Thirteen-year-old was beaten to death in Monroe at the 1985 Ark-La-Miss Fair
Updated: Jul 26
September 28, 1985 started off as a typical day in northern Louisiana.
With the temperature ranging from 58 to 74 degrees throughout the day, conditions were just about perfect for the Ark-la-Miss Fair, held annually at the Monroe Civic Center Complex.
The festivities were well attended by those in the immediate Monroe community, but the dazzling lights of the flashy rides, concession foods, and livestock exhibitions also drew fair-goers from as far away as southern Arkansas.
The school year had started just over three weeks earlier. On that Saturday, a thirteen- year-old eighth-grader by the name of Jimmy Townsend and two of his friends left the West Monroe trailer park where he lived to join in what was sure to be a fun-filled night at the fair.
The two friends lived to see another day. Jimmy Townsend didn't.
Jimmy Townsend was a typical teenager in a lot of ways. Prolific in sports, he was bigger than a lot of kids his age.
Just months before his death at the hands of a gang of black youth at the fair that September night, he had won a contest held by a local boxing promotion that resulted in him having lunch with former heavyweight boxing champion "Smokin'" Joe Frazer. He was a good enough left-handed pitcher in his community baseball league that his name had been in the local papers on more than one occasion.
He was also a little unique in that, at the age of thirteen and in the eighth-grade, the strapping, good-looking, blonde athlete was also the father of a one-month-old daughter, the result of a youthful tryst with a sixteen-year-old local girl.
That Saturday night at the fair, Jimmy and his friends were also acting older than their age. Hiding out behind the Farmers Market on the east end of the fairgrounds at around 11:30 p.m., the trio was hanging out when they were confronted by five black youth ranging in ages from 15-19.
A confrontation broke out. Jimmy fled one way while his companions went the other direction and all the interlopers chased Townsend. When they caught up with him, he was beaten to death around a a number of witnesses to the crime that developed selective amnesia about the incident when questioned by police.
That tragedy happened thirty-six years ago. And while both of Jimmy 's parents have passed away, there is still one person that continues to seek answers--and justice --for Jimmy Townsend.
"Things were a lot different back then," said Kristy Joiner, the now 37-year-old daughter of a father she never knew. "There were named suspects, but I think eyewitnesses were scared to come forward."
Joiner, who was put up for adoption, said she didn't know about her real father until she was older. Now, she says, every time police in and around Monroe solve a homicide, she wonders why her dad's death was allowed to become the coldest of cases in a state whose state motto is "Union, Justice, and Confidence".
"I was born August 24, 1985, said Joiner. "Just over four weeks later, my dad was murdered. Ever since I found about him and the way he died, I have been looking for answers."
The official autopsy report lists "multiple intracranial injuries" as the cause of death for Jimmy Townsend. Joiner says the research indicates Jimmy was hit so hard that his neck separated from his spinal column.
The local civic group that sponsored the fair offered a $5000 for information at the time, but as the years slipped away., so did the interest in the case as it was put on the back-burner in the wake of continuing crime in the region.
Sadly, Jimmy's parents, James Alan and Rita Gail Townsend , passed away in 2008 and 2012 respectively, leaving Joiner to keep looking for answers to a 36-year-old question.
"They never got the answers they were looking for," said Joiner. "It was particularly hard on his mother...she never really got past it."
"We have the names of a number of suspects, and we are pretty sure we know the individuals responsible for his death," said Joiner. "We just hope and pray that someone will eventually speak up and we can finally get some closure."
Jimmy lies for eternity in the Twin City Memorial Gardens about ten miles from where he died.
If you have information about this crime, please call Monroe Police Department at (318) 329-2600.