HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Ahead of a parole hearing for a convicted murderer, law enforcement and family members of the victim maintain their staunch opposition to his release.

Randy Lee May is scheduled to have a parole review hearing in Bledsoe County on Thursday, Aug. 24. He was found guilty in the July 1980 murder of 16-year-old Mary Jones and other violent crimes.

July 1980

Records show that investigators said May pretended to be a law enforcement officer and coaxed Jones and her friend 15-year-old Mitzi Sizemore into a car in July 1980.

“He projected himself to be a probation officer,” former Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin said. “He showed them a badge, and a gun, and handcuffs, he said he was looking for two people.”

May then drove the teenagers to a remote wooded area, escorting Sizemore into the woods while Jones remained in the car.

“He had actually handcuffed her to a tree, was attempting to assault her and then he stabbed her with a knife,” Jarnagin said.

Jarnagin, who was a detective with the Morristown Police Department at the time, believes Jones heard Sizemore scream and went to go find her.

“When she came up to see what was taking place, she realized that her friend was in serious trouble,” Jarnagin said. “Randy May [saw] her. He jumped across the fence and she was running for her life. He caught up to her and he stabbed her.”

As May brutally attacked Jones, Sizemore slipped out of the handcuffs. Jerry Barnard was sitting on his porch when he heard screaming.

“I went in and got my binoculars and looked over,” Barnard said. “She just happened to be coming out of the woods at that time with a handcuff hanging from her arm.”

At first glance, Barnard thought it was an escaped prisoner.

“I found her laying down at the bottom of the hill kind of at the edge of the honeysuckle, laying there with her eyes closed,” Barnard said.

He picked Sizemore up and carried her back to his house, laying her in the yard. He then called for his neighbor who was in law enforcement.

“I went over and got David,” Barnard said. “I have someone who has been stabbed, so he called 911.”

Martin Coffey was the lead detective on the case. When Coffey learned Sizemore was at a nearby hospital, he went there to get a description of the suspect. Coffey found May and began to question him. May eventually confessed to the crime.

“As we begin to talk to him more and he begins to tell us more about what occurred,” Coffey said. “Eventually he takes us to where the items of evidence were, including the murder weapon.”

Coffey said they put May in a line-up. Sizemore was then called upon to pick out her attacker.

“She gets up there and picks him out, I mean immediately,” Coffey said.

August 2023

Misty Denman and Kristia Conkin are Mary Jones’ nieces. They say there isn’t a day that goes by in their family where they don’t think about her.

“We relive it all the time because it is a constant,” Conkin said. “We talk about it, we think about it, we worry about our kids,” Denman added.

May has had several parole hearings in the past. During his August 2019 hearing, he said he was sorry for the pain he caused the victims.

“He’s telling you exactly what you want to hear,” Conkin said. “He knows what to say. He has studied it. He lies. He’s a liar then, He’s a liar now.”

A petition urging a denial of May’s parole has garnered over 3,000 signatures on change.org.

Though that day in July of 1980 has never been forgotten, Mary Jones’ family is ready for this case to be behind them.

“I don’t know how my Mamaw has done this her whole life,” Denman said. “She is the strongest person I know.”

Conkin added, “Right before we left, she said ‘I wish this was over.'”

The family doesn’t believe Randy May is sorry for the crimes he committed.

“No, you have to understand what you’ve done and have some kind of heart,” Conkin said. “You have to have some kind of heart to be sorry.” 

Sheriff Jarnagin believes the justice system is broken if May is set free.

“That is totally unjustified to set this monster free because if they do set him free, he will do this again,” he said.