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Cold Case Murder Solved after 32 Years

By: News Release
By: News Release

One of the men who was investigated by the Covington County District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Task Force and charged with Attempted Murder, Robbery I and Burglary I for a 2005 home invasion in Wing has been indicted for the 1981 murder of a Nicevillle, Florida, man.

Working in conjunction with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Okaloosa County Assistant State Attorney Robert Elmore obtained an indictment for First Degree Premeditated or Felony Murder against Jackie Darrell Long this week. The indictment by the Okaloosa County Grand Jury followed an extensive investigation into the murder of Leonard "Buddy" Phelps. Mr. Phelps was murdered at his home in Niceville in October, 1981.

Buddy Phelps was a businessman who built steel hull work boats. He has been described as a hard worker and a good-hearted man with a stern disposition. Later, the scene of the murder became North Light Marina, which is a well-known modernized boat lift facility and restaurant.

From the beginning, Jackie Darrell Long was considered a person of interest in the murder, but the investigation became stagnant until 2009 when new leads were developed and cooperating witnesses were located.

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Irwin described the investigation into Mr. Phelps’s murder as " very complex with numerous spinoffs." The Phelps murder investigation uncovered evidence and witnesses pertaining to other cold cases, including the Wing home invasion.

The Covington County District Attorney’s Cold Case Task Force determined, through their investigation, that Jackie Long and his son, Shane Long, had burglarized, robbed and brutally beaten Henry Maxie Jordan on New Year’s Eve, 2005. In June 2013, District Attorney Walt Merrell obtained indictments against Jackie Long and Shane Long for the crimes. Shane Long has since pleaded guilty. As well, information stemming from the Phelps murder investigation led to the indictment of a man for a 2006 murder in Lawrence County.

Merrell praised the investigators’ work: "None of the men who have worked on the cold cases have ever been daunted by the age of the cases or the staleness of the previous investigations. I am proud to work with other law enforcement officers, like Mike Irwin, Dennis Haley, and the members of the Cold Case Task Force, to bring the justice which has been so long denied to victims and their families. Here in Covington County, Shane Long has already pleaded guilty to his part in the attempted murder of Henry Jordan, and I expect to try Jackie Long for those crimes in August."

The Phelps murder investigation utilized more than 3000 man hours and led law enforcement officers to four states. Through the investigation, law enforcement were able to identify a particular "criminal element" which existed within Okaloosa County, Florida, and South Alabama from 1980 through 2010.

Jackie Long has been described as an intimidating and dangerous man who had a knack for influencing witnesses to become uncooperative. Investigator Irwin noted that a lot of the credit for solving Mr. Phelps’s murder goes to the people who had the courage to come forward. Investigator Irwin added that the Phelps murder investigation is far from over and that law enforcement is not stopping as several spinoff investigations are ongoing.

Investigator Irwin expressed his appreciation to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Dennis Haley, Okaloosa County Assistant State Attorney Robert Elmore, Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell and the members of the Covington County District Attorney’s Cold Case Task Force, for their assistance.


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