In today’s “Crime Stories” podcast, Nancy Grace and Alan Duke welcome special guest, Detective Morris Nix of the Cobb County Cold Case Unit, who wants nothing more than to find justice for a little girl who had her life cut short decades ago by sick individual who snatched her just minutes from her home.
Debbie Lynn Randall
Debbie Lynn Randall was 3rd-grader at Pine Forest Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, when she was snatched off the street, raped, killed, and thrown in a ditch not too far from her home. It’s been 45 years since her death, and the killer still remains elusive. Yet, a group of retired detectives in Cobb County are determined to solve this case and give Debbie’s mother her last wish: to find her daughter’s killer.
At 9 years old, Debbie was a typical little girl who loved cheerleading, baby dolls, Barbie dolls, and playing with her friends. One of her favorite things to do was meet friends at the Suds n Duds laundromat, close to her home on First Street, and trade Barbie outfits with friends. It’s the place where her family did their weekly laundry, including a 7 p.m. visit on on January 13, 1972. Her stepfather, Robert Hooker, was with her, but left early. Thirty minutes later, Debbie walked out of laundromat, and with a bottle of detergent in her hand, walked towards her home. She never made it.
According to the Marietta Police Department, witnesses saw a dark pick-up truck driving along First Street around the time Debbie vanished. They said it stopped right in front of Hooker’s home, then backed up into a secluded area by the house. Police would later find a detergent bottle splashed on the ground in the same area; it was the detergent bottle Debbie was carrying while she walked home.
Debbie’s disappearance quickly spread throughout the community, and within days, thousands of volunteers scoured the woods, vacant buildings and homes, and any other area that someone could have hidden a little girl. While searching an area close to Powers Ferry Road and Windy Hill Road, where Houston’s Restaurant currently sits, students from the Southern Polytechnic University found Debbie’s lifeless body in a wooded, remote area.
There were “some clues” available and near the little girl’s body, but after clearing family members and investigating every person of interest possible, including serial killers, rapists, and other felons, detectives were still coming up. During the 1970’s and up until the mid-1990’s, DNA testing wasn’t available. From psychics giving wrong information to false confessions, Cobb detectives exhausted most options until recently, when familial DNA testing became available.
Cobb County Cold Case Unit
Retired detectives with the Cobb County Cold Unit, also known as C4, vow to never give up in pursuing the person responsible for killing Debbie Randall.
In February 2016, detectives were able to get a DNA profile from the evidence collected at the crime scene. It concluded that only one person assaulted little Debbie. However, they are still searching for hits and hoping that familial DNA will help them finally solve the case and bring justice to the little girl’s family.
“I think this is a very doable case,” Nix said. “It’s obviously a long shot. But I do think we have a chance, and as long as we have a chance we’re going to keep working on it.”
Anyone with information about Debbie Lynn Randall should call the Cobb County Cold Case Unit’s hotline at 770-528-3032.