Kentucky Fried Chicken Murders: The Cold Case Still Unsolved After Years

Have you ever heard of this true-crime story? The Kentucky Fried Chicken Murders were a real thing, and happened in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore, Texas, in 1983. The Texas Attorney General, Texas Rangers from Dallas, and the FBI were all involved in this ongoing investigation throughout the years. The armed robbery and mass murder at a KFC remained an unsolved cold case for many, many years, despite the FBI's involvement.

What Happened?

Mary Tyler, Opie Hughes, Joey Johnson, Monte Landers, and David Maxwell were victims of the KFC murders.

At some point just before the restaurant closed, armed robbers held up the fast-food joint. All five of the individuals there were abducted, taken to a field on County Road 232, and executed with a shot to the back of the head at the crime scene. One woman had been raped before the execution-style murders.

The next day, the bodies were found by an oilfield worker in a Rusk County field.

Who Was Charged in the Kentucky Fried Chicken Murders?

James Earl Mankins, Jr., who had prior drug convictions and was also the son of a state representative, was initially arrested. He was later released due to a lack of evidence.

The case went unsolved for 22 long years. Finally, with a little help from Texas Attorney General prosecutor Lisa Tanner, two men who were already in prison for other crimes were arrested and charged. Two cousins named Darnell Hartsfield and Romeo Pinkerton were charged with capital murder. Hartsfield was already serving a life sentence for aggravated perjury in connection with the case.

In the end, Pinkerton pleaded guilty to five lesser counts of murder on October 29, 2007, after his death penalty trial was supposed to start on October 15, 2007, at the Bowie County Courthouse in New Boston, East Texas.

Pinkerton received five concurrent life sentences from District Judge Clay Gossett as a part of his plea deal, and Hartsfield was convicted at trial in Bryan, Texas, and ultimately sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.

Was There a Third Murderer?

There is some evidence that there was a third man involved in the slayings. DNA evidence taken from Opie Hughes' body indicated that she had been sexually assaulted, but the DNA didn't match Hartsfield, Pinkerton, or Mankins. It didn't match any other subject either.

The possible third person in the murder cases has never been caught or identified. Hartsfield says the "real killer" is still out there, according to CBS19, a local news outlet in Texas.

The tragic event at a Texas KFC remains a chilling crime tale that likely keeps many a law enforcement officer and Texas ranger up at night.

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