Eddie McGee walks down the courthouse steps on Nov. 17, 42 years later
Eddie McGee, 61, who is featured in this week's cover story
, just pleaded guilty to second degree murder for killing 9-year-old Deborah Ray a week before Christmas in 1966. He'll serve 20 years--more than enough to keep him out of circulation.
Literally the guy next door, McGee sexually molested Ray and her cousin, Phyllis Seibers, 8, and beat them to death with a rock in the Shelbyville City Dump. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for Seibers' murder, as the district attorney general at the time, James Kidd, assumed 99 years for the one crime would keep McGee locked up for the rest of his natural life.
But a change in Tennessee law altered the arithmetic for calculating sentences with good behavior time. Under it, McGee was due to be released in August. Bedford County put a detainer on him before his release so that he could answer for the death of Debbie Ray.
The charge seems appropriate, considering McGee's mental problems. The killings themselves didn't necessarily reek of forethought or intent. Rather, this was an act committed in the moment by a 19-year-old hard-luck drifter with the emotional age of a 12- or 13-year-old, psychologists have testified. Bo Melson, a reporter for the Shelbyville Times-Gazette
back in those days, wasn't terribly surprised by the plea. He knew McGee didn't stand a chance out in the world on his own. And so ends the final chapter of a story that went 42 years without resolution.