Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series on cold cases in Hazard and Perry County. In the coming weeks, the Herald will profile local missing persons or murder cases that remain unsolved in an attempt to shed new light on the cases.
HAZARD — It was October 24, 1983 when 20-year-old Debbie Eckles was brutally stabbed to death inside her Turner Avenue home. Her killer has never been found in the nearly three decades that followed, and her case remains to this day the only unsolved murder in the city of Hazard.
Eckles was found by her fiancé, Jamie Walker, as he returned home from work at approximately 5:30 p.m. She was lying face down on a bed in the back bedroom of their home, and had suffered multiple stab wounds to her back and neck. There were no signs of a forced entry into the home, according to police reports, which may indicate that Eckles knew the attacker, or the home was unlocked when the perpetrator made entry.
At the time of the murder, the Hazard Police Department did not have the capability to conduct a major investigation of this nature. The case was turned over to Kentucky State Police Detective Clyde Caudill, who has since retired. However, with major leaps in the training and efficiency of the Hazard Police Department, officers in the city reopened the case last year with a new dedication to solve the murder.
“It was a different department back then,” said Hazard Police Sgt. Paul Campbell. Now, the city police have a dedicated investigations department with several certified investigators trained in crime scene analysis and detective work.
While the case is still technically being worked by the state police, officers with the city police department have taken a special interest in it since it is the only unsolved murder remaining in the city.
“I don’t want to prioritize someone as a victim, but really out of all the major cases it is the only [murder] case we have that is unsolved,” said Campbell.
During the initial investigation by the state police, several suspects were questioned and one was even charged, though he was later acquitted. In the spring of 2011, then Major Minor Allen, who is now police chief, began looking into the case again after Eckles’ sister, Carolyn Miniard, asked for the department’s help.
Police believe that someone still knows who killed Eckles 29 years ago, and are urging anyone with information to come forward.
“There are people out there who know something and they have been holding on to it too long,” said Campbell. “It has been too long, and they need to come forward.”
If you know any information about this case you can contact the Hazard Police Department at 436-2222 or the Kentucky State Police at 435-6069.