Lexington police exploring new lead in 1961 murder of Betty Gail Brown

Transylvania student's strangling similar to others by London man

November 8, 2010 

Q.3128

Betty Gail Brown, pictured on Nov. 5, 1959, with new members initiated into the National Honor Society at Lafayette High School, was killed Oct. 27, 1961.

Lexington police are re-examining the 1961 murder of Transylvania University student Betty Gail Brown as they review slayings connected to a convicted killer arrested in Ohio this summer, according to a Cincinnati television station.

Lexington police detective Rob Wilson told WKRC-TV in Cincinnati that similarities between the attack of the 19-year-old on Oct. 27, 1961, and other murders has prompted a review of deaths connected to Nolan Ray George, 67.

George, a native of London, Ky., is currently in the Oakland County, Mich., jail, charged with a 1968 murder in Pontiac, Mich. He has not been charged in Betty Gail Brown's death.

"The manner of death, the absence of sexual activity in the situation, the violence of it — there are certainly similarities," Wilson told the Cincinnati television station. "That's why we're going through the enormous case file one more time."

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Sunday in an e-mail that police officials would not be available for comment until Monday.

The television station reported that a police task force, which covers Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan, is comparing notes on unsolved killings.

Brown's case is one of Lexington's most famous unsolved murders.

Her body was found in her car in the driveway of Transylvania's Old Morrison early in the morning of Oct. 27, 1961, after she left Transylvania's Forrer Hall, where she had been studying for a biology exam.

According to a 1984 Herald-Leader article, Brown's car showed signs of a violent struggle. But the only marks on her body were bruises on the left side of her neck — where the straps of her brassiere had been twisted to strangle her — and a small cut and bruise above her left eye and a scalp laceration. Her car keys were found in the back seat. Blood was on the dashboard and on the window next to the body.

"Betty Gail Brown's bra was the method used to strangle her," Wilson told the television station. The assailant, Wilson said, "pulled it around her neck and choked her to death."

Police could find no apparent motive. Robbery was ruled out because Brown's purse and other belongings were lying untouched beside her. She had not been raped. Male students on campus were required to be fingerprinted and take lie detector tests.

Four years later, a drifter and former horse groom named Alex Arnold confessed to the crime. But when the case went to trial in October 1965, the jury could not reach a verdict. Arnold was never retried.

"It's odd, almost 50 years later information keeps tapping us on the shoulder, saying let's keep doing this," Wilson told the television station.

"We're going to look at Mr. George," he said. "We're going to do everything to put him at the murder scene or prove he was somewhere else."

The Detroit Free Press reported in July that George had previously been convicted of strangling two young women in Ohio and confessed to strangling a third.

Through successful appeals, he spent less than 22 years in prison, the newspaper reported. Until his July arrest for the 1968 murder, he had been living free since 1992.

Meanwhile, the Betty Gail Brown case has been the subject of speculation, rumors and periodic investigations by Lexington police.

"We certainly would love nothing more than to be the detectives who finally closed the book on this," Wilson told the television station.

Herald-Leader staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service