An Oakhurst Junior High School class ring from 1996 popped up at the scene of unsolved murders in Gary, Ind., from February 2002 and may be the clue needed to solve the crime.
The case has several twists including two crime scenes, one with three victims and the other scene had one victim, according to task force officer Det. Sgt. Nicholas Wardrip of the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Team in Hobart, Ind.
And 18 years later and the FBI is seeking help from anyone in Clarksdale who might have information.
“The original investigators did a great job, but one of the big questions has been what is the significance of this ring?” Wardrip said.
“We’re just at a traditional dead end and we’re looking for the public’s help,” he added. “We’re always taking a look at these cases to see if there’s something that could be done if there’s new evidence that could be tested, leads that could be followed up.”
The ring was purchased through Josten's and features a Fire Blue Spinel stone. The initials "JKM" are inscribed on the inside of the band. The ring does not have Clarksdale anywhere on it and could have been purchased for a junior high school elsewhere in the country.
Investigators would like to speak to the owner/purchaser of the ring. Investigators do not believe the owner/purchaser of the ring is a suspect, but believe it is important for police to understand the history of the ring.
“I just don’t have any evidence to show the purchaser of the ring is involved,” Wardrip said.
However, he said he does believe the owner/purchaser of the ring has a connection to the case.
Wardrip said he has reached to the both the Clarksdale Municipal School District and Clarksdale Police Department. He received unofficial responses and said he communicated with the district through a CPD investigator.
He added no one has the yearbook from Oakhurst Junior High School in 1996 and there are limited records available with manufacturers.
“We have taken a lot of efforts in contacting the local authorities down in Clarksdale,” Wardrip said.
“We’ve made efforts locally with the school and the police to identify who this ring could belong to. The efforts have been unsuccessful. That’s why we’re reaching out to the public.”
Wardrip said the owner/purchaser of the ring is not necessarily a student from Oakhurst Junior High School. It could have been someone who bought the ring on behalf of the student.
Again the case has more questions than answers.
Clarksdale Police Chief Sandra Williams and CMSD assistant superintendent Dr. Toya Matthews have not spoken with Wardrip or any other investigators from Indiana.
“My first knowledge of it is when I first saw it in the media,” Williams said. “I spoke with all of my assistant chiefs and they said they hadn’t spoken with anyone.”
Williams said she would check with CPD investigators to see if they spoke to see if they spoke to anyone in Indiana. She added the CPD would help, if asked.
“I guess certainly we could follow up on it, find the class on whatever it was that graduated and track that person down through old records,” Williams said.
“If I was to receive a phone call from any of the investigators that are working this case, then I would certainly have one of my investigators try to assist and find old information for them.”
Matthews said nothing about the case has come across the desk of superintendent Dr. Earl Joe Nelson and she does not believe anyone in the CMSD has been contacted. However, the district would also be willing to help.
“If there’s something they need from the district, the district is going to work with officials to answer questions, as needed,” Matthews said.
Anyone with information may contact Wardrip at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219-942-4485. The caller may remain anonymous.