|Eyewitnesses recall chasing fleeing car believed to contain Nancy Eagleson|
By NANCY WHITAKER
Progress Staff Writer
Part 1 of a series
PAULDING – Who killed Nancy Eagleson? Even though Nancy Eagleson has been gone for 50 years, people still have memories of that night, theories of who the killer was, and why the perpetrator was never apprehended.
Nancy Eagleson was only 14 years old when she fell victim to a vicious kidnapper, rapist and murderer. The date was Nov. 13, 1960, but even though time has turned the pages, there are those who vividly remember details of the crime that shook Paulding County to its roots.
The interest in this case was manifested on Nov. 13, 2010, when more than 200 people came out to remember the slain teen and her family.
For the past 50 years, many motives and suspects have been discussed, no sign of any evidence can be found, and the mystery surrounding her death is just as real as the day the crime was committed.
Following Eagleson’s murder in 1960, many people were interviewed. Many others received – and passed – lie detector tests. A reward fund was set up to attempt to catch the killer. The killer remained at-large and until this day no one has confessed to the crime.
The sheriff at the time was John Keeler, who requested that anyone in the vicinity of the abduction site that night to please contact his office.
Former Paulding resident Don Rhonehouse, who now lives in Florida, read the recent Progress articles about the memorial service. He and his sister, Pam Rhonehouse Ferguson, were eyewitnesses that night and tried to chase a car that they believe contained Nancy and her abductor. They have shared their story.
Don Rhonehouse was around 22 or 23 years old at the time. He was to pick up his younger sister, Pam, at the movies that fateful night. Pam, who was Nancy’s age, also went to see the movie “David and Bathsheba.” Pam said, “I saw Nancy after the movies at the theater. I was waiting for Don to pick me up after the movies I asked Nancy if she and her little sister wanted a ride home. Nancy replied that she really wanted to walk. So, I thought that she really liked those new high heels and preferred walking.”
Don said for some reason he was about 15-20 minutes late in picking up his sister. Their father was taking a vehicle to Owen Ake to be worked on and his children were going to follow him to give him a ride back to town.
After Don picked up his sister, he proceeded out of town with Pam in the front seat. They were traveling over the bridge and down old 111. He was behind another vehicle and he and Pam could observe a car ahead of them swerving around. The occupants of the car appeared to be having a domestic problem or quarrel. As they got closer, Pam recalls saying, “That looks like a younger girl. It looks like a little girl.”
Don said, “When Pam and I got behind the car, we could observe the fella driving was not so much hitting the girl, but was more hanging onto and pulling her hair with one hand while trying to steer with the other. The girl was actually hitting the driver and she was making wide swings more like a swimming motion.
“She was definitely hitting the person and he was pulling her head down towards the seat. He was possibly trying to hide her from view. It was her flailing arms and fists that got our attention. She was fighting with all her might. The abductor could not have been a frail or weak person.”
Continuing, Rhonehouse explained, “It appeared that she was trying to get out of the car. I followed as close as I could, trying to get a plate number. All of a sudden he saw I was getting too close and he sped away. He had a big dark colored car which was faster than mine.”
Rhonehouse, driving a new Corvair said, “I mean, I had that gas pedal pushed all the way to the floor. When I went to go around a curve I spun out. I just couldn’t catch him.”
Pam commented, “I was so scared that I got on the floor and hid. Don was flying down the road.”
Pam and Donald knew something had happened, but they didn’t know at that time a horrendous crime had been committed that would shake Paulding County to its roots. It would be the next morning when the Rhonehouses would learn of the murder of their friend.
After hearing of Nancy’s murder, Don’s father recalled that he too had crossed the bridge and that he had observed a man with horn-rimmed glasses talking to two little girls at the old deserted Pelok gas station. The building was located at the corner of Jackson Street and what is now Flatrock Drive (old 111), across from the present Lutheran church.
The next morning after learning of Nancy’s murder, Rhonehouse said, “We went into the sheriff’s office to report what we were witness to that night. To our knowledge, no one ever followed up on our information. I could have described that car in detail.
“I always did wonder why they didn’t ask for more details. After reading your write-up and trying to sort out what happened so long ago, I had difficulty sleeping and actually got up around 3:30 a.m. in the morning and sat on the back patio for a couple of hours.
“It is unbelievable how vivid the happenings of that night have remained in my memory after all these years. I, for one, want to thank you for keeping a little girl’s memory alive,” commented Rhonehouse.
We do not know the answers to all the questions that have been raised. However, there have been a lot of theories and situations through the years that leaves us all shaking our heads and wondering “Who killed Nancy Eagleson?”
Next week: Delve more into the mystery of “Who killed Nancy Eagleson?”
It is unbelievable how vivid the happenings of that night have remained in my memory after all these years.
To read the rest of this article please subscribe or sign in