Suspect arrested in 28-year-old Labor Day Murder case

Michael Devaughn

After a lengthy investigation spanning 28 years, police have made an arrest possibly linked to the Starkville Labor Day Murders, in which Betty Jones and Kathryn Crigler were killed after answering a knock at the door.

The Starkville Police Department arrested Michael Devaughn, 51, of Rienzi, Saturday on felony charges of capital murder and sexual battery. In June, Devaughn was also arrested in Tishomingo County for possession of controlled substance, according to the Tishomingo County Sheriff’s Office.

In 1990, friends Betty Jones and Crigler were sitting at home on Labor Day weekend when a knock came to the side door between 8 and 10 p.m. Betty Jones answered the door, and was killed. Crigler was raped, but survived the initial attack. She later died in a nursing home.

The rape kit for Crigler provided DNA evidence for the police, but was not yet matched. Recently, SPD submitted the suspect’s semen to Parabon, a DNA Nanolab, which resulted in a detailed description of what the suspect may have looked like in the 90s. The lab made a second description, which was age-progressed and shows what the suspect could look like today, at roughly 50 years old with fair skin and light brown hair.

The police have not confirmed that Devaughn is the man described, or how exactly he may be connected to the Labor Day murders. SPD will have a press conference Monday addressing the arrest, and the specific time is to be announced.

Betty Jones’ grandson, Jason B. Jones, was young when his grandmother was killed, but he said Devaughn’s arrest feels like a resolution.

"We’re emotional and we’re blown away, and we are so incredibly grateful for the Starkville Police Department for their dedicated service to this case," Jason said. "We are proud that all of this has finally resulted in hopefully justice for Betty and Katherine."

About a year ago, to keep the story of these two women alive, Jason and his brother Simon Jones started a podcast. About a month ago, they completed its last episode.

"I would have never dreamed in a million years that something would have come to the surface so quickly," Jason said.

Simon said he is still processing what the arrest could mean and how he should feel.

"I guess all that darkness of a person just goes away and you just see that he’s just a guy who’s been on the low end of life, with a recent drug charge, and just looks kind of sad in the photos and videos," Simon said. "I’m still processing that transition where it goes from a figure that hides in the shadows and under the bed like the boogeyman, to now he’s just this ordinary guy who took so much away from you. He’s not a monster, he’s just a fear."

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