Saturday, August 04, 2001

Deputies comb farm for woman's body

Murder trail could end in pond or sinkhole

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Boone County detectives Todd Kenner (left) and Tim Carnahan use metal detectors Friday to search a field.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        VERONA — The final chapter in a 20-year-old murder mystery opened Friday morning when Boone County sheriff's deputies started searching a farm for the remains of Helen Marlene Major and the weapon used to kill her.

        Divers from Boone County Water Rescue searched the mud at the bottom of a 7-foot-deep farm pond for the murder weapon while sheriff's deputies looked for Mrs. Major's remains at the bottom of a sinkhole.

        After waking up to deputies and TV satellite trucks parked outside his mobile home, farm owner Mark Waller described the search as the one of the last unwritten pages of a book that will one day tell the whole sordid story.

        Mr. Waller, who was 18 when Mrs. Major disappeared, grew up on the 300-acre cattle and tobacco farm. He now works the land for his parents.

        “We don't know what we will find,” said spokesman Lt. Jack Banks. “It has been 20 years. Finding a body isn't critical for this case. We hope to find the remains of Mrs. Major to bring closure to the family.”

        Mrs. Major's homicide is the oldest active murder case in Boone County.

        Police zeroed in on the farm after William Major, the man accused of killing his wife, described to Boone County detectives where he disposed of the body and weapon. Authorities say Mr. Major led them to the farm last week.

        Authorities speculate that Mr. Major shot his wife, cut off her head, and knocked out her teeth and jaw to make it difficult for police to identify her. A skull identified last month through DNA testing as Mrs. Major's was found on the Waller farm by a hunter in 1981. It had been shot several times and the teeth and jaw were missing. The rest of her body was never found.

Helen Major
Helen Major
        Friday's search wasn't the first on the farm with rolling hills, ponds and sinkholes. Police searched a larger pond nearly 20 years ago. They found nothing.

        Mr. Major left Kentucky with his two children about a week after his wife disappeared. He was later convicted in Rhode Island for sexual assault and served time in prison there before moving to Massachusetts where he remarried.

        Authorities say a break in the case came when Mr. Major, who uses a wheelchair since a stroke, confessed to his father twice — the second time in a taped telephone conversation in March.

        The daylong search of the farm off Ky. 16 on the Gallatin county line turned up nothing, , but Lt. Banks said police will be back today.


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