A Murder Retraced
In a quiet neighborhood on Lake Tobesofkee, in January of 1999, David Nemeth went missing from a home he shared with his ex-girlfriend Jayna James.
The Bibb County Sheriff's Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation searched the entire area.
"We had four-wheelers and things like that checking the woods and the power lines. And [we] come up with nothing,” says Captain Mike Smallwood with the Sheriff's Office.
James told investigators that Nemeth had walked out and she didn't know where he went, but Smallwood says her story did not add up.
"You couldn't explain why his clothes went missing [or] why his memorabilia went missing,” he says. “That's what kept you thinking something has happened. This is not an ordinary missing person case."
Deputies went door to door, but neighbors knew nothing.
"We went in and did a GBI Crime Lab. People came in and went through the house, checking under the carpet, looking for anything,” Smallwood says.
The case remained a mystery for a few years. At first, there were very few clues to go on.
"The only clues were he was missing and all his stuff was gone,” Smallwood says.
Then an anonymous tip came in. The caller gave the name “Michael” and the city “Byron.” Almost a year later, another informant provided more details. The investigation really got started.
"We had to go step by step,” Smallwood says. “We had to follow the evidence."
The testimony helped give them enough evidence. And on June 26, 2003, they arrested two people - one of them was Michael Graham of Byron.
"He pretty much laid it out that he came out here to make David Nemeth leave because Jayna James wanted him gone. And it escalated up to he shot Nemeth. He carried him to Dodge County and buried him,” Smallwood says.
Graham pled guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter and is serving 10 years in state prison.
Jayna James was also arrested. A jury found her guilty of Concealing a Death of Another. She was sentenced to five years in state prison and was released on parole this month.
"When it all unfolded, we learned he was shot in the basement right about the door going out where you can see the lake,” Smallwood says.
Smallwood says what broke the case were those two informers, and that tips from the public are critical.
"[They’re] very important because we probably solve probably 90 percent of our cases with tips and, of course, informants,”
Without that information, Smallwood says Nemeth's murder would probably still be unsolved.
He says every tip helps, even small ones, so he urges anyone with information on any case to come forward and call Crimestoppers at 1-877-68CRIME.