Cold case: The killing that changed Rougemont forever - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Cold case: The killing that changed Rougemont forever

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ROUGEMONT, N.C. -

It's a brutal murder that stunned the small town of Rougemont. It has left law enforcement searching for answers and a family desperate for closure.

"Rougemont is a friendly place most everybody knows everybody," explained Maj. Paul Martin with the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

It was a place to call home for 68-year-old Rosa Lee Crabtree and her three children.

But all that would change on a fall day in 2005.

Crabtree was found dead by her son, Tony Crabtree, in her home. She has been stabbed multiple times and left dead on the floor.

"She was a great lady, she was like a pillar in the community," remembered Tony, "Everybody knew her, she had no enemies," he said.

After her husband passed away from cancer, Tony made it routine to check on her each morning.

"Everyday I'd stop on my way to work spend a few minutes with her and then go on to work," he explained.

But on Nov. 7, the town of Rougemont was changed forever.

Tony said on that day, while stopping to check in on his mom, he immediately noticed something was different.

"I looked and there were no lights on so I said 'Oh, mom has overslept. That's fine,'" recalled Tony.

He said his mom would never unlock the door unless she knew who was coming.

"I reached to pull the door and it opened right up and I knew then something wasn't right," he said.

Tony walked inside and found the house ransacked. He said her mattress was overturned, her dresser drawers were thrown out everywhere, and her TV stand was knocked over.

Tony said when he turned into the living room he saw his mother on the floor, still in her church clothes from the night before.

"She was lying on the floor next to the couch she'd obviously been stabbed multiple times with a pair of scissors. Her Bible was lying on the couch beside her," explained Martin.

Rosa Lee's life was taken for some jewelry, a TV, and a DVD player.

"She was a 68-year-old, slightly-built woman, who posed no danger to anyone. She could have easily had her items taken and no crime committed like this. It's just totally unnecessary," said Martin.

Tony believes Rosa Lee must have known her killers otherwise she wouldn't have let them in the house. Deputies believe there were multiple suspects.

How the suspects got in to the house is still a mystery.

"There were no signs of forcible entry," explained Martin.

For eight years, investigators have sorted through evidence, conducted countless interviews, and even processed DNA from the scene. None of it has turned up enough to make an arrest, leaving the Crabtree family and the rest of the town of Rougemont to wonder why?

"Justice is what I'd like to see. A little closure and justice," said Tony.

Deputies think it is only a matter of time before they catch those responsible.

"We believe we know who the suspects are," said Martin. "We know some of their family members know what happened and are covering for their murderous relatives."

As for the Crabtree family, they just await the day that they'll see Rosa Lee once again.

"I'm not after vengeance. The Good Lord says vengeance is mine, and I know one day they will answer," Tony said.

There is a $5,000 reward for any information that will lead to an arrest in this case. If you have any information call the Durham County Sheriff's Office (919) 560-0897 or Durham CrimeStoppers at (919)683-1200.

Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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