The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

February 14, 2014

Palestine police renew probe of 2009 murder case

By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

The Palestine Police Department is asking for the public's help resolve the 2009 murder of a Palestine man.

Virgie C. Spurlock, 61, was discovered deceased on the floor of his bedroom inside his local residence in the 700 block of Head St. on Dec. 6, 2009 by a family acquaintance.

According to previous newspaper reports about the murder, an autopsy showed Spurlock, who served in the U.S. military and attended Palestine schools, died as a result of “blunt force trauma.”

During a press conference on Thursday afternoon at the police station, Police Chief Robert Herbert, Police Lt. James Muniz and Crime Investigation Division Sgt. Justin Willoughby discussed how a new team has been pulled together to work new leads in the case.

“We still have a murder suspect still out there. We need to do our best to resolve this and get the murder suspect off the streets,” Herbert said during the press conference. “I know the family has talked to me on several different occasions and other people have talked to me about this when I came on board back in 2011 about this case. After reviewing this case, the case is still very workable.

“We have constructed a team – eager young investigators that I believe, if we stay on course, we may be able to possibly solve this murder. I'm willing to invest time to make this happen,” Herbert continued. “We need the community's help. If you know anything, we have the new Tip411 in place. It's anonymous. You can contact us through that. And hopefully we can catch this murder suspect.”

At the time of the murder, Willoughby was new to the department and two other detectives were not working for the Palestine PD. Muniz was working patrol. Willoughby is now running the CID, under the supervision of Muniz.

“The people that are in CID now — nobody was associated with that case at that time,” Muniz said.

Over the past few years, Muniz said he has pulled out the case and worked on it here and there, following up on leads but with few results.

“A small bit of additional information has come to us. So with a renewed enthusiasm and a lot of renewed hope, it's our intention to go back and give this case a real hard look,” Muniz said. “We want to see if we can bring this case to some kind of resolution. We want to put this out there to the public that if anybody has information that could possibly help us, we will be looking for that too.”

Forty-eight people were initially interviewed about the case. Investigators will be looking to re-interview persons who may have been contacted during the initial stages of the original investigation.

“We interviewed persons of interest at the time and those people were talked to, but like we said the case went cold but was never closed. We have decided to give this thing a real hard look based on the additional information we have,” Muniz said. “We feel like we owe it to ourselves and to the family and to the public as a whole to go back and give it another look.”

A few new names have come up over the last month in the investigation, Muniz said.

“We know their names and we are seeing if we can come back and find some of these people,” Muniz said.

No answer to a possible motive for the murder was given, but investigators did say the victim's pocket was turned out and that his body was found about four to six hours after the murder took place. Visitors — both friends and members of his large family — frequented his home, Muniz said.

“We can't say at this time what was taken, but there was something taken, we do know that,” Muniz said.

Based on recent information, the CID has taken the case in a new direction.

“We need the community to help us. There's a lot of people out there with a lot of information. We haven't talked to probably half of them because we have more people coming in,” Willoughby said. “Call us, contact us or use the new Tip411.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Palestine Police Department at 903-729-2254. The lead investigators are Muniz, who may be contacted at 903-731-8477 and Willoughby, who may be contacted at 903-731-8474.

The public is also reminded that information can be provided anonymously by submitting the information by texting PALPD plus the tip to 847411. Information also can be submitted on the city’s website at www.cityofpalestinetx.com/tip411.php