I stumbled upon the murdered girl’s grave purely by accident one day while my husband and I were out visiting the graves of relatives at the cemetery. When I saw it, I felt an involuntary gasp come from my mouth and ice cold shivers went coursing through my entire body. “Stop the car,” I said to my husband when I saw the Trimble headstone. I had always known that she was buried at this particular cemetery, but I never knew where.
I knew Marcia Trimble’s case very well as do most people who grew up in Nashville in the 1970s. Her murder case was one of the most notorious unsolved murders in Nashville and went unsolved for 33 years.
It was February 25, 1975, when nine year old Marcia Trimble disappeared from her upscale Green Hills neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee. It was dusk just after 5 pm, and dinner was ready and Marcia had told her mother she was going to go deliver Girl Scout cookies to the neighbor across the street. It was cold outside that night and her mother wanted her to put a coat on, but Marcia assured her she would be right back. She never returned.
I was a fifteen year old sophomore in high school when Marcia Trimble disappeared and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the top news story on every television station for weeks. I remember the same black and white school photo of Marcia Trimble that was flashed across the TV and newspapers for the next several weeks. To this day, that picture is seared into my brain and inhabits a permanent place in my mind.
For 33 days, police, the FBI, and thousands of people searched for Marcia Trimble. I remember the Sunday her body was found (it was Easter Sunday, March 30th). I remember watching on the news as her body was carried away in a body bag which sat atop a gurney. No one had wanted this ending. I remember my mother cried when the news broke that Marcia Trimble’s body had been found. She later would tell me that she remembered all the times her three daughters had also left the house to innocently deliver Girl Scout cookies in the neighborhood. She had never feared for her daughters’ safety just as she was sure Marcia Trimble’s mother had not feared for Marcia’s safety.
I remember parents not letting their children play outside after dark when Marica Trimble disappeared and they all kept a tighter rein on their children. I remember learning (years later) that the police even bugged the flowers put on little Marcia’s grave, thinking the killer (or killers) might visit her grave and talk. Suddenly, Nashville didn’t seem so safe anymore.
I remember when many people thought Marcia’s mother was acting oddly, just because she was not the hysterical crying mother when interviewed and shown on TV, but always remained very calm. Turns out, she had a strong faith and had given it all to God. She never lost hope and yes, she always believed that Marcia would be found, but found alive. There was always a lot of talk of how the Trimble neighborhood became a media circus, how the police set up a command post in Mr. and Mrs. Trimble’s master bedroom, and how port-o-potties were put up in the neighborhood. I remember how they talked about the constant drone of helicopters overhead. I lived 15-16 miles from where Marcia Trimble lived and it was a terrifying time. I can’t even begin to imagine what the people who lived in the Trimble neighborhood had to endure. Their lives were never the same after young Marcia Trimble didn’t come home that night.
Marcia Trimble’s body was found on Easter Sunday, 33 days from the time she disappeared. She was found in a neighbor’s backyard garage– a white wooden, dilapidated, unattached, open garage which was rarely used. The garage was badly cluttered and her body was found by a visiting family member of the homeowner who had gone out to the garage in search of something. Her body was partially hidden under a shower curtain and a child’s wading pool and at first he thought it was a doll. There were Girl Scout cookies scattered around, but her cookie money was gone. This garage, which was only about 150 yards from the Trimble house, had been searched. Was her body not there when it was searched? Some investigators were adamant and said it wasn’t there. Other investigators said her body was hidden among the clutter all along and was simply missed. Despite it being 33 days, her body was not badly decomposed. The temperature outside had been very cold. An autopsy showed Marcia had been strangled and had sustained a broken hyoid bone. She had also been sexually assaulted. She was fully clothed when found but semen was found on her shirt, pants, and in her vagina (but not her underwear). There was no sign of forcible rape and her hymen remained intact. Police suspected a juvenile male was the perpetrator and they also felt it was someone Marcia knew. They also suspected her murder had been accidental. They later arrested a 15 year old neighborhood boy who fit the profile but later dropped the charges due to lack of evidence.
Nashville Police Captain Mickey Miller said of the case:
In that moment Nashville lost its innocence. Our city has never been, and never will be the same again. Every man, woman and child knew that if something that horrific could happen to that little girl, it could happen to anyone.
There was speculation by some that Marcia had been murdered somewhere else and later brought to the garage. Other officials felt that she had been sexually assaulted elsewhere and then lured into the garage and murdered there (which would explain her being fully clothed when found). Forensic evidence all pointed to Marcia having been killed in the garage and probably killed the same night she disappeared. By the dirt on her shoes, it appeared she had walked into the garage on her own two feet and was not dragged.
Some investigators believed that there was semen found on Marcia from at least three different male individuals. Others believed that there was only one suspect’s semen present. The semen that had been collected from Marcia’s clothes and body had not been preserved well. This was 1975 and DNA testing was very new and not as sophisticated as it is today.
In 2008, Jerome Sydney Barrett was arrested for the murder of Marcia Trimble. DNA evidence from the scene linked him to the crime after he was involved in another rape and murder in the same area around the same time that Marcia Trimble was murdered.
As for me, I think there are too many unanswered questions to this case. Much of it remains a mystery. Several years ago, while driving some back roads to a doctor’s appointment in Green Hills, I came across Estes Rd. and immediately recognized the white house in whose backyard Marcia Trimble was found. I ended up driving down Copeland drive through Marcia’s neighborhood which they say is much the same today. It was eerily quiet and an uneasy feeling came over me as I drove along her old street. I imagined what it must have been like that long ago February night in 1975 when all the portable light towers started going up and the army of reporters and police invaded that calm, quiet, neighborhood. Most of the neighbors left the neighborhood. Marcia’s father has since passed away and her mother has remarried and moved away. The old dilapidated shed where Marcia’s body was found was torn down many years ago.
The Nashville Scene did a two-part article on the Marcia Trimble murder case that provides a lot more details about the case. If you would like to read more about it, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.