Sheriff recalls 1980 murder of Mary Jones: ‘It was the most terrible crime scene I have ever worked or witnessed.’

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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan, who was a detective 39 years ago, recalls collecting evidence and processing a crime scene that shook the community.

In 1980, Investigators say Randy May killed 16-year-old Mary Jones and savagely attacked 15-year-old Mitzi Sizemore.

Next week, May will be sitting down in front of the state’s parole board for his seventh parole hearing.

RELATED: Nearly 39 years after brutal murder & attack, convicted killer could be free

Revisiting the crime scene location

On Thursday, Sheriff Jarnigan brought WATE 6 On Your Side on the same walk into the woods he made 39 years ago.

“This is the first time I’ve been back since that tragic day,” Jarnigan said.

In 1980, Jarnigan was a detective with the Morristown Police Department and was called to come process and collect evidence that night in July.

Jarnigan remembering how he had to collect evidence from the woods, then at the hospital where Mary’s body had been taken.

On July 20, 1980, armed with a badge and handcuffs, May pretended to be an officer. He coaxed Mary and her friend Mitzi into his car, then drove into the woods where he stabbed Mitzi in the chest, slashed her throat and handcuffed her to a tree before moving on to murder Mary. May left both girls to die, but only Mitzi escaped.

RELATED: Survivor, City of Morristown protest parole hearing of convicted murderer

“She pulled her hands out of the handcuffs and really skinned her arms up and even in the condition that she was in with the stab wounds and bleeding, she was able to get away… ran through the field. And as luck would have it, there was a THP officer, David Buck, who lived in the community and he was home at the time and he was able to call and get help for her,” recalled Jarnigan.

These are images from that night Jarnigan says he took home, replaying the evidence of the brutality against the two teenage girls.

“This was the worst crime scene, the most brutal, hideous. I mean it was just senseless, evil,” he said.

The girl with red hair

Mary Jones

“I cannot shake that crime scene. I can remember Mary from the innocence of her little body that was lifeless and I can remember her red hair,” he said. “To me it was yesterday. That’s the tragedy of the mind. The mind won’t let me forget.”

Even today, Sheriff Jarnigan says he can’t help but think of Mary every time he sees a girl with red hair and wonder what could have been.

“He took a life,” Jarnigan said of Mary’s convicted killer, Randy May. “Life is the most precious thing God has given us.”

Her convicted killer, now up for parole – again

Randy May (Photo: TDOC)

May was given a life sentence and is serving it at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex.

WATE 6 On Your Side will have a crew inside the parole hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 27th.

The state tells us parole board members have decided for some time to hear May’s case annually.

Parole board members reach their decision on whether to deny or approve parole based on the seriousness of the offense, time served, victim input and more.

If you want to get involved:

Letters mailed to the board regarding this case will be added to May’s file and reviewed. If you would like to send a letter or an email of opposition, see the addresses below.

  • Tennessee Board of Parole
    Re: Randy May Parole Hearing
    404 James Robertson Parkway
    Nashville, TN 37243
  • BOP.Webmail@tn.gov

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