How I Caught My Killer (2023) s01e07 Episode Script

He was speaking to us from the grave.


hook up.
It's a familiar plan.

It was John Ray's plan,
until May 16, 2004.
[siren wailing]
[indistinct radio chatter]

it was a very gruesome,
bloody crime scene.
He still had a broken
off knife in his body.
[camera shutter clicking]
NARRATOR: Who could
have done this?
MARKEYSHI: Why take his life?
Why take his life?
NARRATOR: Seven years go by.
It becomes a cold case.
- We just felt like he was
just another statistic.
NARRATOR: But little
did his loved ones know
that hidden in the
trunk of his own car
was a clue.

A clue he left that
changed everything.
- He was speaking to
us from the grave.

Theme music playing ♪
MAN 1: She solved
her own murder
from beyond the grave.
MAN 2: The fitness
app on the phone,
it was overwhelming evidence.
I've been haunted
by the visions ♪
That I've seen
with my own eyes ♪
And the only way to find you ♪
Is to go beneath the lies ♪

MAN: She did help
catch this killer.

On a raft I'm
sun-kissed crawled out ♪
Not on my back ♪
NARRATOR: After serving
in the Air Force,
29-year-old John
Ray returns home
to small town South
Carolina with a big dream,
to become a successful attorney.
So put me up like
the midday sun ♪
He moves to Atlanta
and spends three years
thriving as a paralegal,
studying for law school, and
laying down roots in the community.

That's why on May 17, 2004,
when John makes plans to
meet up with his best friend,
and he never shows,
everyone knows
something is wrong.

MAN: Markeyshi
interview, take one.
name is Markeyshi
and John was my best friend.

That day,
he said, "I'll be there no
later than about ten o'clock."

One o'clock, two
o'clock, I'm calling him,
calling him [line ringing]
and calling him
[phone keypad beeping]
I don't hear from him.
[line ringing]
[car approaches]

NARRATOR: His sister
also gets concerned.
- I called John and
he didn't answer.
[keypad beeping]
MARKEYSHI: By the time
we got to Tuesday,
I'm calling his job.
WOMAN [over phone]: The
last time I saw him was
MARKEYSHI: They said,
"We haven't seen John
since last Friday."

- This is not like him
not to come to work.

MARKEYSHI: Wednesday
comes, still nothing.
Now I'm like, "This is not him.
Something is wrong."

NARRATOR: Markeyshi
is heading over
to John's house
[phone ringing]
when she gets a disturbing
call from his office.
said, "I understand
that you have a key."
And I said, "Yeah,
I'm on my way now."
"No, no, no, no, no. Don't go.

"We believe something is wrong.

We're gonna have a uniformed
police officer meet you there."
And my stomach has
that ball in it.
[indistinct radio chatter]

NARRATOR: Markeyshi
hands over the key.
A police officer and one of John's
co-workers walk into his house.
MARKEYSHI And all of
a sudden the co-worker
runs back out of the
house, she's crying,
and I just dropped.
I just burst into tears.
NARRATOR: It's 5:00 p.m.,
Wednesday May 19th, 2004.
[sirens wailing]
The officer calls it in.
[sirens wailing]
[indistinct radio chatter]
MARKEYSHI: I just found out
that he was dead in the house.
[inhales sharply]
It broke my heart.
That's a king in that house.
[siren wailing]
[indistinct radio chatter]
NARRATOR: Homicide
detectives arrive
and take over the investigation.
MAN: Detective Nicole.
A, B common marker.
name is Detective Nicole Esquilin.
In the year 2004
I was the homicide detective
in the City of Atlanta.
It was a very gruesome,
bloody crime scene.
It looked like there
was a huge struggle.
[camera shutter clicks]
There was absolutely no
doubt this was a homicide.

It was obvious with
the defensive wounds
and the way that the
crime scene looked
that John Ray did not
wanna die that day.

While processing the scene,
we did observe that there
were some electronics
missing in the residence
and his car was missing.

But the odd part
of the scene was
that there was no forced entry.

So it looked like
whatever had occurred,
occurred with a person that
the victim had to have known.

There were glasses as if he was
having a cocktail with somebody else.
It appeared that the
victim was very vulnerable
and his guard was actually down.
[laughter] [glasses clink]

At some point whoever
did this to the victim
[glass shatters]
hit John Ray,
and the struggle that
ensued was very vicious.
[glass shatters]
The suspect grabbed a knife

and stabbed John
Ray numerous times
with force.
So much force that he broke the
knife off in John Ray's body.
In order to stab and break a
knife off in a person's body,
maybe it's a crime of passion,
there's a lot of anger
behind those homicides.

And then while processing the
scene another thing did stand out.

NARRATOR: The air is thick
with the smell of bleach.

- Whoever did this
cleaned up the crime scene
and tied up John Ray
with the phone cord.
And then spent some
time at the crime scene.

- It looked like possibly a
shower had been taken recently.

We found in the washing
machine a wet jersey
that had been washed.

And so it looked like some
laundry was being done.

detail, but important.
John was an impeccable dresser.

And he did it well, GQ Magazine.
Even when he was dressed
down, he was dressed up.

That could not be his shirt because
that's not the way he dressed.
No, John would not wear that.
knew it had significance
but we just didn't know
how much significance it
would have at the time.
NARRATOR: Detectives
believe this jersey
must be the killer's,
but there's no DNA,
and no fingerprints to
point to who did this.

Leaving his family back home in
South Carolina yearning for answers.

John was my oldest son.

When we found out
we had to go up there
Break down the heavy borders ♪
and view his body,
I-I couldn't do it.
I couldn't do it.

To be honest with you, he
really kept our family together.
MARKEYSHI: Look at the hair!
- Yep. Look at this.
JONIQUE BROWN: Okay, yeah.
a hi-top fade.
that is so 1990.
Like, "I'm a politician."
He looks like it. Doesn't he?
That was him.
JONIQUE: I am John
Ray's younger sister.
John was like was
like my role model.

John was determined
to leave Williston
because he wanted
something other than
working in a factory
all his life.
Little drops of doubt ♪
Drippin' down from
my brain and my heart ♪
name is Joyce Ray.
I'm John Ray's mother.
He said, "Mom,
"I think I need to
leave South Carolina.
I need to make a fresh start."
So, you know, you
have to let 'em fly.
Can't hold 'em back.
And he went.

It just didn't turn out good.

NARRATOR: Even though John is
loved and admired by his family,
he still finds it difficult to share
all the details of his life with them.
- John told me that
he was homosexual
one weekend when
he came to visit.
I didn't have a issue
with his sexuality.
But my parents are much older
and they were more conservative.

I think John moved to Atlanta
with many different goals,
and I believe he felt like he
could be hisself in Atlanta,
without being judged.

moves to Atlanta
and in addition to establishing
a beautiful career and life,
tries finding true
love and companionship.

But just when investigators
thought that his search for the one
ultimately lead to
his tragic murder,
they discover another
chilling possibility.

NARRATOR: The brutal
murder of John Ray
shocks veteran detectives.
But the autopsy reveals
the extent of the horror.

We believe the victim
in this case was killed somewhere
around 10.30 p.m. on the 16th.
Cause of death was
the stab wounds.

He was also beaten
and strangled.

When the autopsy was performed,
the medical examiner was able to
tell us six inches of the knife
was still lodged
in Mr. Ray's lung.

[siren wails] [indistinct
radio chatter]

NARRATOR: Investigators
have to consider
every possibility while
they search for suspects.
In the meantime,
they find something intriguing.
the investigation we learned
that John Ray had been
burglarized and robbed
two times prior
to this incident.
NARRATOR: The second
break-in took place
just four days
before John's murder.

the biggest difference is,
in those two incidents there
was definite forced entry.

NARRATOR: That's not the case
on the night John is killed.

was no forced entry,
there were no windows broken.
The alarm had
never been set off.
The front door wasn't kicked in.

The victim at whatever level had to
have known this particular suspect.
[indistinct radio chatter]

Processing the scene, there
was no car at the scene.
Did the bad guy
also take his car?
[camera shutter clicks]
NARRATOR: It seems
unlikely this is simply
a robbery gone wrong.
Detectives reach out to
John's friends and family
to see if they have any ideas
about who took his life.

And police discover John had a
serious run-in with his landlord.
Apparently this house
that he was living in, he
was sort of renting to own.
And he kept paying
the landlord the money
but then the house
was still foreclosing.
[dial tone] [phone
keypad beeping]
[line ringing]
MARKEYSHI: John calls
out of the blue.
He's angry because of all
this money he had put in.
He knows the landlord has not
been telling him the truth.
So he confronts him.
"You owe me money."

- When John found that
information out

He became confrontational
with the landlord
and that went very south.

[phone ringing]
NARRATOR: Detectives believe
this could be a
significant break.

- The landlord, obviously at that
point, became a suspect in the case
because that gave
us some motive.

Because John was killed
in such a violent manner,
there had to have been
some anger behind that.
We were wondering if possibly
the landlord was angry
about the argument.

NARRATOR: The landlord
is a solid lead,
but investigators wanna know if
John had trouble with anyone else.
- We got a search warrant
for John Ray's work computer,
and they were able to determine
things that John Ray was searching.

NARRATOR: Detectives
find that John was active
on several dating sites.
Could he have met
his killer online?
[phone rings]
While forensics examine
John's computer,
Investigators ask John's
family about his love life.
- I was the only one that was
able to give 'em some answers.
I know John figured out one
of his romantic partners
wanted to use him for money.
friend Markeyshi
didn't know he was gay.
But she does remember John
talking about his friend.
asked him for $300.

And when John tried to explain
to him, "I'm on a budget,"
and the guy says something
to the effect that,
"Hey, I know you have it, why
don't you just give it to me?
I know you have it."
And John lit into him.

It could have been anybody.
But we just knew it was that
gentleman who had asked for money,
and was angry that he wouldn't
give it, we just knew.

- We thought that you have a person
that John had a relationship with,
so you know there's probably
gonna be some sort of animosity
or bad blood between 'em because
they're not together anymore.
So you had greed and money, you
had passion and relationship.
You sort of had a
perfect suspect.

NARRATOR: Two viable suspects.
Two suspects who have
major issues with John.
Before long, though, police
are able to eliminate
one of the options,
the landlord.
- He provided a clear-cut alibi,
so we had to rule out the
landlord as being a suspect.
NARRATOR: But what about
John's ex-boyfriend?
Detectives can't
seem to locate him,
and Forensics can find no
indication that he met John online.
In fact the dating sites are a bust
in terms of additional suspects.

was very frustrating

Because we worked all the
angles, all the leads.

We checked absolutely
everything we could.

investigators realize
they're missing some information
that may turn out to be critical.

On the night John Ray
is brutally murdered,
investigators notice
his car is missing.
[camera shutter clicks]
what they don't realize is that
John's white Pontiac Grand Am
ended up in a crash three
miles from his house.

[siren wailing]
[indistinct radio chatter]

My eyes closed ♪

And I go back to the night ♪
- We discovered that
the victim's vehicle
that had been taken the
night of the murder,
actually was involved
in a high-speed chase
with the City of
Atlanta officers.
[siren wailing]

NARRATOR: At 3:30 a.m.,
the car plows into
a telephone pole
[tires screech] [thuds]
causing a small explosion
and power outage.

officer approached the vehicle,
he was able to observe that there
was blood all over the airbag.
So the person involved
in the crash obviously
was injured in the crash.

NARRATOR: Still, the
driver manages to get away
before officers arrive.
[indistinct chatter]

was collected inside the car
and there were stereos and
electronics and things like that
but at the time on the scene
the officer didn't know
that this car was
connected to the murder.
So he still did a good job
on preserving the evidence,
but he just didn't link the two
together at that particular time.
[camera shutter clicks]
NARRATOR: Eventually,
police are able
to link the stolen
car to John Ray.
But since the driver escaped,
they don't have an ID.
No ID, no suspect.

- That's when the stress
really starts mounting
because you feel like
you've hit every lead
and you just hit
another brick wall.
[siren wailing]
NARRATOR: In 2004,
Atlanta detectives
are overwhelmed with homicides.
So after investigating for eight
months they're forced to move on.
a case starts going cold
it's hard not to
take that personal
because you know you're not
doing the family justice.
There's just no excuse you
could ever give a family
for not bringing
them the justice,
so it's very frustrating.
family members mourn
with no closure,
- They never said
anything to us,
that it was being put on ice.
We just felt like he was just
another statistic.

NARRATOR: Time passes,
nothing happens.

- I prayed that the
rage would go away.
I didn't know I was walking
around like a ticking time bomb.

Every single person in my mind I
would analyze, "Could it be him?
"Nah, why would he?
Could it Nah, wouldn't."
Just could not figure it out.

NARRATOR: John Ray's case
goes cold for seven years.

Then in 2011,
Atlanta PD establishes a
homicide cold case unit.

And the investigation of
John Ray's murder reopens.

name is Marshall English.

I'm a retired police
criminal investigator.
I have over 28 years' experience
in cold case investigations.

John Ray was an employee
with the Fulton County
Public Defender's Office.
And he was also an
Air Force veteran.
An Army veteran.
So I kinda took
it more personal,
and I just wanted to
try to bring justice,
you know, to the family.

JONIQUE: At first I was like,
"Lord, is this a test?
This can't be real."

Detective English was like,
"You're gonna be getting
many calls from me.
We are about to
break this case."

- I thought that I would just
pass out. I was so happy.
Because leading up to
that I had been praying,
"God, please don't let
me leave this Earth
not knowing who did
this to my best friend."

NARRATOR: The investigator
starts from scratch.

thing I do is review
everything in the case file.
Our goal was to determine if there
was any suspects first to interview.

NARRATOR: English comes
across the reference
to John's ex-boyfriend.
- John Ray had mentioned to
his friend Markeesha that
there was some kinda
argument over money.
The lead detective was unable to locate
the individual during that time in 2004.
NARRATOR: But this time
the investigator
has better luck.
to locate the subject
and spoke with him.
NARRATOR: Unfortunately,
it's another dead end.

that the individual
was not in the state of Georgia
when this incident occurred
so I was able to rule
him out as a suspect.
NARRATOR: Next, the
cold case team decides
to go through all the evidence that's
been sitting in storage for seven years.

They find John Ray's work
computer and boot it up.
up John Ray's computer,
we noticed he was on
several dating sites.
We were able to rule out the
individuals that he had contact with.

NARRATOR: But there's
something else
on John's computer,
criminal background checks.
- We wanted to determine
whether this was work-related
or whether this was personal.
NARRATOR: While the team
looks into the three men,
they also focus on a
second crate of evidence,
this one is sealed.

It's the contents from John's car
that crashed hours after his death.

Evidence that's never
been examined

Until now.

Respite by Thomas McNeice, April
Mackay & Neil Mulholland playing ♪
Run, run, I don't
know where I am ♪
Nail to the ground
and I just can't start ♪
NARRATOR: The cold
case team investigating
the murder of John Ray
is reviewing evidence that's
been in storage for seven years,
when they hit the mother lode.

was not opened.
It was still sealed.
There's definitely
an adrenaline rush.

I was a little surprised
seeing all that evidence

And was hoping to get something
to try to help solve the case.

NARRATOR: Inside that
crate, John's briefcase
[siren wailing]
which had been in the
trunk of his stolen car.

I noticed there was some
printouts of one individual
from the Department of
Corrections website.

NARRATOR: The printout is
the criminal background check
for Torico Jackson.

Torico Jackson is one of the names
found on John Ray's computer.

extensive criminal history
included several charges of
burglary and armed robbery.

NARRATOR: John Ray had
been robbed several times,
including the night
he was killed.

out to me was,
John Ray was murdered
May 16th, 2004.
The printout was dated May 12th.
There was nothing to show
that there was any kinda connection
work-related with Torico Jackson.

NARRATOR: So, if it's
not work-related

Is it possible John had a personal
interest in Torico Jackson?

- John Ray had told
a friend of his
that he had recently
met an individual.
Didn't give any kinda details,
said he kinda felt the person was a little
"shady" is the best word to explain.

Somehow John Ray knew
who Torico Jackson was
and had him on his radar
and was researching him.

NARRATOR: There's more.
Another piece of
damning evidence.
A copy of Torico's ID.

In the photo, Torico is
wearing the exact same jersey
found in John's washing machine
the night his body was found.

Apparently Torico Jackson
was very fond of this shirt.
It's the belief of the
cold case detectives
that possibly Torico Jackson
was gonna come back
and get his belongings.
very distinguishable.
It was the same shirt.
- The information we
found in the briefcase
was not what we were expecting
and it was a huge
key in the case.

MARKEYSHI: John was speaking
to us from the grave
because he had left
so much information
in that briefcase in his trunk,
and I could almost hear him say,
"If you just open the trunk,
you'll find what I left you."

NARRATOR: Investigators
continue to dig.
Detective English reviews
phone records from 2004.
- One of the last calls
on John Ray's phone
on the night of the murder was
made to a Shameeka Williams.

Shameeka Williams
is a friend of Torico Jackson.
Apparently, they're
pretty close.
- After further investigation
I learned that Shameeka had
visited Torico in prison.
So that was a big
key piece of evidence that
gave us a connection
to putting Torico Jackson
inside the home of John Ray.
[man laughing]
It must have been him
that called her number
from the residence of John Ray,
and interestingly enough,
she didn't know who
John Ray was at all.

NARRATOR: Still, it's
all circumstantial.
Then, English stumbles upon a
missing piece of the puzzle.
[indistinct radio chatter]
that was collected
[siren wailing]
from the stolen
vehicle of John Ray,
was blood from the airbag.
DNA samples were submitted
to the crime lab for analysis
and all the blood work came
back to Torico Jackson.
[glass shatters]

name is George Turner.
I spent seven years as police
chief in the City of Atlanta.
In the John Ray case,
the investigator trying to
reconstruct that accident
was very challenged because
they didn't have the body
when the accident took place,
so ultimately they determined
it was just a stolen vehicle
or a crashed vehicle.

The detective, when he received
the call on the homicide,
also had not tied
those things together.

It wasn't until much later
that they determined,
that the vehicle was
associated with the victim,
and so ultimately
evidence go cold
and so it takes someone
that have dedicated time
looking at those pieces to
bring those things together,
to be able to solve this crime.
NARRATOR: Now police
can place Torico
in John's car the
night of the murder.

The evidence seems strong.

though you're excited,
you know that you have
a hurdle to jump over.
You always have to pretend like a
defense attorney's on your shoulder
because whatever you come up with,
they're gonna come up with a defense.

NARRATOR: After seven
years of pain

Will John Ray's
family and friends
finally get the
justice they deserve?

You're Under My Skin by Jake
Warren and Brooke Mitchell playing ♪
Paper-thin ♪
The walls are crumbling ♪

murder of John Ray
sits unsolved for seven years.
I can feel ♪
Then, in just two months
[camera shutter clicks]
the cold case team
gathers enough evidence
to file charges.

On August 22, 2011,
Torico Jackson is indicted
for felony murder,
aggravated assault,
and possession of a knife
during the commission
of a felony.

Prosecutors spend
the next 16 months
constructing their case.

- So nine years it took us
to get somewhat of a closure.
It's upsetting to know that
they had all this
evidence just sitting.

Had they never developed
this cold case department
we wouldn't be here now.

NARRATOR: The trial begins
on September 5th, 2013.

- What made this case difficult,
it was a circumstantial case.

Putting the pieces together
with the photographs

The shirt,
the phone calls,
the night of John
Ray's murder

Was all more of a puzzle
of circumstantial evidence
that the jury had to hear.

It was a little concerning
whether they would convict him.
maybe they won't.

Because Torico's defense
is that John attacked him.
And all he needs is one
juror to believe him.
just plead not guilty
and right before the trial
he claimed self-defense.

It was just crazy,
and I just was shocked.
JONIQUE: Torico act
like he was the victim.
I guess he was saying that
John was gonna kill him,
but he wasn't
brought up like that.
Why would he wanna hurt you?
He was trying to help you.

MAN: Marcus Garner. Take one.
name is Marcus Garner.
I was a reporter with the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution at the time.
GARNER: Yeah, I did
cover the trial.
Torico Jackson seemed a
bit indignant, initially.
During the course of the
trial you could literally see
the evidence starting
to weigh on him.
NARRATOR: Prosecutors
point to the time line.
John is murdered on May 16th.
His body isn't discovered
until May 19th.
They believe Torico
remained in John's home.

- Apparently, Torico Jackson was
making phone calls from the house.
Hanging by a thread ♪
Conducting business in the
house as if it were his own.
I'm better off dead ♪
Sow me ♪
JONIQUE: He made
dinner, he ate lunch.
Back together ♪
lived in the house
with a dead body.

A heartless person

Would stay in the
house with a dead body,
walking over it.
Holding on ♪
Till there's nothing left ♪

Maybe I'm better off dead ♪
Dead ♪

[indistinct chatter on TV]

prosecution claims
Torico targeted John Ray,
and John wasn't the first.

Torico Jackson was
preying on gay males.

- Torico would have a relationship
with the individual

And he would
burglarize or rob them.

This appeared to be a pattern
with the male individuals
he was involved with.

- I think Torico Jackson thought
that he would probably
just knock him out
[thuds] [glass shatters]

Grab all the stuff and flee
and get away with it.
Like he had done so
many other times,
and then I think John Ray
fought back for his life.


NARRATOR: After seven
days of testimony,
the jury only
deliberates for one hour.

- Torico was found
guilty of felony murder,
aggravated assault, burglary,
and received two life sentences
and 25 years in prison.

Feelin' like we made it ♪

And all the time we waited ♪
We paid the
price of patience ♪

JONIQUE: Once he
got his sentencing,
he turn around and said,
"It was either gonna be me
dead and your brother on trial,
or we gonna be
where we are now."
JOYCE: He was just
a evil person.
Very evil.
To take away my son like that.
You're supposed to forgive,
but there's no forgiveness
in my heart for that.
Vocalizing ♪
JONIQUE: When we were asked
to pursue the death penalty,
did not want that.
We wanted him to be alive,
to suffer the way we have
because John's not here
with us any longer.

- Do I feel justice was served?
Nah, he's still breathing.
NARRATOR: One question
remains unanswered.
Why would John knowingly invite
a convicted criminal to his home?
- John Ray, because he was
involved in this environment,
through his job might've been
comfortable with criminals.
He probably thought that
he could handle himself,
and that it wouldn't
happen to him.
- I believe John was trying to
help him get on a better path.
had a big heart.
And so it made sense that he
was talking to this Torico guy.

WILLIE: They got
the guy that did it.
That's what's important to me and
that's important to my family.
It don't bring John back,
but it brings a little clarity.
You know, I love him.
Let the light fade ♪
- We lost
We lost John Edward Ray
too soon.
Because he was
destined for greatness.

All we had was just a moment ♪
All we had was just a moment ♪
- You are just as popular in your
death as you were in your life.
You see all these people
out here because of you?
MARKEYSHI: You see this?
God, I miss you.
I know how you are,
and you wouldn't
want me to cry and
You'd probably tell me
to shut my punk behind up
and take it like a
woman. I know you.
Who's gonna put me
in my place now?
- I pray and ask God
to help make me strong,
which he has,
and I will survive.

We just remember him for the
good days that he gave us.
All we have is just a moment ♪
But we always think
of him as our lawyer.
All we have, all we have ♪

Is a moment ♪

being inside the work bag
and all the other
evidence that I found,
I just felt that it was some
type of message from John Ray
to help solve this case.
just absolutely amazing
that John Ray
basically served up
who his killer was
on a silver platter.
All we have, all we have ♪

Is a moment ♪

I don't know where
my head is lately ♪
Have I lost my mind? ♪

But I know that
I have a secret ♪
And it's only mine ♪

And the only way to find me ♪
Is to go beneath the lies ♪

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