Who killed Desta? Helena woman wants to know

Published 11:12 am Thursday, January 27, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS/Staff Writer

Kathy Garner wants to know who killed her childhood friend.

Desta Dodson Byrd was found murdered in rural Bibb County on Feb. 25, 1999. No arrests have been made. The trail has seemingly gone cold.

That’s unacceptable to Garner, who lives in Helena, and five other women behind the group Justice for Desta.

“It is very frustrating. For 12 years it’s been ignored,” Garner said. “We just want to know what happened to her, and her family just wants to know what happened to her, and why.”

To help answer those questions, the group — all childhood friends of Desta’s — have started a campaign to bring the case back into public view.

Five digital billboards have recently gone on display around the area, and a prayer vigil is scheduled for Feb. 26 at Linn Park from 5-8 p.m.

Lamar Outdoor Advertising donated the digital billboard space in locations in Shelby and Jefferson counties.

“We are very grateful to them for donating the digital space,” Garner said.

Miriam Shehane, the founder of VOCAL — Victims of Crime and Leniency — will speak at the prayer vigil, Garner said.

Members of Byrd’s family will attend the vigil, Garner said.

“It’s not that we want a lot of media attention, but that kind of drives investigators to find out what happened to her,” Garner said. “We just want to know who did this.”

Garner and Byrd had been friends since fourth grade. They went to Bottenfield Middle School in Adamsville together. They attended different high schools but still remained friends.

“She was a very thoughtful person and a good friend,” Garner said. “She cared for everybody. She was one of those people that knew how to reach everyone and include everyone. She made things fun.

“Allowing her case to go cold was like saying to us, ‘she didn’t matter.’ We couldn’t let that happen. She was a beautiful person who did matter. She mattered to us immensely. That’s why we formed Justice for Desta.”

There is a $30,000 reward for anyone with information leading to the arrests and conviction or the person of persons responsible for the crime.

More information about the case is available on the group’s website justicefordesta.org.