DNA Helps 19 Year Old Investigation

19 years without an answer. Now, new technology is being used in the Kentucky Fried Chicken Murders investigation. No one has ever stood trial for the 1983 murder of five people. Now, DNA evidence may hold the hope for a conviction.

On Friday night, September 23rd, 1983, five people are forced from the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kilgore. They are taken to an oil top road in rural Rusk County, and murdered.

For 19 years, the clues have been few and far between. Arrests are even more rare. "We have always felt like there are some possible witnesses that have not come foreward," says Sheriff James Stroud. "As far as how aggressive we are about wanting to arrest somebody, that's been our goal from the get go. The anniversary date, the only thing it does for us is remind us the case is unsolved."

Through the mid-90's the two lead suspects were Jimmy Mankins Jr. and his wife, Deborah Mankins. Mr. Mankins was arrested in 1993, only to be released a few weeks later.

Sheriff Stroud says recently  the focus of the investigation has shifted. "There's been a lot of suspects in this case. In the last year, we have been looking at suspects through a different glass per sey. And that glass would be technology."

New DNA testing has failed to link the Mankins to the scene of the crime. But the high tech forensic tool may ultimately provide the clue that solves the case. Last February, Sheriff Stroud ordered DNA tests on 43 year old Ronnie Pinkerton. Pinkerton was in jail on an unrelated burglary conviction. During a conversation with Channel 7 News on Tuesday, Sheriff Stroud would not say what the results of that test were, but did say Pinkerton could not be eliminated as a suspect.

And while the technology is helping, the case remains a mystery. "This case is not ready to go to a Grand Jury, yet. We have a considerable amount of investigation to complete before we even talk about going to Grand Jury."

Stroud says the investigation is going slowly, but methodically. After all these years, he says he doesn't want to do anything now which would end up hurting the families of the victims, or the investigation.