy snowstorm, remembering that they almost got caught.

After hearing Shane Birt’s account, officials with the WCSO immediately contacted the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.

Davis was interviewed by WCSO investigators at the Georgia facility, where he is serving a life sentence for crimes he committed in Georgia.

During those interviews, Davis implicated Birt, Gaddis and Reed as engaging in a hired “hit” in the North Carolina mountains, one where they almost got caught during a bad snowstorm, law enforcement said.

Davis claimed to have acted only as their getaway driver, authorities say, and that it was the other three men that entered the house that night.

It remains unclear who solicited the crime against the Durham family.

In November 2021, the WCSO held a meeting with Durham family members to inform them of their investigation and conclusions.

“I would like to thank all of the people who worked for decades on my family’s case. I know that they sacrificed many days and weekends in order to work on solving this case since 1972,” Ginny Durham, the victims’ daughter and sister, said.

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