VINSON: Trimble exuded dignity over the years

MIKE VINSON, Post Columnist

Many years ago, Frank Ritter, a close friend and former columnist with the The Tennessean, told me the Marcia Trimble murder case was the most significant murder case in Nashville’s history.

How so? I asked.

“It forever robbed of us of our innocence,” Frank astutely answered.

The story goes like this.

On Feb. 25, 1975, Marcia Trimble, a 9-year-old Girl Scout, disappeared after walking out of her to house to go door-to-door to sell cookies.

For a variety of speculative reasons, it was as though all of Nashville became involved in the search for Marcia Trimble, and in a heartfelt, non-self-serving kind of way.

I was 21 years old at the time; however, I recall, also, being genuinely affected and interested.

Her body was found 33 days after her disappearance, March 30, 1975, inside a neighbor’s garage, located approximately 150 yards from her home.

Marcia had been raped and strangled to death.

Originally, Jeffrey Womack, 15 years old at the time, was a prime suspect in Marcia Trimble’s murder.

Womack lived just a few doors down from the Trimble family in the Green Hills neighborhood.

Over the course of the next 30-plus years, Womack would be followed, hounded, investigated, arrested and remain a major suspect in the murder of Marcia Trimble.

However, in the summer of 2008, a Davidson County jury in Nashville indicted Jerome Barrett for the rape and murder of Marcia Trimble.

Barrett, a 60-year-old African-American man, had a lengthy – near serial – record for sexual assaults on both children and women.

Barrett was convicted of the Marcia Trimble murder and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The breakthrough for the case was the advancement in forensics – DNA in the year 2008, as compared to the relatively undeveloped same in 1975. And his DNA was matched to DNA found on Marcia Trimble.

Via her boyfriend at the time, Ritter, I met and became friends with Virginia Trimble, Marcia Trimble’s mother, in early 2002.

The first time was at the old Belle Meade Cafeteria, where Virginia, Frank, a lady friend, and I had lunch.

I came away from that fateful meeting thinking, what a lovely human being – what courage, what character.

Before Virginia Trimble and Ritter married in 2006 and moved to Kentucky, I would drop in and visit with them when I was in the Nashville area.

Virginia Trimble and I spoke at length about her daughter’s death.

What you must remember is this: During the time frame I was fortunate enough to be in Virginia Trimble’s company, the Marcia Trimble murder case was unsolved and remained open.

About those visits with Virginia Trimble during the time frame mentioned, she always exuded courage, dignity and fairness at their highest tiers.

What impressed me the most, I suppose, is that even though Womack still was a suspect, Virginia Trimble, when talking to me, never one time used a hateful, spiteful tone when discussing him.

Rather, it was obvious to me that she was fair and broad-minded enough – even then – to consider the possibility that someone other than Womack killed her daughter.

Recently, Channel 4 News featured a special titled, “Indelible,” hosted by award-winning anchorwoman Demetria Kalodimos.

This most edifying special focused on Womack, and allowed him, for the first time, to tell his hellish story to the public.

For those who haven’t seen “Indelible,” I highly recommend that you make an effort to watch it. I’m sure there will be many reruns in the future.

While watching “Indelible,” I saw footage of Virginia Trimble back in 1975, when the case first became major news.

While investigators and prosecutors were fixated on Womack as the perpetrator, Virginia Trimble, when interviewed live, maintained a posture that the culprit could possibly be someone else.

And for that combination of courage, dignity and fairness, Virginia Trimble, I both thank and admire you.