Let The Demon Go

Skeletal remains in Wilmington and the possible resolution of a Carrboro cold-case?

My friend Bill Wildman points me to a story in yesterday’s Wilmington paper about skeletal remains of two women found in April along Carolina Beach road and the possibility that one set of remains may be those of Deborah Key. Recall that Deborah Key went missing in 1997 from a billiard hall / bar in Carrboro. Key was last seen next to her car in the Bank of America parking lot next to the billiard hall with Andrew Dalzell, the only suspect ever questioned in the case. In 2004 police extracted a confession from Dalzell who said he lost control, murdered Key and buried the body in Wilmington. Judge Wade Barber later threw out the confession and Dalzell walked free.

I guess it’s also germane to the discussion – and since it has been a while that I’ve mentioned it – to say in 2000-ish I bought the house from the Dalzell’s that Andrew was living in at the time Deborah disappeared. Not long after, police showed up and went through the place tooth-and-comb looking for any trace evidence of Key. They didn’t find anything.

Now word from Wilmington, and another glimmer of hope for the friends and family of Deborah.

Let’s begin by saying that law enforcement looking at the two sets of remains don’t believe that one of them is Deborah Key. Police think more likely the decomposed bodies are those of Allison Jackson-Foy and Angela Nobles Rothen, who vanished almost a year apart in the summers of 2006 and 2007. We are told that “scattered remains” were found in and near a shallow grave, behind an abandoned Mexican restaurant, and that local forensics experts have positively identified them as women. Now the remains have been sent to Texas for positive DNA identification.

I won’t beat-up on why our State police lab can’t properly process the remains: The State Bureau is still working on lab upgrades: ya, I think we’ve been fed that one for the last 10 years.

Ok, so maybe I will beat-up on the SBI. Friends of Debbie Key? Remember back in the 90s when a local lab processed underwear that was found in Dalzell’s car and came back with indeterminate results? You might wanna have that evidence retested by an independent, outside source.

Now back to the skeletons in the Wilmington closet. Though my interest is peaked, I have a hard time rationalizing one of them is Key. For me to go there; one of them is Deborah, the other is probably Jackson-Foy or Rothen, and Mr. Dalzell is responsible for both their deaths. So, in 1997 Mr. Dalzell goes to Wilmington and buries Key behind the restaurant (I would want to know what that restaurant was in 1997, and what it was to Mr. Dalzell, if anything). Cut forward nine years… Dalzell has endured the arrest and the case gets thrown out, he is off the hook. Nevertheless, he returns to Wilmington, murders again and buries the second body in the exact same place he left Key nine years prior. Then in the Spring of 2008, he agrees to go on the record on television’s NC Wanted and cool-as-a-cucumber talks about it all and the duress he has suffered.

Andrew Dalzell, you are quite a tweaker.

It’s a plot lifted from Bones, but I don’t find that probable.

Now maybe I’m operating under some personal bias here. The Key case messed me up bad. Some of you know about some of this, I wrote about it in a piece called Bad Dream House , but there’s more I’ve never discussed (at least I think I’ve never discussed? What-the-hell, I’ll discuss it again). The billiard hall, Sticks and Stones where Deborah was last seen? In early 2001 my ex-wife took over that space and ran a retail childrens’ clothing store called Chicken Noodle Soup out of it. I would pull into the parking lot every day, right up to the spot where there were flowers placed where Deborah was last seen. I would work in that store on weekends. I used to carry a photo of Debbie in my car, I finally worked up the courage to throw it away (sorry Deb, but I think you’d get the reason).

So you can see why I might have finally had enough of the Deborah Key case.

It gets worse. It’s been some time, but I’m not going to embellish the following, just the facts. So we’re living in the house. Early one morning my ex-wife and I are awoken by a pounding on the front door about 5:00 am. Bam-bam-bam! I go to the front door and I can see out the window the red and blue flash of a police cruiser. Bam-bam-bam! I open the door. A County deputy is shining a Maglite in my eyes, “Everything alright in here?”

Yes, everything’s alright, what’s the problem?

We got a 911 call from your house.

911? No one called 911, we’re all asleep.

Sir, we got a 911 call from inside this house.

Officer, my wife and I are asleep, my kids are four and one, they didn’t make the call.

Alright, sorry to disturb you.

That’s a true story. I don’t know what that meant. I don’t know what that meant to the police… some sort of process error? I don’t know what that meant for Deborah Key. I do know what it meant for me and my family; we had to sell the house, and within six months we were gone.

Concerning the bones in the woods in Wilmington? Deborah’s family and friends are smart people, over 11 years they have learned to play this game. So I will say this: it is very wise – it is imperative – to keep Deborah’s case in the news. I would go to any length to keep the media informed of all possibilities, however unlikely. Let the public and law enforcement judge whether the theory has any merit. And if one of those sets of remains turns out to be Deborah? That’s The Probable Impossible.


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