Police suspected that a 29-year-old Jefferson County woman found dead in Aiken County in 1992 might have been the work of a serial killer, but they could never prove it.
In March 1992, skeletal remains were discovered near Uncle Duck Road in Aiken County. It wasn’t until February of the next year that the body was identified as Risteen Durden, 29, a black woman who had been missing from her Avera, Ga., home since March 1989. A relative of Durden’s contacted authorities after seeing a forensic reproduction in The Augusta Chronicle of the deceased. She was positively identified through dental records.
In March 1993, a University of South Carolina-Columbia professor in forensic anthropology and several undergraduate students, along with the coroner and police scoured the Uncle Duck Road area looking for more of Durden’s remains and any clues. The group uncovered several bone fragments.
“We have to put this together as to why she was put where she was,” then-Coroner Sue Townsend told a Chronicle reporter. She added that police had determined she had died of gunshot wounds, but did not elaborate. There was no clothing with Durden’s remains when she was found.
It was a strange time for police in Aiken County, who seemed to continually discover bodies.
Durden was one of four black female bodies found in the past five years in the Shaw’s Creek area. All of the women were in their late- to mid-20s and all appeared to have been unclothed at the time they were left. Police also never determined their cause of death.
One of the women was identified in 1999 as Jackie Council, who was found dead in 1991 but had been missing since 1986.
“Because we have all these black females found without clothing, we are not excluding the possibility that there still could be a relationship with other cases,” Townsend said.
That summer, Richmond County sheriff’s investigators found themselves working similar cases of two nude women, Marilyn Denise Kelly and Loretta Dukes, who had been found shot to death near Columbia Nitrogen Road.
Police said a Joseph Patrick Washington was arrested in connection to a series of assaults and kidnapping and could possible be linked to the death of the two women in Richmond County.
“Without a doubt, we are convinced that Mr. Washington is responsible for the two homicides and is a prime suspect in a third from 1991,” then-Chief Deputy Ronnie Strength, of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office told The Chronicle.
Aiken County authorities worked with Richmond County police hoping to find a link and name a suspect, but that never happened.
Washington, who had AIDS, was sentenced to 17 consecutive life sentences in 1995 for a slew of criminal convictions stemming from the abductions and sexual assaults of five women, three of whom were shot but survived, between 1991 and 1993. He also faced a death penalty trial in Kelly’s slaying.
Although he was suspected in Dukes’ death, he was not indicted for lack of evidence. He died in prison in 1999 before the trial started.
In 2011, local police said the Aiken County bodies, including Durden, might have been victims of a serial killer truck driver. John Wayne Boyer, formerly of Hephzibah, had been arrested in 2006 at his mother’s house in the Augusta area.
Boyer was found guilty of the 2005 slaying of a North Carolina woman and admitted to killing and dumping the body of a Tennessee woman in 2005. Authorities in South Carolina said he also admitted to dumping more remains off of Interstate 20 in 2000.
Local police searched for possible links between Boyer and all unsolved female deaths in the area but none were positively made.
Boyer was released from a North Carolina prison in July 2015 and transferred to Tennessee where in December he began another murder sentence of 30 years.