They say time heals all wounds, but for one family, two decades haven’t been long enough.
Twenty years after the murders of Tony and Kathy Reid, their relatives are still coping with the loss.
The Forsyth County couple was shot to death on Dec. 18, 1989, in their home on Hwy. 141, about two weeks after they had moved in. He was 34 and she was 29.
E.H. Reid, Tony Reid’s father, said it took authorities about three years and four months to catch the three men responsible for their deaths, but he never gave up.
“I had a lot people tell me, ‘You’re just wasting your time,’” he said. “I said, ‘Don’t tell me that.'”
Reid put up billboards and passed out fliers to anyone that would take one in the hopes of catching those responsible. The family also posted a $50,000 reward.
Investigators with the GBI and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office worked the case.
“I’d get down and out and I’d go talk to them and they’d tell me they was still working on it,” he said. “If they hadn’t have stayed with it, more than likely (the men responsible) would have never been caught.”
Billy Stone, one of the lead GBI investigators on the case, left the agency in 1993.
“We solved it about a month before I went on retirement,” Stone said.
Leads in the investigation took authorities out of the county and state. Stone said it was the worst case he ever worked.
“I kept assuring Mr. Reid we were going to get (them),” he said. “He believed in me and we did get them. I had some good help. I didn’t do it all myself.”
He and the Reids have stayed in touch over the years.
State Department of Corrections records show that the men convicted of the crime -- Felton Junior Avery, Kenneth Brady and Billy Ray Robertson -- are each serving life sentences in prison in connection with the slayings.
Wanda Reid said Christmases have been hard since the deaths of her in-laws, who had no children -- especially the first.
“The house was still full of funeral food and the grandkids kept asking Granny (Louise Reid), ‘When are we doing Christmas when are we doing Christmas?’ And she was in no shape to even think about it,” Wanda Reid said. “We had a makeshift Christmas out of leftover funeral food.”
She said the county was different in 1989 and that most people didn’t lock their doors. E.H. and the late Louise Reid, who died in 1996, didn’t even know where their house keys were back then.
After the murders, E.H. Reid began calling his children and adult grandchildren early every morning to make sure they were OK.
“He calls me every morning about 6:30,” said Danny Reid, Tony Reid's brother.
Another brother, Harold Reid, and sister, Brenda Johnson, and their families also still live in Forsyth County.
The Reid family's farming history in Forsyth dates back to before the Civil War.
E.H. Reid said one comfort that has come from the family’s tragedy is Lanier Technical College.
The school's Forsyth campus is built on property the elder Reid agreed to sell after he was promised that the campus would include a memorial in his son and daughter-in-law's honor and a water fountain.
“Nothing we can do will bring them back, but I’m pleased with the school,” he said. “Maybe somebody will get a lot out of it.”
The school also offers a scholarship named after the couple.
The murders were part of an armed robbery. Danny Reid said the men responsible showed no remorse.
The Reids fought tears last week as they discussed their loss.
“Everything’s supposed to happen for a reason, but it’s hard to understand this ... Anybody that would do that, I don’t see how they can go shoot somebody that hadn’t hurt anybody,” said Danny Reid, adding that the motive was money.
“There was nothing else involved and Tony didn’t have money.”
A lifelong county resident, Tony Reid was an auctioneer and owned a used car business. Kathy Reid, who was originally from Duluth, worked at a software company.
E.H. Reid said his son received an award in 1986 for selling the most tractors in North America.
“He acted like he’d never seen a stranger,” the father said. “He just acted like he’d always known you.”
Forsyth County News accounts from that time show that the Reids loved horses and the outdoors and that Kathy Reid enjoyed baking.
Wanda Reid said they were a happy couple who loved spending time on Lake Lanier. The family laughed as they recalled Tony Reid’s large appetite.
Tears came as she spoke of her late brother-in-law's generosity.
“Tony had the biggest heart of anybody in the county and would give you the shirt off his back,” she said, adding that he volunteered to help with fundraisers for the local fire department and schools.
She said he “could sell you anything, whether you needed it or not.”
Wanda Reid said her sister-in-law had decorated a Christmas tree in the house and was baking a cake that morning for a friend who just had a baby.
“The butter and eggs were still in the bowl,” she said.
E.H. Reid said his son came by his house the Saturday before he was killed to pick up some firewood. That was the last time he saw him.
Reports show the couple was robbed and shot execution style.
They were found Dec. 19, 1989, by one of Tony Reid’s employees who came to check on him when he hadn't shown up for work.
They were lying face down on the dining room floor and the house had been ransacked.
Robertson, who at one time had worked for Tony Reid, was tried separately from Avery and Brady.
Garry Moss, who is now Cherokee County's district attorney, prosecuted both cases.
He said Robertson was a witness against Avery and Brady. After they were convicted, Avery testified against Robertson.
“They were knock-down, drag-out trials,” Moss said.
Two decades ago, he said, Forsyth County was still a mostly rural area, just beginning to evolve into what it is today. He said what happened to the Reids shocked the community.
“That was probably one of the earlier home invasion type murders that we saw,” Moss said. “That was pretty unusual, and I think it was unsettling for the most part for people who knew the Reids.
"It was unsettling that they were children that they had known and possibly had grown up with their kids. But also the nature of it ... it was pretty horrific.”
He said investigators gathered information about the suspects through an informant who secretly taped conversations he had with Brady about the slayings.
Though Robertson did not physically participate in the crime, Moss said, he gave Brady information about the Reids.
Brady, it appears, got Avery involved and they formed a plan together.
Moss said Tony Reid was supposed to go to a car sale the day he was killed, but stayed home because of bad weather.
“The trials were tough, they were emotional and there was a lot of anxiety on all our parts leading up to the final verdicts,” he said.
Moss said he formed a bond with the family. E.H. Reid occasionally sends him watermelons and turnip greens from his garden.
“It’s sad, but it’s gratifying to know that people keep in touch,” Moss said. “There was no question there was a bond ... it’s not hard to like people like that.”
Danny Reid said the convictions brought some relief to the family.
“We still miss 'em,” he said.