Murder suspect arrested in 20-year-old Columbus cold case

By: 
Ryan Phillips
SDN Editor

An arrest was made this week that could help close the book on a 20-year-old unsolved murder in Columbus.
Investigators with the Columbus Police Department, along with other agencies from the state and region, said David Solomon Murray, II, 52, was arrested on Tuesday by the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force in Jackson in connection with the murder of 78-year-old Mack Fowler in 1996.
Murray was transported from Jackson back to Lowndes County Adult Detention Facility in Columbus, arraigned on the capital murder charge by Municipal Court Judge Rhonda Ellis. Ellis denied Murray bond, due to the capital charge.
CPD Captain Brett Swan said in a press conference Wednesday that DNA evidence ultimately helped lead investigators to arrest Murray.
On July 9, 1996, CPD responded to a call in the 2400 block of Third Avenue North in Columbus to a report of a dead body. The initial investigation concluded that the victim - Fowler - had been beaten and stabbed to death in his home.
Investigators in 1999 then submitted DNA evidence gathered at the scene to the Columbus Forensics Lab, who worked with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory to build a DNA profile on a possible suspect.
Murray was then arrested in by the Jackson Police Department last October, where a DNA swab was taken and submitted to the state crime lab for examination. In May 2017, it was determined that Murray’s DNA matched the unknown DNA found at the Fowler crime scene.
Mississippi Crime Lab Director Sam Howell, along with Columbus Forensics Lab Director Austin Shepherd, praised the work of the first investigators on the case, and said their evidence gathering and police work ultimately led to progress with new forensic technology in the present day.
“It’s commitment like that that allows us to use state-of-the-art technology today to help them solve crimes,” Howell said.
District Attorney Scott Colom said the case will now go before the grand jury, and if Murray was indicted, Colom said his office will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
“Hopefully it will give the Fowler family justice after all these years,” Colom said.
Officials didn’t release details about Murray’s relationship to Fowler, but Swan said Murray was invited into Fowler’s home as a guest the night of the murder.
Investigators also could not disclose if Murray had committed or been accused of any prior criminal offenses.
No court date was given for Murray as of press time Wednesday.

See Thursday's Daily Times Leader for more.

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