In May 1987, 29-year-old mother of two, Mary Davis, was reported missing, being last seen at Lanier Hardware where she worked. Shortly after, Mary Davis’s body was found behind 802 East Center Street in Lexington, North Carolina. In 1987, there was a Winn-Dixie grocery store at this location.
Investigators in 1987 collected evidence that not until recently was viable in assisting in the case. As with all homicide investigations, Mary Davis’s case has remained open and assigned to investigators throughout the years. In reviewing the evidence and knowing that technology has been evolving, current investigators submitted physical evidence to the NC State Crime Lab for examination. Based on those findings, contact was made with the NC State Bureau of Investigation to review possibilities of moving forward with the newest findings. Through the advancement of DNA technology, the NC State Bureau of Investigation, in partnership with Othram, undertook the complex process of utilizing the most recent advancements in DNA to provide evidence that led to identifying the offender in the murder of Mary Davis.
DNA evidence from the case was sent to Othram and their scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive genealogical profile for an unknown male suspect. Othram built a comprehensive genealogy profile from the remaining DNA extract and then Othram's in-house genealogical team used the profile to produce investigative leads. Othram then returned investigative leads to Investigators. As part of a follow-up investigation, law enforcement investigators were able to identify the suspect.
Corroborated by information gained throughout the years from other investigators, Lexington Police investigators and the NC State Bureau of Investigation presented the evidence to District Attorney Garry Frank. The offender in this case, Russell Grant Wood of Lexington, died in 2013. Based on the evidence presented, Mr. Frank provided an official letter indicating that, if alive today, the State would proceed with indictments for the offenses of: First-Degree Murder, First-Degree Kidnapping, and First-Degree Rape charging Russell Grant Wood with these crimes.
After the initial contact with Mary’s family in February 2023, investigators met with Mary’s family, to share with them in more detail what has transpired in the case.