Peachtree City, Georgia is known for affluent, easygoing living. But on November 15, 1995, the well-to-do community was shaken.
“It was pretty clear that something was amiss,” Sam Baity, a former special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told The Real Murders of Atlanta, airing Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
The search for Ruby Joyner and Halima Jones
Halima’s common-law husband, John Dunbar, contacted the police. Jones was driving her blue minivan, and a BOLO was issued on her and the vehicle.
RELATED: IBM Programming “Star” Shot to Death, Found with Cocaine in His Atlanta Home
As investigators spoke to family members, they learned that Ruby, who was from South Carolina, met her husband, Lewis Joyner, then 48, in New York City. In 1994, the couple moved to Peachtree City and bought a moving and storage company. It became “a million dollar business,” said Atlanta television reporter Shaunya Chavis.
Ruby and Halima, a teacher and administrator, became friends after meeting at a social club.
Ruby’s relatives rallied together to search on their own, while investigators formulated a strategy. They began at the Sears store where the women were supposedly headed. Store employees didn’t recognize photographs of either woman, and the search was a dead end.
Detectives enlisted help from the media as law enforcement went into all-hands-on-deck mode to work the case. The GBI, Atlanta police, and Peachtree City Police all were involved.
Ruby Joyner and Halima Jones Found Murdered
On November 21, Jones’ van was found at the Atlanta airport. Had the friends gone on a trip? Or was foul play involved?
The van was locked. But investigators saw that “a blanket was covering a mound of objects” inside, said Brett Zimbrick, a former homicide detective with the Atlanta Police Department.
The bodies of Ruby and Halima were eventually found inside the vehicle. A CSI team determined that the two had been dead for a week, and that they died in different ways: Halima had been shot in the head, while Ruby had been strangled, severely beaten and had leaves and twigs on her body, said Zimbrick.
There was no gun, shell casings, fingerprints or DNA evidence found in the van by the CSI team.
As the victims’ loved ones dealt with the loss, detectives awaited the autopsy results. The medical examiner determined that both women had died about five days before their bodies were found. That meant they were killed the night they went missing.
RELATED: Georgia Banker Shot, Dumped in a Well By Man Who Used Voodoo to Scare Witnesses
Detectives interviewed the victims’ spouses. John, an air traffic controller, told officials that he and his wife were estranged but still amicable. He was confirmed to have been at work on November 15 and cleared from suspicion.
Lewis, who had been in contact with detectives by phone from New York, stopped returning investigators’ calls. He seemed to have vanished. Had he become another victim?
Lewis Joyner Linked to Illegal Narcotics
Detectives searched the Joyner home in Peachtree City. They found no sign of Lewis but turned up a computer, files on it, and a ledger.
The evidence showed that Lewis was bankrupt, according to The Real Murders of Atlanta. The case took a shocking twist when investigators searched Lewis’ storage unit, where they found multiple bags of cocaine. “Joyner was possibly involved in cocaine distribution,” said Baity.
Investigators theorized that Ruby was murdered because her husband owed money to people involved in the world of narcotics. Halima was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ten days into the investigation, detectives still couldn’t get in touch with Lewis. His mother and sister had no information on his whereabouts. So police issued a warrant for his arrest for drug possession.
Love triangle Is a Bombshell Revelation
At the same time police interviewed Ruby’s inner circle that turned up a bombshell lead: Lewis was having an affair with Halima.
With the revelation of the possible love triangle, investigators focused on that lead and put their narcotics theory on the back burner, according to Zimbrick.
By this time, the investigation was all over the news, according to Rick Chambers, a former Atlanta PD homicide detective. “This case attracted a lot of attention,” he said.
The news notoriety paid off. A tip came in from the wife of a friend of Lewis. She told police that her husband had met with him in New York.
Investigators interviewed the man who denied any knowledge of any criminal activity. Detectives pressed harder and the man, named Lester, spilled the truth.
Lewis’ friend said that Lewis had asked him to fly from New York to Atlanta and clean up a crime scene. Lewis had told him a story about what allegedly happened.
The witness “said [Lewis] indicated that his wife, Ruby, shot Halima Jones as a result of the love triangle,” said Zimbrick. “Ruby then turned the gun on Lewis Joyner and attempted to shoot him.”
Lewis’ friend added that he told him he killed his wife in self-defense. But investigators didn’t buy that excuse. Why didn’t Lewis contact the police? Moreover, the overkill nature of Ruby’s murder didn’t square with an act of self-defense.
Crime Scene Search Turns Up Evidence
The witness told detectives that he wasn’t able to find the crime scene, which was located in an abandoned neighborhood near the airport.
A police search team scoured the area, where they found shell casings matching bullets used in the murder, a blood-stained grassy patch, and a sweater later confirmed to belong to Ruby.
A subsequent search turned up eyeglasses that were identified by family members as belonging to Lewis Joyner.
“We made contact with the New York City Police Department,” said Baity. “We garnered their assistance.”
Lewis Joyner Charged with Double Homicide
It turned out that Lewis, who’d tried to resist arrest, had been busted for cocaine possession by an NYPD officer. Atlanta detectives headed to New York. Lewis was charged with the double homicide.
The prosecution prepared for trial and put together their theory of the murders, which were set in motion because Lewis and Halima were having an affair.
“Lewis has terrible eyesight. He goes to shoot Ruby, misses, and hits Halima,” said Baity. “Ruby takes off and he’s shooting at her. He catches her … and ends up beating her to death with the gun.”
At the trial, Lewis’ defense was that Ruby shot Halima and that he killed Ruby in self-defense. The trial lasted eight days.
The jury returned with a surprising verdict. He was convicted of the murder of his wife. He was acquitted for the murder of Halima Jones because the jury wasn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lewis Joyner was sentenced to life in prison for Ruby Joyner’s murder.
To learn more about the case, watch The Real Murders of Atlanta, airing Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
- SportsSeptember 30, 2023Nevin seeks to build on her promise with Leicester City – FTBL | The home of football in Australia – The Women’s Game
- Women's RightsSeptember 30, 2023Experts back decriminalization as the best means to enhance sex workers’ rights
- World NewsSeptember 30, 2023What risks do China’s shadow banks pose to the economy? | Business and Economy
- LifestyleSeptember 30, 2023Costco has begun selling gold bars