Anonymous Tip May Help Solve 15-Year-Old Murder Case

February 1, 2005 – Posted at 4:02 p.m. CST

BUTLER COUNTY -- Nearly 16 years ago, a brutal murder shocked a small Southeast Missouri town. But with one phone call, the case has been reevaluated and investigators have a new lead.

"He was a very nice gentleman. Very well thought of in the community. The kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back from what I understand," said Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs.

65-year-old James "Tom" Cunningham, a retired farmer, was killed by multiple gun shot wounds in what police describe as a robbery gone bad in 1989. His wife Lois found his body in a tool shed behind their Fisk home.

For years, it's a crime that's eluded police ever since, until a recent phone call.

"The anonymous call that we received was very vague," said Sheriff Dobbs, "It wasn't anybody wanting a pat on the back for anything or trying to be part of the action like a lot of anonymous tips are. This was someone who didn't want to be found."

But officials say it is someone who knew something. The new information has lead police to three suspects.

"There are suspects being questioned, and leads are being checked on in reference to those suspects at this time," said Sheriff Dobbs.

And this is one case Sheriff Dobbs says he won't give up one.

"These cases are often broke because someone in the community has information that they may not have thought was relevant at the time, but later came out with the information and it helps us solve the crime," said Sheriff Dobbs.

The Missouri Highway Patrol, Butler County Sheriff's Department and Poplar Bluff Police Department are still investigating the case. If you have any information about this case, please contact the Butler County Sheriff's Department at 573-785-8444.