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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (NEWS RELEASE FROM DISTRICT ATTORNEY JON DAVID) — On Friday, October 22, 1999, Bald Head Island Police Officer Davina Buff Jones was found dead near the Bald Head Island Lighthouse. Officer Jones was 33 years old and had been a full time employee of the Department since January of 1999. It was determined that she died from a single gunshot wound to the back of her head. As a result of Officer Jones’ death, an investigation was conducted.

Relying on this investigation, then District Attorney Rex Gore ruled the case a suicide on
December 9, 1999. Officer Jones’ family disagreed with the suicide determination and
pursued compensation with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Meaningfully,
both the State (through the Attorney General’s Office) and Officer Jones’ family (through
private attorneys) were represented at these fully contested hearings. Each side had an
opportunity to present evidence, examine witnesses, and make legal and factual
arguments. As a result, the Industrial Commission concluded that serious questions
existed concerning the suicide determination and made the decision to award death
benefits to the next of kin. In view of the significant differences between opinions and
conclusions expressed by the District Attorney’s Office and the Industrial Commission, I
made the decision to reexamine the case.

In order to reexamine the case, I arranged for an outside review to be conducted by
investigators not originally connected to the case. Consequently, the entire case file was
made available to five experienced, retired special agents of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. Woody Johnson, John Kelso, Joe Koletar and John Lewis served a
combined total of 114 years as Special Agents in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and
retired at the Senior Executive Service level. They handled investigations in violent
crimes, foreign counterintelligence, white collar crime, and domestic and international
terrorism areas. These former special agents, who scrupulously examined this case,
could not come to a consensus concerning cause of death. However, based upon this
review, we can conclusively say that a definitive determination of suicide is not

The evidence in this case supports two divergent theories about cause of death. That
is, Officer Jones was either murdered or died of a self-inflicted gunshot. Currently, there
are seasoned investigators, whose opinions I value and respect, on both sides of this
debate. Yet, it is in this divergence, that the appropriate determination becomes manifest.
Given the well-documented uncertainty which surrounds this case, justice demands that
the cause of death be classified as undetermined by this agency. The file shall remain
open and any new leads will be pursued.

Comment on this Story

  • Bomberjac

    Is it possible for ANYONE in law enforcement to refrain from the use of “seasoned investigators” — such a tired, overused term reflects a lack of professionalism on the part of the DA- in short the best he can do is string together clichés in a press release–

  • Oleg Hewett

    Do you David–haters have to take every opportunity for your pot shots? How about commending him on having the intelligence and courage to undo some of the terrible things done to this murdered POLICE OFFICER and her family? What a jerk!

  • Guest72

    “The evidence in this case supports two divergent theories about cause of death. That is, Officer Jones was either murdered or died of a self-inflicted gunshot.”

    It took “seasoned” investigators to determine she was murdered or it was self-inflicted?? What were the other options?

  • Sulton Forsmby

    I tried to find info on this case, and none of the articles give the basic forensics of whether the bullet came from her gun or not. Did the bullet come from her gun would be the most obvious evidence if it was suicide. The bullet, which would have been in her skull, and the casing, if found, should match her gun. If the bullet and casing was from another gun then how could this have ever been called a suicide? And where are the forensics?

  • GuestUSMC

    Very possible somebody overpowered her (she was very small) and took her gun and used it to kill her. This will tell very little.

  • Oleg Hewett

    That was the celebrated test the other DA waited on. Actually, ALL BHI police had the same bullet type. The point is WHO pulled the trigger? Her arms were too short to have been able to put the gun behind her head and pull the trigger at an angle up and to the left midpoint with equal pressure.

  • Truthseeker

    Yes it came from her gun. And no that isn’t in the story. There’s your answer. Some people just can’t accept it for what it is.


    First, the bullet coming from her gun does NOT rule out a homicide. If she interrupted a drug transaction, which is more than likely what happened, it is very likely she was overpowered and her gun taken from her. Second, the trajectory of the bullet indicates she would have had to put the gun up over her head, upside down and shoot herself. The casing landed on the wrong side of her body for this to be the case. Fact is, the crime scene was NOT contained, but was washed off at the order of the BHI FIRE CHEIF before the police chief arrived, so that a wedding scheduled several hours later in the day could go on as planned. Totally a case of the wealthy wanting to minimize any publicity that would suggest drug trafficking, and they definitely didn’t want the wedding party showing up to a crime scene. The isolation of the island is what allowed this to happen. Nevermind 3 men were questioned sneaking off the island the next day, each having lengthy criminal records (which begs the question how and why were they on the island to begin with)

  • Guest2020

    Jon David has done a horrible job. He refused to investigate the Leland police chief, because they were friends. David refused to call anyone in to investigate. He only did so when the media got a hold of it and the public demanded it.

    He took a plea deal from the murderer of Valerie Burns. She was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. She was found in the trunk of her burned out car. She died of smoke inhalation. If I remember correctly, the family was against the deal. That was a miscarriage of justice.

  • Brunswick Resident

    I agree with you on the job that Jon David has done and the person that posted the comment about him is a jerk. I am so glad the people had the good judgement to vote Rex Gore out of office. Too bad he can’t reopen some murder cases that Gore lost.

  • niteowl82

    …is why Rex Gore wasn’t charged with obstruction of justice (or at the very least, investigated due to gross incompetence) along with ex-sheriff Ronald Hewett–why it had to wait for the court of public opinion to get even that much justice for Dee’s family. #corruption #goodolboysystem

  • invest

    The crime scene was washed clean before the police chief could inspect it

  • Garrett

    I am no seasoned investigator, but I can solve this quickly: She was murdered by the cartel after “catching wind” of them dropping massive amounts of cocaine on the island.

  • guestthug

    This is what I’ve been hearing for 20 years….and law enforcement involved with it, too. Dirty deeds done on Bald Head/Brunswick Co. Rex Gore = chief cover-upper.

  • Zenobia

    A cartel of rich doctors who owned houses on Bald head is the rumor. And at least one of their sons who sold out and fled shortly after the murder would probably have some information. If you do have a substantive tip, where do you call it in?

  • guest420

    and every time the family would leave flowers where her body was found they would always disappear like no one wanted to be reminded of this terrible tragedy. If I am not mistaking I believe there was a wedding at the lighthouse the next day so how convenient the crime scene was washed away along with all of the evidence. #corrupt

  • otherguest

    Given the content and subject, I would say that the article headline, “Suicide death of Davina Buff Jones now ruled ‘undetermined'”, more appropriately should read “Death of Davina Buff Jones now ruled ‘undetermined'”.

  • justathought

    Personally knowing three of the four men investigating this (although one of the last names is incorrect) this investigation is in good hands. These are three of the finest men I have ever met and I thank them for lending their talent and expertise to Brunswick County.

    God bless you Woody, John Lewis, John Kelso and Joe Koletar hope you will continue to look at other cases that Rex Gore slide under the rug.

  • BHIer

    I have great sympathy for Officer Jones’ family and understand their actions. But the very reasons given for why her death is suspicious (shot in the back of the head, was heard over the radio telling people to put a gun down, left a conspicuous to-do list back at her home, etc.) are the very things one would do to make a suicide look like a homicide. It is better for surviving family if one died a hero’s death in the line of duty, rather than leave them wondering what they could have done. In addition there was a 50k life insurance policy, and a 147k police benefit for families of slain officers.

    Some rarely discussed facts in this case –

    Officer Jones had a history of treated depression including suicidal ideation in the 5 years leading to her death. She was distraught over the recent breakup with her boyfriend, and had a referral for acute psychiatric care just 3 days before her death.

    She was killed with a bullet from her gun, and there was gunpowder residue on her right hand. While one cannot shoot oneself in the back of the head with a shotgun or Uzi, it is quite easy with a revolver, as the investigators demonstrated.

    There was absolutely no evidence that anyone was present with Officer Jones when she died. No other sounds on the audiotape besides her voice, and no physical evidence of anyone else at the site.

    50 police officers combed small BHI after her death, and the Coast Guard surrounded the island. Those is nearby fishing boats were questioned (some have said too aggressively). Yes there was mishandling of the crime scene, but the police force had no prior experience with any serious crime, let alone a murder, on this tiny vacation island accessible only by boat.

    The most absurd theory is that rich homeowners insisted on a cover-up to protect their home values (as if it would be less important to protect one’s children from a cop-killing murderer loose on the island!) And as a Bald Head homeowner who has had confrontations with the police there over the last 15 years, the notion that officers there are intimidated and subservient to residents is preposterous.

    I guess I will be seen as more evidence of a conspiracy.

  • rez

    Why did I waste my time reading this post? You obviously have
    no idea what you are talking about.

  • Catina Isbill

    From your statement you did not read any of the evidence.
    1 their was NO gun powder residue on her hands.
    2 She was not shot by a revolver she was shot with a semi.
    3 When she filed the harassment complaint she was probably refereed by the department to see a psychiatrist.
    4 Most of the houses on BHI are rentals so why would the owners care if there is a cop killer running around as long as they get that rent.
    5 The DA at the time is being brought up on charges for other cover ups do you really thing he stopped at one cover up.

    In final money talks bullshit walks so why don’t you walk your comment out.

  • lonetraveler

    He had plenty of help and cooperation from the local law enforcement, including the sheriff and some of the high officials with connections to BHI. There is no secret about the drugs delivered and handled out of that island for years. There are people who have witnessed drug drops while out fishing at night. Her murder had to be covered up, too many high ranking people involved.

  • lonetraveler

    to have been able to hold that type of handgun up and behind her own head. Her body wasn’t even covered up at the boat landing, just open to the wind. This crime was so blatantly mishandled from the beginning by Law Enforcement. There was no “real” investigation done.

  • BHIer

    1). There was gunpower residue found on Officer Jones’ right glove
    2). She was shot with her Glock handgun. The bullet fragments found in her body matched those in her clip.
    3). Officer Jones had seen a psychiatrist 176 times in the 5 years leading up to her death. She told her doctor 3 days before her death that she had suicidal thoughts. She also told her ex-boyfriend she had suicidal thoughts shortly before her death. She had a prior suicide attempt in her past.


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