Middle Georgia Cold Cases: Murder of the Transgender Traveler

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ABBEVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Perry office is still looking for a killer who brutally attacked a north Georgia transgender person in Wilcox County.Billy Joe Turner, who went by Tracy Thompson, was hit in the head several times with a baseball bat in March 1999. Investigators say Thompson was alive and talking until Thompson got to the hospital.

Murders don’t usually happen in quiet, sleepy Wilcox County.

“We don’t have them here much. Most of the time we have them here, they’re solved pretty quickly. That’s the only one we have that’s not solved,” Wilcox County Sheriff Mike Martin says.

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It’s a frustrating feeling for Sheriff Martin who was a deputy in March 1999 when he got the call.

“He got attacked on that dirt road. He walked up to a house probably about a quarter of a mile from the crime scene and made contact with the residents at the house and they called 911,” Martin says.

He’s talking about Billy Joe Turner, who went by Tracy Thompson. The Dalton native made trips with people to Crisp and Wilcox Counties or Florida.

Thompson stumbled onto a resident’s front porch, bloody, and in need of medical attention.

“We know he was attacked. We know he had at least seven blows to the head. We believe it was by a baseball bat that was located at the scene,” G.B.I. Agent Lee Weathersby says.

But who would brutally attack someone and presumable leave them for dead?

Thompson had a rap sheet — more than 50 arrests in both Georgia and Florida, but for non-violent crimes.

“He actually spoke to nurses at the hospital and a G.B.I. investigator before the brain swelling began and he subsequently died from those wounds,” Weathersby says.

Not before leaving clues for investigators, like the name of an ex-boyfriend who Thompson claimed used the bat. Agents found three matching names — all living in Georgia, all truck drivers, all with credible alibis.

“I would look at that he traveled with someone from north Georgia to here. Who was that person? And we’ve not discovered who that is yet,” Weathersby says.

He says they they then got a lead on a person who made violent threats and had a history of prejudice against those in the LGBT community.

Tracy was transgender and dressed as a woman.

“Even to this day when we go back and look at the case, we go back and look at the beginning, what was done then, what needs to be done now. We still have a couple of leads we’re following up, but in any unsolved case, the longer they go unsolved the harder it gets.”

But agents couldn’t link the possible suspect to the scene of the crime.

Now they had to go back there with a broken bat and tire tracks. Investigators say there was little clues — not to mention Thompson was distant from any of her relatives or friends.

“No one was really close to him at the time this occurred. There’s nobody who was traveling with him that we have been able to locate,” Weathersby says.

A mystery.

“No one should be attacked for whatever reason and certainly not beaten with a baseball bat,” Weathersby says.

Little answers to a big case that shook up this Middle Georgia rural county.

“We’ll take any kind of information or anything and would appreciate any kind of information anybody could give,” Martin says.

Agent Weathersby says he reviews this case quarterly trying to find different leads and come up with new ways to analyze the evidence.

If you know what happened to Tracy Thompson, call the Wilcox County Sheriff’s Office or the G.B.I.’s Perry Office at 478-987-4545.