FERRIER FILES: Family hunts down clues to mystery of son's unsolved murder in his own home

FOX 17 News

Tony Drumwright had a heartbreaking start. He wasn't loved as a baby, instead he was nearly killed.

"Tony had been taken by his feet and beaten into a wall like a rug. He was totally paralyzed," adopted mother Becky Drumwright explained. "He started to walk at 18 months, but he was blind in one eye and that vision never came back."

Becky Drumwright knew she had to step in, so she adopted Tony. She had him fitted with a glass eye and showered him with love. A teenager with dreams of becoming a computer programmer and who liked to hang out around the house. So, it was no surprise on August 25, 1999, when he came straight home after school.

When Tony's mom and dad came home from work, they could not find him and noticed the family gun was missing.

"My husband was in anguish, 'Oh my God,' he said, 'Oh my God, he has got the gun,'” Drumwright remembered.

But the gut wrenching situation got even worse.

"I heard Henry call me in a blood curdling way," Drumwright said. "I will never forget it."

Tony's dad found him face down behind the house by the air conditioning unit with a bullet wound in the back of his head. Police believed Tony had killed himself, gun in the mouth bullet shooting out of the back of his head. But, what no one saw on the same afternoon was the bullet hole in the closet door. The gun had been fired in the house. His family questioned: Was Tony in a fight with an intruder?

No one immediately wondered, because no one knew. The family followed Tony to the hospital. When they returned home, the Carroll County Sheriff had never considered it a crime scene or even placed yellow tape on the scene. His assumption was suicide.

An assumption that was wrong. It was determined that the shot in the house and the bullet wound in the back of his head was an entrance wound. Drumwright says Tony was shot in the head while running for his life. Now, the sheriff brought out the yellow crime tape.

“He said, 'well I’ve got some good news and some bad news,' I was so pissed because he wasn't blurting out anything and I said 'what!' He said, 'the good news is he didn't do this to himself. The bad news is somebody did it to him,'” said Drumwright.

But now there was no crime scene to be investigated. Caring friends cleaned up the crime scene while the Drumwrights were at the hospital as the sheriff allowed people to believe Tony committed suicide.

"Their strategy was let it be quiet, and we will flush the people out to talk. Disgusting, it didn't work," Drumwright said.

A friend in law enforcement told the family the murder weapon had also been compromised.

"That's why there are no fingerprints, because Barney Fife at the damn sheriff's department handled the gun," Drumwright said.

Four years ago, new District Attorney Matte Stowe reopened the case and exhumed the body to look for DNA evidence.

While the exhumation did not solve the case, it did offer additional clues that officials are still hunting down.

Becky could not get past the murder. Her husband couldn't bear to talk about it anymore. She lost her marriage and even lost her relationship with her daughter for a decade.

"It's been 20 years. It destroyed my family, I can tell you that," Drumwright said. "I checked myself into a mental hospital, I just couldn't take it."

Did Tony's killer really keep quiet all these years? Prosecutors believe someone must know who killed the little boy whose life began and ended so violently.

"This is a small town. It has almost been 20 years. It is time for someone to come forward and help this family," DA Stowe said. "When you talk to Becky Drumwright, it feels like this murder happened last week. We need to do right by her."

DA Matt Stowe hopes someone will come forward with eyewitness testimony.

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