Cold case arrest unearths painful memories in Pascagoula

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOUOLA, MS (WLOX) - A case that has been cold for almost three decades police believe is now solved. Police arrested Jamie Letson of Pascagoula for the 1980 murder of Katherine Foster, a Pascagoula coed who attended the University of South Alabama.  The arrest brings closure to the community, but it's also unearthing raw emotions that have been buried for years.

The family has requested privacy during this difficult time for them, but close family friends spoke about their memories.

Tony Lawrence, the Jackson County District Attorney, grew up with Katherine Foster.  He said he clearly remembers the day he found out about the murder.  He was only fifteen years old, but his family was heartbroken at the loss of their friend.

His mother, Darla Lawrence said, "Katherine was really close to our family.  I've known her mom and dad for many years.  I was present when they took Katherine's body out of the woods [USA campus in 1980].  I remember the devastation we all felt."

The arrest is something family and close friends have been awaiting for 28 years.  But Tony Lawrence said this ordeal is far from over.

"I think it's the first step that's sure to be a long process. It's a step that needed to be taken, that I'm glad we've taken, but it's just the first step," he said.  "And we need to realize that it's gonna take some time to get through the process. It's gonna be tough on the family, it's going to be tough on the community, but I think hopefully in the end, everybody will be satisfied."

He also said, "As a prosecutor, I want the person who did this, and we've always wanted the person who did this to be punished. But it's also hard to bring back those memories."

The two girls were both freshmen at USA when Foster's body was found in 1980. Foster was found shot in the head, in a wooded area on campus. It was obvious she hadn't been thrown there.  Her makeup was done, and her hair and clothes were perfectly placed.

Jamie Letson, a Pascagoula High graduate, was arrested Friday for the 1980 murder of Katherine Foster.  Foster and Letson supposedly knew each other before attending college together.

Jackson County reporter Sylvia Hall talked to some of Letson's teachers, and they described her as a quiet girl who got along with most of her classmates but seemed a little distant.

Some of the teachers remember being shocked back in 1980 when she became a person of interest.  She was never arrested, and the case was closed.

In 2002, the case reopened, but no arrests were made until now.

Letson was arrested at a halfway house in Jackson called Windguard House.  She has served jail time for theft, bank fraud and other convictions.

Leston is 47-years-old, charged with murder, and could spend the rest of her life in prison. She is being held in the Mobile Municipal Jail, and bond has been set at $500,000. Authorities will not comment on evidence or a motive, but they say they have a very strong case.