Prosecutor and detective say they have no doubt about who killed Ruby Moon Houldson

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Jorrell Houldson, picture taken during his initial interview a few hours after Ruby Moon Houldson was murdered. (Photo courtesy of Greene County Sheriff's Department)

From day one, Jorrell Houldson was the primary suspect in the murder of his mother Ruby Moon Houldson. In fact, he was the only suspect.

After investigators arrived on the scene the morning Ruby was found, Jorrell Houldson became a suspect very quickly. As the investigation progressed, the information gathered in interviews, the circumstances, messages and phone records, the evidence, all pointed to Jorrell, and only to Jorrell.

When Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw and Greene County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. George Dallaire met with the Greene County Daily World to answer questions about the case, they made it very clear they believed Jorrell, and only Jorrell, was responsible for the murder.

"We keep our eyes open," explained Dallaire, "but the investigations will lead you in a direction by the evidence and the interviews, and during this whole investigation, it clearly never ever pointed to anyone else but Jorrell.

"There was never even another potential suspect.

"And there's been hours and hours of time spent in interviews and executing search warrants and collecting evidence. And then evaluating all of it," said Dallaire.

Holtsclaw agreed and went further, debunking comments posted online that suggested other people who owed rent money to Ruby should be suspect in her murder, or that Jorrell's death might not have been a suicide.

"The roommates had nothing to do with Ruby's death, or Jorrell's," said Holtsclaw.

"Jorrell killed his mother and then Jorrell took his own life."

Holtsclaw also made it clear that if Jorrell had not taken his own life but had been arrested then had his day in court, Holtsclaw would have been confident going into a murder trial because the case against Jorrell was strong.

"I would have had no problem trying this case," said Holtsclaw.

"I have no doubt that Jorrell killed his mother."

Holtsclaw said there was plenty of evidence, citing the fact that the probable cause document, which detailed the case against Jorrell, was the longest he's filed since he became prosecutor.

"This was probably the longest probable cause that we've had," said Holtsclaw, "so there was a lot of information in the PC (probable cause) for the murder charge."

The body of Ruby Moon Houldson was found around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 1, by a friend and next door neighbor who went to check on her because Ruby had not answered calls or text messages which wasn't like her.

The neighbor called police. An ambulance and EMTs out of Linton were first to arrive, finding the deceased cold to the touch, in a pool of blood. They secured the scene until officers arrived. Since Ruby's residence was in the county outside Linton city limits, Greene County sheriff's deputies were dispatched. Det. Jim O'Malley and Deputy Harvey Holt responded, then requested additional personnel. An Indiana State Police Crime Scene Technician was dispatched. Dallaire arrived at 11:15. That day and on following days, numerous technicians, investigators, and divers, were on the scene searching for and processing evidence.

Investigators, divers and crime scene technicians returned to the home of Ruby Moon Houldson, continuing to search for and collect forensic evidence, in the days following her murder. (GCDW File Photo)

The residence was reported to be clean and well maintained. There were no obvious signs of a struggle, no signs of forced entry, no signs of ransacking or burglary.

The deceased was fully clothed, dressed for work, wearing a name badge. Her throat had been cut and she had been stabbed numerous times. The autopsy later revealed 20 wounds. The torso area of her clothing was blood soaked and the pool of blood next to the body was congealed. Dallaire estimated she was killed a couple of hours prior to being discovered. Due to the lack of bleeding from wounds to the throat, it was the opinion of EMTs and investigators that her throat had been cut, twice, after she was deceased.

It was a brutal death. Holtsclaw used the word "gruesome." Dallaire used the word "rage" saying this type of attack normally indicates a lot of rage or anger was involved, and that it indicated the killer was someone with a close personal relationship with the victim in order to develop enough emotion to result in "overkill" of the victim.

The neighbor heard her dog barking sometime after 7 a.m. that morning, looked outside and saw Jorrell's car (which actually belonged to Ruby) parked at Ruby's home. When she looked outside again around 8 a.m., Jorrell's car was gone.

Ruby owned a house in Linton where Jorrell and several roommates lived. They had signed a rental contract and their rent was overdue. Ruby still owed money on the property and was having to make payments. She was expecting Jorrell to bring the rent money to her that morning and she had a conversation with one of the roommates, through Facebook messages starting at 7:23 a.m., about Jorrell paying the rent.

Ruby sent the roommate a message that she would be leaving in about an hour, and a message that payment was due or she would be charged late fees. The roommate answered that Jorrell was not at his home.

At 7:40 a.m., Ruby sent her last message to the roommate, saying "He's here" meaning Jorrell had arrived at her home.

Investigators do not believe Jorrell paid the rent even though roommates had paid him their share and $600 in cash was to be delivered to Ruby. Other than $6 found on top of Ruby's purse, no cash was found in the residence. Ruby was in the regular habit of making out a receipt when rent was paid but no receipt was written that day.

Indiana State Police crime scene technicians and divers near the Houldson home a couple of days following the murder. (GCDW File Photo)

Investigators believe Jorrell arrived at Ruby's home at 7:40 a.m., murdered her, drove somewhere to ditch his clothes and the murder weapon, then returned to his home where he went straight to a bathroom to clean up.

Reconstructing a timeline, and based on interviews with roommates about when Jorrell returned home, Holtsclaw said, "He was gone 20-30 minutes after his encounter with Ruby, but before he returned to his home."

Dallaire explained what they thought Jorrell was doing during the extra time it took him to make the short drive home.

"Here's how I see it, based on the interviews. When he went to Ruby's he had on two shirts, a tee shirt and a long-sleeved shirt. He was wearing two pairs of shorts, but only had one pair of shoes," said Dallaire.

Interviews with roommates confirmed Jorrell was wearing two pairs of shorts that morning before he left his home, and two shirts, including a black button-up long-sleeved shirt.

Dallaire continued, "So you ditch the outer shirt, you ditch your outer shorts, you pitch the knife, then later you come to the police station in your socks and your shoes are not at the police station.

"I would think when he disposed of the murder weapon, he disposed of the outer clothing. Maybe he had to wash a little off and he went directly to the bathroom when he got back to his home."

In answer to a question, wouldn't there be too much blood evidence on the killer to hide or quickly wash off after such a brutal murder, Dallaire said that might not be the case especially when the wounds were made going through clothing.

Holtsclaw said "Especially several layers. Ruby was dressed for work so she had on very nice clothes plus she had on a sweater vest over the top of all that."

Holtsclaw said even though the victim bled for a while and there was a lot of blood by the time she was found, "As it's happening, there's not as much blood as you would think. But there was some that got on his shoes, and some that got on his outer shirt and shorts, and we don't know where those (shirt and shorts) are at."

They did recover the shoes. After Jorrell was picked up for questioning, without his shoes, his home was sealed and secured and he was not allowed to return, leaving the shoes for investigators to pick up and test.

The murder weapon has not been found.

Jorrell's ditched clothing has not been found.

"Not to mention this happened in the Goose Pond area, and there were other areas he could have driven to -- ponds and ditches," said Holtsclaw adding there was a pond close to Ruby's home.

"ISP dove it, but didn't find anything.

"We're talking about finding a needle in a haystack. But we tried.

"I'll probably never know what he did with the knife, and what he did with the clothes he had on."

Holtsclaw said when Jorrell was interviewed later that day, "He admitted he was there. And he didn't have any rent money."

During the interview, Jorrell told Dallaire he went to his mother's home sometime between 7:30 and 8 a.m. He also admitted that when he got home, he carried in an old McDonald's sack that was in his car. Dallaire said he thought Jorrell was trying to establish an alibi for where he had been.

Dallaire said, "We think he was living on the money the roommates gave him. He didn't have a job, and mom was cutting him off."

Holtsclaw said, "She was wanting her car back. She had stopped paying the utilities, and the cable bill. She was wanting to get out from underneath paying for the house. She wasn't getting the rent on time but she was still having to make payments on the house. And they were not doing a very good job of keeping the place up."

During the investigation, a family member said she had witnessed Jorrell hit his mother on more than one occasion when he didn't get his way. She said Jorrell had battered Ruby several times in the past, had knocked her glasses off, had body slammed Ruby.

"To me it was very telling during his interview that he never asked what had happened to his mother, how she was killed," said Holtsclaw.

Dallaire added he too thought the interview was very telling in a number of ways.

"He never really expressed any emotion," said Dallaire.

"Turns out the people who thought they knew Jorrell, didn't know Jorrell.

"Because he told his family members and close friends that he was moving to another state to take this intern position, and that he had all this money that he'd inherited from his dad, that he had a college degree."

Holtsclaw added, "Turns out he was lying to everybody."

Dallaire continued, "He admitted in the interview that he had made all this stuff up so people didn't think he was a loser.

"He had very low self-esteem -- that's my opinion.

"He was a whole different person than what people thought he was."

In answer to a question about whether or not they thought drugs might have fueled the rage, Holtsclaw and Dallaire both said they did not see signs that Houldson had taken any drugs or alcohol that day.

"In watching the interview, which was recorded, which was not quite two hours long, he did not appear to be intoxicated," said Holtsclaw. "That doesn't mean he didn't have something in his system, just that he didn't appear to be intoxicated."

Dallaire agreed, "He didn't appear to be under the influence of anything."

After the initial interview on October 1, Houldson was to return to the police station to take a polygraph the next day. He did not return and the detective and officers were looking for him up until the day Jorrell Houldson's body was found in a creek north of Linton. On October 2, the day after the homicide, Houldson allegedly stole a gun from a friend's house then took his own life.

Holtsclaw said he wanted Jorrell to be confronted with the fact that his mother's blood was on his shoes, but he never got the chance. He said other things were found in the home during the search "that we didn't get to ask him about, and there was inconsistencies in stuff he told us.

"We asked him twice in the interview, will there be blood on your shoes, and he answered no," said Holtsclaw. "But mom's blood was all over his shoes."

When a search warrant was executed on Jorrell's home the day after the homicide, several items of evidence were collected and sent to the Indiana State Police Laboratory in Evansville, including the shoes he was wearing the day of the homicide, a shower curtain and other items from the bathroom were Jorrell spent time after he returned home that morning.

The lab was busy with several other murder cases, so Holtsclaw and Dallaire put a rush order on what they thought was the most important piece of evidence, the shoes.

The murder case was filed in Greene Circuit Court on October 31 when the lab returned results with solid DNA evidence that showed Ruby's DNA and blood in numerous places on both of the shoes.

As far as additional forensic evidence, Holtsclaw said there were still other items at the lab that were in the process of being examined. By the time the case went to trial, it's likely the prosecution would have gotten results on other items implicating Jorrell in the murder.

Since Jorrell is now deceased, the murder case has been dismissed.

"This is not how we wanted this to end," said Dallaire. "I would rather see him go to jail and have his day in court. You want to do the best job you can on a case like this. You want to hold the person accountable who did something like that. This brings me no joy that he hurt himself. He should have his day in court, but we didn't get to make that decision."

Dallaire said he did not know Ruby but he had learned a lot about her during the investigation. He said he and GCSD Det. O'Malley sat in on the funeral to see if Jorrell would come. He did not, but they noticed all the nursing students and other people coming and going, many from out of state.

"Ruby wasn't a rich person," said Dallaire, "because when she made money, she gave it away. She gave to all kinds of different charities and things.

"I learned she was a remarkable lady."

Holtsclaw knew Ruby, having met her a few years ago when she was writing a book and came in to talk with him to make sure her story line was consistent with the reality of how an investigation would proceed. He said he was impressed with her effort to make sure her story was accurate.

Ruby Moon Houldson, picture taken in September during an interview with the Greene County Daily World about her Linton history project. (GCDW File Photo)

"We didn't find one person who had a bad thing to say about her. And the only person in this investigation we found that had ever done anything to her or had threatened her or hurt her in the past, was her own son, Jorrell," said Holtsclaw.

In wrapping up the interview, Holtsclaw said, "We've talked a lot about specifics, and about how this investigation went about, but it's important to not lose sight of the fact that this is a tremendous tragedy because Ruby Houldson was a great person.

"She did a lot of things for the Linton area, and for the county area, and in no way, shape or form deserved the fate that she got, and especially not from the hands of a son that she had essentially took care of for 22 years. This is a real loss for the community."

This is the second of two stories based on an interview by GCDW with Prosecutor Holtsclaw and Detective Dallaire about the Houldson case. Click here to read the first story, "What happened to murder suspect Jorrell Houldson"