Overview of William Charles "Pete" Fikes
Couple's search for son believed slain is a frustrating nightmare
The large headline printed in a May 26, 1977, article by the Birmingham Post Herald pulled readers' attention to a story detailing the emotional distress felt by William F. Fikes and his wife and the progress of the investigation into the disappearance of their son, Pete Fikes. Decades later, Pete's daughter, Martha Fikes, still feels the weight of her father's disappearance. She holds onto the few memories she has of her father, including a handwritten letter and a treasured photo of the two of them together. But despite years of searching through old newspaper articles and piecing together fragments of information, Martha's search for answers only raises more questions. Was Pete ever actually found? Who was responsible for his disappearance and murder? With twists and turns that seem to lead nowhere, the search for truth in Pete's case is a frustrating nightmare that still haunts his family today.
On a crisp November morning in 1976, Pete bid farewell to his grandmother in Jasper and set out on the road toward his home in the Burrows Crossing community. The time was somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30 am, and he was behind the wheel of his father William's 1972 Plymouth Valiant. Little did he know that this seemingly ordinary journey would turn into a mystery that would grip his family and the surrounding community for years to come. When his parents stopped by later that afternoon, they expected to see their son waiting for them. But he was nowhere to be found. William immediately began driving up and down the winding roads of Walker County, searching for any trace of Pete or the Valiant. With each passing hour, his worry grew deeper. Three days passed with no luck, and no word from Pete. It was then that William finally made the gut-wrenching decision to report his son missing to both the Jasper Police Department and the Walker County Sheriff's Office.
The winter months came and went with no sign of Pete, leaving his family and the authorities with a growing sense of despair. However, after almost three agonizing months, there was finally a breakthrough in the case. It was Jasper PD Maj. George Guthrie who discovered a vital piece of evidence: a bill of sale for the Fikes' Plymouth Valiant in vehicle transfer records at the Jefferson County Probate Office. What's more, the bill of sale appeared to have been signed and dated on November 30, 1976, just one day after Pete's disappearance. The buyer was a man who lived in Cahaba Heights, raising suspicions. Investigators impounded the car to search for fingerprints and other evidence, and it was later reported that dried blood had been discovered inside the vehicle. The discovery of the blood only added to the mounting fears of Pete's family and the investigators working on the case. Three men were taken into custody for questioning soon after the car was located, and it was James Arthur Gregg who was identified as the individual who forged the bill of sale and sold the car for a meager $200. He was later indicted on charges of forgery and buying, receiving, and concealing stolen property, although Pete's whereabouts remained a mystery.
The case took a startling turn when Gregg confessed to investigators that Pete had been murdered by one of the other men and his body concealed. Despite extensive searches of the surrounding areas by investigators and volunteers, no evidence was found. However, due to the lack of physical remains, officials were reluctant to press additional charges. The news of Pete's disappearance shook the tight-knit community, leaving friends and family desperate for answers and justice for Pete. William, Pete's father, was relentless in his pursuit of justice and continued to push for answers, hoping to find closure for his family. He paid a $1,500 bond to have the Plymouth Valiant returned from Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and established a reward which was later supplemented by Gov. Bob Riley.
In a dramatic turn of events, new information came to light in September of 1980, almost four years after Pete's disappearance. A resident of Sipsey stumbled upon a human skull at a dump site, sending shockwaves through the community. It wasn't until two months later that state toxicologists confirmed the skull belonged to Pete. The discovery was not only heart-wrenching for Pete's family but also crucial in moving the case forward. Upon examining the skull, the toxicologists found a blood sample in one of the fractures, and they believed that sample would match the dried blood found in the Plymouth Valiant. This led investigators to conclude that Pete had been struck on the head with a blunt object while he was still alive. Despite years of searching, Pete's remains had finally been found, and the evidence pointed towards a brutal and tragic end to his life.
Two years later, in 1982, Walker County Sheriff Jack Trotter announced that Walker County Investigator Frank Cole and Alabama Bureau of Investigation Agent Leon Hampton had made an arrest in connection with Pete's disappearance and death. But the case took a strange twist when it was discovered that the man arrested, 24-year-old Perry Mixon, was already serving a lengthy sentence under the Habitual Offender Act, leaving Martha to wonder if her family's search for closure will ever truly end. With so many unanswered questions, Martha is left to wonder why Pete's case was closed without more investigation and if justice was truly served.