By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In the late 1950s, Lovejoy was a favorite, especially among the dewy-eyed ladies who crowded around him in the honky-tonks he played regularly along Maple Avenue, Harry Hines Boulevard, and Highway 114. Places with names redolent of a less sophisticated time--the River's Inn, the Top Rail, the Pow-Wow Inn. It was at the Pow-Wow Inn that Junior Lovejoy played his last set.
Shortly before closing time on November 30, 1958, a stout, balding man whom no one at the Pow Wow recalled ever seeing before walked into the club and whispered something in Lovejoy's ear. Lovejoy handed his mandolin to the innkeeper, followed the stranger out the door, then stopped short to tell the club owner, "I'll be back soon. I have a date."
Little did he know it was a date with death.
Thirty minutes later, a fisherman heard a shot coming from a stand of trees near California Crossing and Luna Road, close to a spot where young couples liked to park their cars and neck in the secluded area of the Trinity River bottoms. After a 1958 Chrysler sedan with its lights turned down sped away, the fisherman picked up a trail of blood that led him to the lifeless body of Eddie Lovejoy, who had tried to crawl his way to help. The coroner determined a single bullet from a .38-caliber pistol shot at close range had pierced his heart.
At the beginning, police detectives tracked a multitude of leads. They hunted down jealous boyfriends of Lovejoy's "fans." They interrogated two bad-ass brothers from West Dallas who were involved in a barroom brawl hours before Lovejoy's death. They also checked out the story Lovejoy shared with his wife and brother weeks earlier that his life might be in danger because he had been working undercover drug deals for the police. He had even given his wife what he claimed was his police badge to prove his involvement.
The tips led nowhere, and the police eventually turned their attention to more fruitful cases. But the Lovejoy clan vowed never to give up. In the early '60s, they told their story to a writer for True Police Cases, one of those cheesy true-crime magazines so popular at the time, which sensationalized the tale under the screaming headline "Texas Troubadour's Fatal Rendezvous."
Virginia Lovejoy, who never remarried, and her brothers-in-law tried to keep interest in the case alive by performing at Eddie's old haunts and dedicating each show to his memory. His oldest brother, Jim, wrote a ballad about their mission, titled "Separation"--a mournful plea from the victim's children to the mysterious murderer. One melancholy verse that Virginia sang goes like this:
The one who killed our daddy dear
These plaintive words we hope he'll hear...
And someday in the great beyond
He'll hear our daddy sing his song
For more than three decades, the murder of Eddie Lovejoy remained unsolved, the sheaves in the police file growing brittle and yellow in a dusty basement archive under Dallas City Hall. But the Lovejoy children rekindled the memory of their father with an annual pilgrimage to his West Virginia grave. Each year, they resolved to avenge their father's murder. In the early 1990s, they made good on that pledge. Lovejoy's daughter Carol Gonzalez, the owner of a Dallas secretarial service who was nine when her father died, got the nationally syndicated TV show Unsolved Mysteries interested in the 34-year-old case. But before the Dallas police would release the file, veteran homicide detective Sgt. Jerry King reviewed the case.
Within 15 minutes, King thought he knew who had killed Eddie Lovejoy. Weeks later, he accomplished something the many officers who had come before him could not: He tracked down and arrested the man responsible for Eddie's death. A year later, a jury convicted a sickly, 62-year-old East Texas man of murder.
King's stunning and unlikely success laid the foundation for what has become a permanent unit within the Dallas Police Department, a cold case squad devoted to solving murder cases long forgotten by almost everyone except the loved ones left behind.
The case of the missing slasher
Pictures of John Wayne, the demigod of True Grit, adorn the walls of Sgt. Jerry King's office on the third floor of police headquarters in downtown Dallas. King will be the first to tell you it takes a helluva lot of grit and determination, and maybe even a dose of insanity, to spend your waking hours rummaging through old case files, scaring up fresh leads on stale trails, jogging memories of witnesses who would rather forget--all in the hope of bringing a killer to justice years after the crime.