By Sam Rolley and David Palmer
The Cullman Times
A Cullman County man suspected in the 1980 murder of a woman was arrested by Louisiana authorities Thursday morning and taken back to Terrebonne Parish.
Ricky Brown, 54, who lived on County Road 1204 in the Vinemont area, was originally a suspect in the murder of Edith McElroy West in September 1980. West, who had also been a resident of Cullman County, was 22 years old at the time of her death and was a known acquaintance of Brown. Her nude body was discovered by fishermen just outside of Houma, La., said Capt. Dawn Foret of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Department.
“They were acquaintances among a circle of friends,” Foret said. “We understand this group had been in New Orleans and then drifted over to the Houma area. We believe a couple of the men in the group worked at a cement plant. Brown left shortly after the murder.”
Foret said no statement concerning a motive in the crime will be released at this time.
“At some point we will be making a statement about the motive,” Foret said. “The victim was not shot or stabbed. She was found with a cinder block tied around her neck.”
The case was reopened by Terrebonne Parish law enforcement in recent months. Just recently, Brown was arrested in Falkville on a traffic charge and then transferred to Cullman County because of another outstanding warrant on traffic violations, said Cullman County Sheriff Tyler Roden.
Foret said the Alabama Bureau of Investigation was asked to assist in the case when Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s investigators decided to move forward with an arrest.
Relatives of the victim who reside in Cullman County said they are thrilled to hear that there has been a break in the case after a 30-year pause.
“I am on cloud nine right now,” said Carol McElroy, the victim’s step-mother. “It’s wonderful, we’ve waited all these years and kept wondering and wondering if we would ever know what had happened — and then I wake up one morning and they’re talking about how they caught a suspect in the murder on the news.”
The victim’s step-sister, the youngest of eight siblings in the family, said that the murder of her sister has hung over the family for decades — she was a small child at the time of her sister’s murder.
“I think it was hardest on my dad,” she said. “He waited for a long time for someone to be arrested in the case before he passed away.”
Carol McElroy said that news of the murder of her step-daughter came as a surprise so many years ago.
“She was married to a guy and I understand that the two of them had rode down there with some bikers,” she said. “I don’t know a lot about the group they were with but I know they were gang related.”
Mrs. McElroy said that the family was shocked three decades ago to learn about the murder in the news.
“We didn’t really know exactly where she was until she was killed and we saw reports in the paper that said they were looking for her family,” she said.
She said that the family had not kept in touch with the man to whom the victim was married at the time of her murder, but she was told that he had since died.
McElroy said that she had been contacted by investigators since the suspect’s arrest and is scheduled to speak with them again with hopes that closure in the case is on the horizon.
“Edith was a very loving girl, she was young and she enjoyed life,” she said. “She didn’t do any drugs or get into any trouble — I just want to see the person responsible brought to justice.”
‰ Sam Rolley can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 225.