January 19, 2021
Ronda Mechelle Blaylock, a 14-year-old student from Rural Hall, North Carolina, was reported missing on August 26, 1980.
The 9th grader, who attended the nearby Atkins high school in Winston-Salem, was last seen getting into a vehicle outside of a local Bowling Alley along with a classmate after the driver offered them a ride.
Witnesses described the vehicle as a light blue Chevrolet pickup truck with a white camper shell. They estimated it to be a model from the late 1970s to early 1980s with a broken passenger-side wing mirror and a back set of snow wheels. The driver was described to police as a Caucasian male in his early – mid twenties with feathered brown hair just below the ears. A composite sketch of the suspect portrays the man with and without mirrored aviator sunglasses and a baseball cap . A poster appealing for information would later state the man called himself Jimmy but friends and acquaintances referred to him as “Butch”. He was described as being as tall as 6ft and estimated to weight about 160lbs. He smoked Winston cigarettes, listened to a local rock and roll radio station, and wore dark clothing and distressed jeans.
Ronda’s friend got out of the pickup unscathed just a few minutes later, near a train track at the Priddy Road intersection. Ronda, however, wasn’t as lucky. This was the last time anyone would see the teenager alive.
Her worried parents, Rebecca, and Charles Blaylock reported her missing that same day.
A poster requesting information pertaining to Ronda Blaylock’s whereabouts included a photograph of the girl bright-eyed and smiling, with her red hair parted down the middle and pulled up into pigtails.
Three days later, Ronda Mechelle Blaylock’s half-naked body would be found in the woods of Pilot Mountain, just off Sechrist Loop Road, 18-miles from her home in Rural Hall. The body was discovered by a local who was passing through the area. The autopsy report stated she had been raped and stabbed to death and there was evidence of multiple stab wounds on her body. Evidence was carefully collected and bagged, and police began to canvass the local area for information that would lead them to the killer.
Despite the incredibly detailed descriptions of both the vehicle and suspect, the case went unsolved for over four decades. Police followed the initial tips and leads but two years later the case was dead in the water. Luckily, evidence collected from the victim and crime scene had been well-preserved, and although they weren’t aware of it at the time, the evidence would aid future officers in solving the case decades in the future. In 2015, retired Surry County Sheriff, Graham Atkinson, formed the Ronda Blaylock Homicide Task Force, liaising with multiple agencies and labs in North Carolina with the intention of finally bringing Ronda Blaylock’s killer to justice using modern forensic techniques and old-fashioned gumshoe-work. The case had been reopened over several different Surry County administrations over the years and Sheriff Atkinson was instrumental in combining the agencies.
They sent the evidence to a private lab with the aim of creating a profile for the killer and got to work interviewing those who lived in and around the area at the time of the crime.
In 2017 a man named Robert James Adkins, then 58, was interviewed extensively. Although he remained a person of interest in the case, no arrest was made until 2019. On August 2, 2019, Adkins was arrested and charged with the forceable rape and first-degree murder of 14-year-old Ronda Mechelle Blaylock.
A mugshot of the perpetrator shows an older Caucasian male clad in a white t-shirt and denim overalls with grey middle parted hair and a long, white, unkempt beard.
On December 15, 2020 Adkins pleaded guilty to second degree rape and second-degree murder and was sentenced to 21-25 years for his crimes. It was suggested in court that there was a weapon involved and that it was used against or to threaten Blaylock during the crime.
Adkins, now 64 years old, suffers from various illnesses, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that causes him to cough and wheeze due to lack of airflow in the lungs, as well as diabetes and hypertension. After raping and murdering Ronda and discarding her body in the woods in 1980, he went on to get married and have a child of his own- an opportunity his teenage victim would never get to know. Although he had moved several times over the years, he didn’t stray far, and had been living on Fisher Valley Road in Franklin, NC during his time as a suspect and at the time of his arrest.
Ronda Blaylock’s parents did not survive to see the case solved, nor their only daughter’s killer brought to justice, but the victim’s cousin, Kevin Thomas, expressed dissatisfaction at the sentencing, telling media outlets that he felt the only fitting sentence was a life sentence and that there should have been no plea bargain in the case.
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