WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — 40 years ago, three deer hunters came across the skeletal remains of a human being.
The bones were later identified to be that of Danny Brogdon, 37, from Panama City. Brogdon went missing almost two years prior.
Investigators said the location was deserted, not a place that anyone who wasn’t hunting deer would stumble upon. After medical examiners concluded the cause of death to be from a gunshot wound, it was officially ruled a murder.
Former Bay County Sheriff, Frank McKeithen who retired in 2016, said he was an investigator at the time and was assigned to assist Washington County with the case.
“I had worked on and worked a lot of the murder cases back then,” McKeithen said. “Surprisingly, there were a lot of rumors and a lot of stories out there but, one of the things that kept coming back to us was that Danny ripped off some drug dealers in 1980, in Alabama.”
Most evidence pointed to a drug deal gone awry. And while this information was valuable, McKeithen said it also caused a lot of hesitation.
“So we began questioning people who were close friends of his and acquaintances,” McKeithen said. “Of course, when you started talking about ripping off a drug dealer of 200 pounds of dope, then the witnesses become a lot more scarce — ‘Well yeah, I remember seeing him, but I wasn’t with him.'”
A piece of evidence that seemed to keep surfacing was that Brogdon was in Alabama around the time he went missing. McKeithen said, in 1980, the bad guys believed that Alabama was a safer state to trade drugs in.
“We learned that Danny and another subject had possibly riped off 200 pounds of marijuana,” McKeithen said. “And that was big bucks back in the ’80s.”
Marijuana was a big lucrative operation in Florida in the 1980s. McKeithen said it was shipped in on fishing boats and airplanes.
Ronald Lee was the Washington County lead investigator on the case. McKeithen said the two of them traveled to Alabama prisons to question anyone who might have been involved but they always came home empty-handed.
“People that would talk to you and I in the same room seemed to forget things when they were in prison. They don’t talk quite as well and they’re not quite as upfront,” McKeithen said. “So we actually were not able to gain a lot of information by those trips.”
Even though investigators kept running into dead ends, there was one piece of evidence that caught their attention most.
“Danny was last seen driving a pickup truck that belongs to a friend of his,” McKeithen said. “This truck mysteriously turned up in the friend’s yard a few days after Danny borrowed the truck and was the last time that this friend and more friends saw him.”
Mckeithen said, even thought the friend remembered the car showing back up, no evidence pointed to him being a suspect.
“When you’re working a homicide case, you have to be real careful and never say never and never say that couldn’t happen, because it can,” McKeithen said.
As far as physical evidence goes, Brogdon’s bones, shoes, a jacket covering a portion of his bones, and a bullet found under some of the bones were almost worthless to the case.
“After being out in the sun and the weather, there was not a lot left to really obtain evidence from,” McKeithen said. “We would, in those days try to get blood and match blood to crime scenes and that was one of the things we used and those tests was one out of one million 283.”
In the 1980s, DNA matching was not yet discoverable or usable in court.
“It was not like DNA,” McKeithen said. “The evidence was very slim other than the bullet. Now the bullet, obviously if we could find a gun that matched.”
McKeithen said they tried to match the bullet to a gun but the evidence never surfaced.
As far as suspects go, investigators had plenty, but most of them were pointing their fingers at each other.
“There were people who were considered suspects but obviously, without evidence or confessions or eyewitnesses, it was impossible to arrest someone,” Mckeithen said. “Here say, basically is what we had, we had one person who was a documented drug dealer that was arrested five times giving you information that this drug dealer is possibly responsible for it.”
McKeithen was never able to locate a missing person report. Media reports from the time said his family had visited him at the beach him from Alabama. Reports said the family left for a few days and when they returned, Brogdon was gone.
Brogdon’s sister, Emily Mishoe, told media that Brogdon traveled around quite a bit for the last several years and often visited relatives in Birmingham.
“It’s not unusual for someone to go missing and someone not report that to police,” McKeithen said.
News 13 tried to locate Brogdon’s living family members, but were not able to make contact.
“After looking into it, after traveling all over lower Alabama and Florida and interviewing people, we were never able to get anyone to come forward and give us information that would actually result in an arrest,” McKeithen said.