By MIKE VINSON
Many years ago, Frank Ritter, a close friend and former columnist with the The Tennessean, told me the Marsha Trimble murder case was the most significant murder case in Nashville's history. How so, I asked.
"It forever robbed of us of our innocence," Frank astutely answered.
February 25, 1975, Marsha Trimble, 9-years-old, disappeared after walking out of her to house to go door-to-door to sell Girl Scout cookies. For a variety of speculative reasons, it was as though ALL of Nashville- family, friends, police, media, outsiders, etc.- became involved in the search for Marsha Trimble, and in a heartfelt, non-self-serving kind of way. I was 21-years-old at the time; however, I recall, also, being genuinely affected and interested.
Marsha's body was found 33 days after her disappearance, March 30, 1975, inside a neighbor's garage, located approximately 150 yards from the Trimble's home. Marsha had been raped and strangled to death.
Originally, Jeffrey Womack, 15-years-old at the time, was a prime suspect in Marsha's murder. Womack lived just a few doors down from the Trimble family in Nashville's middle-class, Green Hills' neighborhood. Over the course of the next 30-plus years, Jeffrey Womack would be followed, hounded, investigated, arrested for-and remain a major suspect in-the murder of Marsha Trimble.
However, summer 2008, a David County Jury (Nashville) indicted Jerome Barrett for the rape and murder of Marsha Trimble. Barrett, a 60-year-old, African-American man, had a lengthy- near serial-record for sexual assaults on both children and grown women. Barrett was convicted of the Marsha Trimble murder and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The breakthrough for the case was the advancement in forensics - DNA in the year 2008, as compared to the relatively undeveloped same in 1975. Barrett's DNA was matched to DNA found on Marsha Trimble.
Via her boyfriend at the time, Frank Ritter, I met and became friends with Virginia Trimble, Marsh Trimble's mother, in early 2002. The first time was at the old Belle Meade Cafeteria, where Virginia, Frank, Jennifer (a lady friend), and I had lunch. I came away from that fateful meeting thinking, what a lovely human being . . . what courage, what character!
Before Virginia Trimble and Frank Ritter married in 2006, and moved to Kentucky, I would drop in and visit with them when I was in the Nashville area.
Virginia and I spoke at length about her daughter's death. What you must remember is this: During the time frame I was fortunate enough to be in Virginia Trimble's company, 2002 - 2006, the Marsha Trimble murder case was unsolved and remained open.
About those visits with Virginia Trimble during the time frame mentioned, she always exuded courage, dignity, and fairness at their highest tiers.
What impressed me the most, I suppose, is that even though Jeffrey Womack still was a suspect, Virginia, when talking to me, never one time used a hateful-spiteful tone when discussing him. Rather, it was obvious to me that Virginia was fair and broad-minded enough-even then-to consider the possibility that someone other than Womack killed her daughter.
Recently, Channel 4 News featured a special titled, "Indelible," hosted by award-winning Channel 4 anchorwoman Demetria Kalodimos. This most edifying special focused on Jeffrey Womack, and allowed him, for the first time, to tell his hellish story to the public. For those who haven't seen "Indelible," I highly recommend that you make an effort to watch it. (NOTE: I'm sure there will be many reruns in the future.)
While watching "Indelible," I saw footage of Virginia back in 1975, when the case first became major news. While investigators and prosecutors were fixated on Womack as the perpetrator, Virginia, when interviewed live, maintained a posture that the culprit could possibly be someone else.
And for that combination of courage, dignity, and fairness, Virginia Trimble Ritter, I both "thank" and admire you.