A Calhoun County grand jury indicted Jimmy Ray Steed, 52, in connection with the death of Carla Michelle Cook Fuqua. Fuqua went missing from her Piedmont home on Oct. 29, 2009. That same day, Steed reportedly struck Fuqua with a bat or bat-like-object until she was dead, according to the grand jury’s indictment, filed today.
On Dec. 4, 2012, investigators from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and Cold Case Unit discovered human skeletal remains in the woods a short drive south of Fuqua’s home along Alabama 21, across the Chief Ladiga Trail and near an area many Piedmont residents refer to as “the brickyard.” Several days later, investigators said dental records helped them identify the remains as Fuqua’s.
Darlene Cook, Fuqua’s mother, said she still doesn’t feel closure in her daughter’s death.
“I’m happy they got him, but I feel like there’s more,” Cook said today.
Cook said it’s been hard for her “not to fall apart,” but said she can’t because she is the only caregiver for Fuqua’s son, who turns 11 next week.
Michelle Thacker, Fuqua’s cousin, said she believed the young mother was led astray by people she thought were her friends.
“It’s not over for us yet. It’ll never be over. We’ll always feel the loss and the pain,” Thacker said.
The family said they were thankful for the work that the Sheriff’s Office has done, but believe Steed did not kill Fuqua by himself.
Sheriff Larry Amerson addressed reporters today and asked for the community’s help to solve three more missing persons cases that have plagued Piedmont.
“There are more families waiting for closure on what happened to their loved ones.” Amerson said. “People have talked to us, but we need more.”
Amerson said Steed is considered a suspect in the missing person’s cases of James Patrick Burrows, Jeffery Scott McFry, and Steed’s wife, Karen Steed.
On Aug. 23, 1990, Burrows, 23, disappeared. He was last seen driving his 250 Honda motorcycle at 8 a.m. from Steed’s home. Burrows’ motorcycle was found a year later in a pond near the spot where Fuqua’s remains were discovered. That pond is a mile and a half from Steed’s home.
Burrows allegedly disappeared after stealing marijuana plants from David Ronald Chandler of Piedmont. Chandler was the first person convicted under the federal “drug kingpin” law passed in 1991.
Chandler was sentenced to death in 1991 after a jury convicted him of marijuana trafficking and involvement in Marlin Earl Shuler’s death. His sentence later was commuted to life in prison.
McFry, 24, was last seen in his mother’s home on Sept. 5, 1990. After his disappearance, investigators received tips that McFry’s body was in a well. Several searches by the Piedmont Rescue Squad, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and deputies yielded no sign of McFry. His disappearance is also thought to stem from stealing marijuana from Chandler.
Karen Steed, 29, was last seen leaving her Piedmont home, which she shared with her husband Jimmy Steed, on Nov. 25, 1997. Amerson said today that Karen Steed was reported missing by a family member, not by her husband. Her 1982 Ford Fairmont was found abandoned on Interstate 20 eastbound near Heflin one month after she went missing.
Jimmy Steed is the brother of Chandler’s so-called “right-hand man,” Bobby Steed, according to Amerson.
Brian McVeigh, Calhoun County district attorney, said at press conference today he believed the circumstances of these cases were not coincidental.
“We will keep after this until we have answers in every one of these cases,” McVeigh said.
Steed has been in the Calhoun County Jail since Aug. 2, after he was charged with 14 counts of unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Just days after his arrest on the drug charges, Steed’s home burned.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office, Amerson said today. The sheriff said evidence that would be pertinent to his office’s investigation was gathered before the blaze.
A home Steed previously lived in burned in August 2002, shortly after authorities had gained permission from its new owners to search the residence.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Brian Howell set Steed’s bond for the murder charge at $300,000 cash. Steed is scheduled is appear in court Oct. 17.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.
Editor's note: This story has been modified to adjust information about the reporting to authorities of Karen Steed as missing in 1997.