Suwannee Valley Unsolved to host cold case event

(From left) Darlene Messer, Deborah Howard and John Robert Thomas.
Suwannee Valley Unsolved will host a cold case event for (From left) Darlene Messer, Deborah Howard and John Robert Thomas on Monday at Branford's Hatch Park Community Center. (Photos courtesy of Suwanee Valley Unsolved)
Courtesy of Suwannee Valley Unsolved

The Suwannee River Regional Library and Suwannee Valley Unsolved will host “Cold Cases of the Suwannee Valley” on Monday in Branford.

Darlene Messer
Courtesy of Suwannee Valley Unsolved Darlene Messer

The event is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Monday at the Hatch Park Community Center (403 SE Craven Ave). Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

Three cold cases in both Suwannee and Columbia counties will be highlighted, led by Jason Futch, creator of Suwannee Valley Unsolved. The cases presented will be as follows:

Darlene Messer

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Messer was murdered on Sept. 18, 1989. She was initially abducted from the Suwannee Swifty Convenience Store on the corner of State Road 100 and Price Creek Road. Her body was located underneath the Swift Creek Bridge in Union County. Messer’s death was the result of blunt force trauma.

Randy Roberts, a retired Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) detective sergeant, and Futch will present the case.

Deborah Howard
Courtesy of Suwannee Valley Unsolved Deborah Howard

Deborah Howard

Howard went missing in July of 1976. Her family finally reported her missing in 2015. Since the opening of the investigation, a person of interest was identified, and the case remains open.

Retired investigator jake Brooks will present the case with help from Wayne Kelly of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO).

John Robert Thomas

Roberts was murdered on Dec. 9, 2001. His body was found at the intersection of NE Washington and Broadway Avenue in downtown Lake City. In 2002, a woman was arrested for the murder, but was released after a grand jury could not come to an agreement in prosecuting her. She remains a person of interest and the Lake City Police Department (LCPD) believes there are people knowledgeable about the murder who have not come forward.

John Robert Thomas
Courtesy of Suwannee Valley Unsolved John Robert Thomas

Thomas’ aunt, cold case advocate Heather Landacre, will present the case and the family impact statement.

The event is geared toward educating the public on current open cold case investigations with a hope that someone may come forward with information that could be helpful to investigators.

The public is invited to attend. Active law enforcement officials from agencies from the region are also strongly encouraged to come.

The seating will be first come first served, with preferential seating in the front two rows available to families of cold case victims and law enforcement. After each presentation, a Q&A session will be held following and question cards will be provided to guests upon entering the event.

For more information about this event, visit Suwannee Valley Unsolved’s Facebook page or by email at Additionally, you can contact Futch at 253-246-9334 or the Suwannee River Regional Library location in Branford at 386-935-1556.

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