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February 8, 2013

Arrest made in notorious triple-murder cold case

Suspect captured in Florida in 4-decade-old West Virginia killings

FAIRMONT, W.Va. —

A 59-year-old Tampa, Fla., janitor and trash collector has been arrested in an infamous, long unsolved West Virginia triple-murder case, local and federal authorities reported Friday.

Eddie Jack Washington, 59, was charged with the execution-style killing of three Fairmont, W. Va., residents on Aug. 2, 1974. Their bodies were found those more than 38 years ago face-up in Windmill Park by a groundskeeper. Each victim had been shot once in the head.

It was speculated then that it was a drug deal gone bad, but no one was ever arrested for the murders, even though Washington, who lived near the victims, and another man were questioned at the time.

The other man, Phillip Reese Bush, was later convicted of a double murder in 1982 in another case, and for years authorities insisted the Windmill Park killer was in prison but refused to confess. Bush was sentenced to life.

Washington was arrested without incident at 11:30 a.m. Thursday outside a Tampa grocery store by U.S. Marshals, assisted by Fairmont and Tampa police. He was taken to the county jail, awaiting extradition to Fairmont. He had been under surveillance for several hours.

Authorities said the cold case heated up last fall, after the Times West Virginian of Fairmont published a reprise of the murders on Sept. 3, 2012, titled: “Gruesome discovery: Triple slaying at Windmill Park remains unprosecuted,” as part of a series on the county’s most notorious crimes.

The story recalled the grisly details of the murders of Guy Lester Phillips, 20, his wife, Wanda Jane Phillips, 19, and Billy Ray Cobb, 27, all of Fairmont.

“Not long after that was published, Police Chief Kelley Moran approached us for assistance,” said Alex Neville, Deputy U.S. Marshal for West Virginia’s Northern District. “He advised me there were persons of interest he wished to have located.”

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