Desta Dodson Byrd's husband charged with her 1999 murder | Crime
It's been a long 12 years for the friends and family of Desta Dodson Byrd, a Bibb County woman who was discovered shot to death in her front yard February 25, 1999. Until recently, no arrests had been made in her case and her close friends felt her unsolved murder had been ignored and forgotten by both the media and law enforcement agencies. They banded together to form a group called "Justice for Desta," and kept her unsolved case alive by creating a website and Facebook page, organizing candlelight vigils in Desta's memory and using a billboard campaign to catch the public's attention.
Members of Justice for Desta believe those actions directly helped bring her murderer to justice. More than 12 years after her death, Desta's husband William Jody Byrd was arrested and charged with her murder on Friday, May 27. Officers from the Alabama Bureau of Investigations, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office and the 4th Judicial Circuit's District Attorney's office arrested Byrd at his place of employment without incident. They booked him into the Bibb County Jail where he is being held without bond, charged with capitol murder for the death of his wife.
According to Bibb County District Attorney Michael Jackson, details in an insurance policy helped lead to the capital murder charge, which carries the death penalty.
"There's been an ongoing investigation since the time she was killed about 12 years ago. And it was continuous. Once we felt like enough evidence been gathered, we decided to have an arrest made," Jackson said.
After the announcement of Byrd's arrest, members of Justice for Desta sent out a press release thanking everyone who had supported them in their efforts throughout the years.
"There have been literally dozens of people, including many in the media and Lamar Outdoor Advertising, who have played absolutely critical roles in bringing attention to and aiding in the investigation of this crime, and to whom we will be forever indebted," wrote one of the group's leaders and a personal friend of Desta's, Ann Coyle. She also thanked law enforcement professionals from the Bibb County Sheriff's Department, Bibb County DA's office and ABI for their work in Desta's case, saying they are now considered heroes by the group of friends who waited so many years for answers in Desta's murder.
"Without the assistance and support of so many, this crime might have remained unsolved," Coyle continued.
According to a statement on the website JusticeForDesta.org, there had been a strong suspect in the case from the beginning. Recent comments on the group's Facebook page suggested that Desta's friends had long suspected Jody Byrd was Desta's killer. But despite such possible suspicions, Jody Byrd was invited to be one of the main speakers at a candlelight vigil for his wife in February on the anniversary of her death. During his speech, which can be viewed in the video above, he spoke about losing his wife with a choked-up voice.
"She was my best friend, she was my wife, she was my buddy, and I ain't got that anymore," Byrd says in the video around 2:38 in the video. He also urged those in attendance to not forget Desta.
"But all this, we just don't ever need to lose the sight that somebody did something to Desta. She paid the ultimate price," he says at 3:14.
At 4 minutes, 13 seconds into his speech, Byrd assures the crowd there will one day be answers in Desta's case, and that it will eventually be put to rest.
"It may be five, it may be ten, it may be 20 years down the road, but one day we'll know what happened. We'll know it. We just gotta keep plugging, keep her tent up, because somebody's gonna make that commitment, make that link to put this to rest for all of us," he said.
It took less than five, ten or 20 years from Byrd's speech for authorities to make an arrest in Desta's case. Three months later, Byrd is behind bars and Desta's family and friends finally have some answers.
"We're glad that we were able to finally make an arrest in this case," said Assistant District Attorney Jim Ransom. "It's been a long time coming. We want to give Desta's family some closure, and we want the person responsible to be held accountable."
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