A man who might have closed a decades-old murder in Ceres killed himself a week after he skipped town on charges of armed robbery and false imprisonment.
On Jan. 29, 1983, Curtis Edward Brumley was stabbed more than 70 times at his apartment in Ceres.
On July 30, 2012, police say, Vernon Dewayne Odom used a knife to hold up a Walgreens pharmacy in Oakdale and forced the pharmacist to call police for him so he could divulge details about a murder in Ceres.
Brumley's siblings, Judy Rash and Richard Brumley, are convinced Odom was one of the men who killed their brother. "I know he did it, but I will probably go to my grave not knowing why," Rash said.
Odom grew up two doors from the Brumley family and was related to them through marriage, Richard Brumley said. Odom's stepbrother is a cousin to the Brumleys.
Odom, who was 19 at the time of the murder, was interviewed by detectives in 1983 but never named as a suspect, said Ceres police spokesman Sgt. Jose Berber.
Brumley said Odom was arrested by police in 1983 but not held because of a lack of evidence. Ceres police detectives would not confirm the claim, citing the ongoing investigation, which was reopened after Odom's bizarre proclamations at the drugstore.
Detectives would not say what Odom told dispatchers that day. The conversation lasted only minutes before Odom handed the phone back to the pharmacist, who told the dispatcher Odom had a knife.
While Oakdale police officers were on their way to the Walgreens, Odom demanded painkillers from the pharmacist. As officers made their way to the back of the store, Odom swallowed a handful of Vicodin and OxyContin.
He was rushed to the hospital, where he stayed for a day in a medically induced coma.
The next day, he was released from the hospital and booked at the Stanislaus County jail on suspicion of robbery and false imprisonment.
Ceres police detectives went to the jail to interview him again about Brumley's murder, but he no longer was willing to talk, Berber said.
They planned to follow up with him later, but he had been released from jail and left town before they could.
The Oakdale police officers assigned to Odom's robbery and false imprisonment case failed to turn the report into the district attorney's office before his arraignment Aug. 3, so he was released. He went to Manassa, Colo., where his father, an adult son and a brother live.
A warrant for his arrest was issued Aug. 6. But Aug. 9, Odom hanged himself and took with him any knowledge he may have had of Curtis Brumley's murder.
Brumley was attacked from behind by more than one assailant, according to Bee archives. The killers pushed him to the ground and stabbed him more than 70 times in the chest, neck, arms and back.
He had few defensive wounds on his arms, indicating that he wasn't able to put up much of a fight.
Investigators at the time said that it appeared the 29-year-old knew his killers because there was no forced entry into his Evans Road apartment.
Detectives continue to investigate the case and are pursuing other avenues, Berber said.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366.