Newlywed Deborah “Debbie” Sue Williamson was watching the movie “The Old Couple” when she realized that she had to meet her husband at his place of work. It was around 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24, 1975.
She turned off the television, grabbed her keys, purse and a puzzle book. As she headed out the door and into the carport something went horribly wrong. The woman, only 18-years-old, was mercilessly stabbed to death.
In the hours that followed her husband, Doug Williamson, frantically called friends and family searching for his wife. At 1 a.m. he left work and went home to check on her. He found her lifeless body.
It’s been nearly 47 years since Debbie was murdered and no one has ever been charged or convicted of the crime. In June of 2021, investigative journalist and true crime author George Jared teamed with his investigative partner former Army counterintelligence officer Jennifer Bucholtz decided to delve into the mystery surrounding the woman’s death.
Their new book “Silent Silhouette” details their investigation into the case. It includes interviews, case files, interviews with witnesses and persons of interest. The case has haunted the city of Lubbock, Texas for many years and has surprising connections to Northeast Arkansas.
The duo had success in another murder case luring the now charged killer onto a Facebook page. William Miller was active on a page dedicated to solving 22-year-old Rebekah Gould’s murder. Miller was arrested on Nov. 7, 2020, after he’d been active on the page for a year.
Gould’s bludgeoned, partially clad body was found on Arkansas 9, just outside of Melbourne, Ark., on Sept. 27, 2004. She’d gone missing from the home of love interest, Casey McCullough, who is Miller’s first cousin. He is slated to go to trial in October.
“We wanted to find another case and hopefully do something similar,” Jared said. “After reviewing this case we thought it was very solvable, and so we decided to conduct an independent investigation into Debbie’s murder.”
Bucholtz’s agreed and as she probed further into the case a few things became apparent.
“Debbie’s case immediately caught my attention because, based on the actions the killer took during the commission of the murder and the minutes afterwards, the murder was personal in nature and likely committed by someone close to Debbie,” she said. “Knowing that, it baffled me that the case had gone nearly 46 years without being solved. I believe Debbie’s case has a high solvability rate and had her and her husband’s inner circle been more heavily scrutinized in 1975, the killer likely would have been discovered back then.”
Debbie’s case garnered national headlines in the 1980s when Henry Lee Lucas confessed to her murder. There was only one problem. He didn’t kill her. Lucas confessed to more than 600 murders that he didn’t commit.
The case was profiled on the Netflix doc series “The Confession Killer.”
To study the case better, the duo traveled to Lubbock in August 2021 to track down those who’d given witness statements to the police in 1975 and to visit the home on the night of the anniversary of the murder. One person they tracked down early on was Debbie’s widower, Doug.
After the murder Doug told them that he moved to a town that he had no connection too – Jonesboro. He attended Arkansas State University and got a teaching degree. He now retired and lives in Doniphan, Missouri.
Debbie and Doug had been married less than 10 weeks when the murder occurred. Doug firmly believes Debbie knew her killer.
“I don’t think it was a random act,” he said.
Doug was questioned as a suspect several times. He passed a polygraph test. The night of the murder he was the manager of a Pizza Inn. The waitress that worked with him that night a college student named Mary Ann, told police that he was there the entire night.
Another employee, Paul Neel, asked to leave early that night to go on a date with a woman named Tina. Neel had previously dated Debbie and was friends with Doug. He clocked out that night at 8:43 p.m. and arrived for his date with Tina around 10 p.m.
Jared and Bucholtz tracked down Neel and Tina and interviewed them extensively. What they and other witnesses said will shock many readers, Jared said.
This is the fourth book that Jared has written or co-written in the true crime genre. He wrote “Witches in West Memphis” about his coverage of the infamous West Memphis Three case. His books “The Creek Side Bones” and “Whispers in the Willows” are anthology style books that cover numerous murder cases he’s covered as a journalist.
One chapter in “Whispers” covers the Karen Johnson Swift case out of Dyersburg, Tennessee. Her husband, David Swift, was charged with her murder last week. The book includes interviews Jared did with David Swift.
The case file that Jared and Bucholtz developed in Debbie’s case is much more extensive than the police files, he said. All of those materials have been turned over to the Lubbock Police Department and the department has promised to due new DNA testing on evidence in the case, Bucholtz said.
Most of what the team learned is in “Silent Silhouette” and those who’ve followed the case are in for a ride, Jared said.
“We poured our hearts and souls into this for a year,” he said. “We think the evidence we uncovered points in a number of directions and it’s clear this case can be solved. This woman deserves justice even if has been delayed by 47 years.”