The Murder of Gail Moody
It wasn’t until her killer struck again a decade later that the GBI could solve the mysterious crime.
Debora Gail Moody, known to all by her middle name, was recently divorced and living in a mobile home in the US state of Georgia in 2007.
She had set up her trailer in the middle of nowhere just outside the small town of Ludowici, Georgia. Although this might have seemed a little too secluded for some, she liked the sense of peace that her little plot brought her, Hometown Homicide reported.
But when she suddenly vanished without a trace one winter’s day, her family and police were at a loss as to what had happened — and it would take a further decade and another tragic murder to explain it.
Gone without warning
Gail Moody, 42, had a job in the office of a construction company on a military base. Although she was divorced from her husband and her son was attending school in Florida, she was close to her mother Melanie Clark and had many friends.
One of her friends had visited her on the late afternoon of December 4th 2007, but when Melanie hadn’t received at least a phone call from her daughter the following day, she became concerned. The two didn’t usually go more than a day without checking in.
Melanie headed over to Gail’s trailer to find her car still parked in the yard and her purse inside — but no sign whatsoever of Gail herself. They quickly reported her missing and both the Long County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were called in to take a closer look at the disappearance.
As with many missing persons cases, police first homed in on Gail’s ex-husband. Jeff Mooney initially looked suspicious because he had a new girlfriend and was also the beneficiary of a life insurance policy in Gail’s name.
However, he was found to have a cast-iron alibi: he was part of the National Guard and had been on base when Gail disappeared, so he was ruled out.
Next, investigators examined a colleague of Gail’s named Gerald Brancham. She had given him a ride home on the day she went missing and police hadn’t been able to reach him since. However, it turned out that Gerald had simply misplaced his phone, rather than been trying to evade questioning. He was also able to confirm his whereabouts and that he was with other people later on the evening of the disappearance.
Finally, the GBI thought they might have their man after it emerged that a local resident named Marvin Jeffs had been bragging to all and sundry that he had killed Gail Moody. He even turned out to have been at her trailer to do a plumbing job prior to her going missing.
Again, though, the lead was a dead end. Jeffs was questioned intently, but turned out to be telling lies in a bid to boost his profile as a petty criminal. Slowly, the clues dried up and Gail’s case went cold without her being heard from again.
Disappearance and murder of Lori Arrowood
Three years later, on September 25th 2010, police in nearby Liberty County received a missing persons report concerning another 42-year-old woman.
Lori Arrowood had also vanished from her home — and not only did she look a lot like Gail, but the two were friends. They knew each other through a mutual friend named Shelly and even rode horses together on occasion.
Lori’s husband was serving in Iraq for the US Army when he was notified of his wife’s disappearance, and he was swiftly brought back from the Middle East as police began to investigate further.
They soon realised that Shelly’s husband Ken Lumpkin, who had also been a family friend, might know a little more than he was letting on. CBS news affiliate WTOC reported that the former corrections officer for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office had even been a part of the search team helping to look for Lori around the Fort Stewart army base.
When they searched his home, they found undisclosed evidence relating to the disappearance and arrested him. At last, Lumpkin confessed that he had sexually assaulted Lori and that she was going to tell Shelly he had raped her.
Lumpkin killed Lori and disposed of her body in the woods. He was able to take investigators back to the scene in order for them to find her remains hidden under a pile of grass.
“To come out to the search and rescue and you’re responsible for the pain the family is going through and you’re the cause of it is beyond me,” said Lori’s sister Kris Elliott to WTOC.
Kenneth William Lumpkin was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the felony murder and kidnapping of Lori Arrowood on August 19th 2013.
Lori’s family told WTOC they were unhappy with the sentencing, which came about as the result of a plea deal, saying they felt an unremorseful Lumpkin should have received the death penalty.
“I don’t believe it was an accident. I think he went with the intention to kill her. I’m disappointed but there are no guarantees in life, as Lori found out. I don’t have to worry about him getting out and hurting someone else,” said Kris Elliott.
Linking Gail to Lori
Although Lumpkin was in prison for what he had done to Lori, GBI investigators were frustrated that they had no evidence to link him to Gail. Each time he was questioned over what they knew to be a connection between the two cases, Lumpkin vehemently denied knowing anything about Gail’s disappearance.
In 2019, they had an idea: they would offer him immunity from prosecution if he would admit what happened to Gail and disclose the location of her body.
Incredibly, Lumpkin agreed. He began to reveal the details about the day of Gail’s vanishing, which he said began after he visited her to ask her opinion about a Christmas present for his wife Shelly.
Once inside her trailer, he began to sexually assault her. Although he succeeded in overpowering the slender woman, he was unable to perform and so strangled her until she passed out. Lumpkin said he attempted to assault her again, but was once more unable to perform and eventually strangled her to death. He buried Gail’s body in the woods.
Although investigators launched a full search for her remains, they were ultimately unable to locate any trace of a body. However, Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles told the Coastal Courier law enforcement will continue to look until she is brought home to her family.
“We’ll never give up,” he said, adding that this remains an open case.
Ken Lumpkin is still in jail in Georgia for the murders of his two former friends, which came about simply because they rejected his advances and he didn’t want his wife to find out. However, perhaps Lori’s family can take solace in the fact that, in escaping the death penalty, Lumpkin was still around to finally reveal what happened to Gail Moody after 11 long years.