‘Mountain Murders’ podcast celebrates one year

There’s just something so mysterious about Southern crime stories. Small towns with big characters and dark family secrets. People taking the law into their own hands and crooked cops turning a blind eye. If there’s one thing mountain folk appreciate, it’s a tall tale woven together through the decades.

Bullock murder case remains unsolved after 55 years

Ronnie Evans tries to remember his cousin as the beautiful and spunky woman pictured on the cover of his new book — the sparkle emanating from her party dress and her eyes — but the image he can’t get out of his head is the one of her lying on a cold slab following her autopsy in 1963. 

“I see these beautiful photos of her and realize she’d be 95 today if she lived, but I also saw her on a slab after the autopsy was done,” he said. “That and knowing how it happened to her — to know what she was subjected to — that’s why I’ve kept searching for answers.”

Sentence delivered in 2015 Smokemont murder

A Cherokee resident will spend four years in federal prison for his involvement in the 2015 stabbing death of 25-year-old Tyler Gaddis, of Whittier. 

Blizzard of 1993 is catalyst for a fine first novel

In True Stories At The Smoky View (She Writes Press, 2016, 325 pages, $16.95), Vrai Stevens Lynde — the “Vrai” is short for Vraiment — finds herself and a 10-year-old runaway boy trapped in a room at the Smoky View Motel near Bristol, Tennessee, during the great blizzard of 1993. Snowbound for several days — the monster storm has completely closed I-81, and the motel desk clerk delivers food to the stranded travelers on a tractor — Vrai and Jonathan begin comparing notes and sharing stories from their life, an exchange of information resulting in a lifelong friendship and a mutual decision to embark on a crusade to right an injustice.

Jury deliberating fate of jailer who helped murderer escape

The jury deciding the fate of a former Swain County jailer who helped a murderer escape and then ran away with him to California began deliberating Tuesday morning (Dec. 3).

The how-to of a jail break

It was a fairly simple inside job in the end, one easily borrowed from the playbook of any Hollywood jailbreak.

Anita Vestal was just a novice jailer, with less than six months on the job at the Swain County jail. But she single-handedly sprang an inmate charged in a bloodbath of a double murder.

Awaiting her fate: Jailer helped murder suspect escape jail, fled with him to California

fr vestalThe jury trial of a Swain County jailer accused of springing a murderer from jail more than four years ago will conclude next week with a certain guilty verdict.

Descendents rekindle Civil War tale of sheriff shot 150 years ago

fr sheriffnolandThe death of Haywood County Sheriff John Phillip Noland — a murder story set against the backdrop of the American Civil War — sounds as if it belongs in the pages of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

49-year-old murder continues to raise questions, speculation

coverSeventy-year old Ronnie Evans, a retired engineer with UNC-TV who lives in Franklin, seems an unlikely homicide investigator.

Sylva man gets seven years for 2008 murders

The last of six people accused of playing a role in the murders of two Swain County residents back in 2008 has been put away.

Mark Goolsby of Sylva plead guilty to nine counts of accessory after the fact to various charges, including second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and attempted first-degree murder. Goolsby received a seven- to ten-year sentence but was credited for time he has already spent in jail awaiting trial. This means that he has a minimum of about three years and three months before he can be paroled.

“I believe the plea accurately reflects what happened as far as his involvement,” said James Moore, assistant district attorney for the case.

Goolsby was one of two Sylva men who in some way participated in the murders of Scott Wiggins and Heath Compton. Goolsby and his friend Dean Mangold were in the Walmart parking lot in Sylva one day when they ran into two strangers from Atlanta who were looking for more drugs two-days in to a partying-spree at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel. The two area boys followed them back to their hotel room at Harrah’s where they proceeded to smoke weed and take the illegal drug ecstasy.

Later, the group left the hotel room, planning to rob Wiggins and Compton, whom they believed dealt drugs. Goolsby stayed in the vehicle and did not actively participate in the robbery and murders, according to testimony of others in the case.

Goolsby testified last month against co-defendant Tiffany Marion, who was then found guilty of a myriad of charges and sentenced to more than two consecutive life sentences without the opportunity for parole. He was also prepared to testify against Mangold, who opted to plead guilty and make a deal with prosecutors rather than stand trial.

“He (Goolsby) did that without any kind of plea deal,” Moore said. “I take that as meaning something.”

Of the six defendants, three pleaded guilty; the fourth committed suicide in jail; and the fifth was found guilty following a jury trial last month.

The only related case left is the trial of Anita Vestal, a jailer in Swain County who helped the ringleader in the murders, Jeffrey Miles, escaped from the Swain County jail in 2009. As of Tuesday morning, no trial date had been set for Vestal. It is also unclear whether she will stand trial or try to make a plea deal.

Page 1 of 2
Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.