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HomeNewsBreakingWhiteriver man pleads guilty in 1996 Pinetop-Lakeside cold case murder

Whiteriver man pleads guilty in 1996 Pinetop-Lakeside cold case murder

HOLBROOK, Ariz.- Romeo Clarence Massey, Jr., 45, pleaded guilty this week in Navajo County Superior Court to the 1996 cold case vicious murder of Jody Hemphill.

On Nov. 6, 1996, Jody Hemphill was found viscously stabbed to death behind the counter at the Mountain Edge Tapes & CD store in Lakeside, Arizona, where he was an employee.

$250 was missing from the store. The suspect was described as a Native American male in his late 20s to early 40s with unkempt, dark, collar-length hair. Pinetop-Lakeside is located on the edge of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, and there was a lot of speculation about who was behind the attack, and rumors floated through the community in 1996.

Newspaper composite sketch about the suspect in Jody Hemphill's vicious murder.
Newspaper composite sketch about the suspect in Jody Hemphill’s vicious murder. Stephanie Jackson.

The case remained unsolved, and eventually, Jody’s parents passed away, never knowing who took their son from them. The case grew cold, although the Pinetop-Lakeside Police never gave up, and in June, it was announced that an arrest had been made after developing new information.

Terri and Lyle are Jody’s siblings. As they explained, they know that their brother has not been forgotten, and though the wheels of justice may turn slowly, they do continue to turn.

Massey, of Whiteriver, Arizona, pleaded guilty on January 29, 2024, to one count of murder in the second degree and one count of robbery. He was arrested in June 2023, after the Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department, which has reviewed the case numerous times since 1996, obtained and analyzed new evidence that led investigators to Massey.

The terms of the plea agreement stipulate Massey will be sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Massey will be sentenced at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, in Navajo County Superior Court in Holbrook, Arizona.


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