AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WJBF) – The family of a long time South Carolina pastor and businessman still wants justice after someone walked into their loved one’s Aiken County store and murdered him more than two decades ago.
His daughter, Dianne Ivey Waller, told NewsChannel 6’s Cold Case Project about her experience moving to the area.
“I remember going in to tell my principal at school, I was in the fourth grade, I said I’m moving to Clearwater, South Carolina and he said no baby, I looked on the map and there’s no such place. I only see Clearwater, Florida,” she recalled. “And I was very upset with my daddy for moving us to a place that wasn’t on the map.”
Rev. James Ivey, called Jim by some, arrived in Aiken County with his family after working for cotton mills in the upstate. The Union, South Carolina native, husband and father was not unlike any other family at that time, working hard to take care of those he loved. But Ivey, as his daughter explained, had a heart that cared for others too.
“My dad left United Merchants, surrendered to the ministry and became a full-time minister in 1961,” she said. “That changed everything.”
Teenage Dianne Ivey remembers leaving her then upper middle-class neighborhood in the Woodridge development and transitioning to a life with no income. Rev. Ivey stopped working at the Seminole Mill, the job that first brought him and his family to the CSRA and turned to pastoring. In 1963, he began leading the flock at Edgewood Baptist Church on Old Edgefield Road, where a Captain D’s now stands.
He later retired from ministry and opened stores in Aiken County. He was selling used furniture at one of his businesses in 1998 when someone took his life.
“October 9, it was on a Friday morning,” Ivey Waller recalled. “I had seen him the Sunday before. We had actually gone to Union for our family reunion. As he was leaving, he turned to me and he said ‘be careful going home’ and he did his hand like this and he said ‘bye, I love ya.’”
An incident report from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office details the armed robbery murder that went down at Jim’s Used Furniture store that day on Jefferson Davis Highway in Langley.
Witness Wayne Davis, a 37-year-old man also from Aiken County, told police a man came inside the store, pushed him and began hitting Ivey. Davis said he took out his stun gun and hit the man attacking Ivey with it, but he shoved him away and Davis dropped his weapon. So, he grabbed a frying pan to hit the suspect with, but that’s when the man picked up a knife, using it to stab Ivey. Davis said he continued hitting the attacker, but he got away.
So, who is this mystery man who walked into a furniture store and grabbed weapons from inside to kill in broad daylight? Davis said it was a Black man with stubby facial hair, a t-shirt and jeans and green gloves.
“I don’t know why if there was a witness, why was he still alive? I don’t understand why he left the premises, went home, changed clothes and came back,” Ivey’s daughter told us.
“I drove around North Augusta and Aiken hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours on the weekends looking for that car,” said Joel Clayton, Rev. Ivey’s grandson. “I never found it. I looked. I drove around with that composite sketch in my van for three years.”
A late model black Ford Mustang. Another description Davis gave police and even added that he hopped in his own car to chase the suspect. But the family has a hard time believing any parts of the story.
“Why somebody would do that to a clergy member, somebody that gave so much to this community,” James “Jamie” Clayton, another grandson said.
“I really think that it started as a money collection and escalated,” Ivey Waller added.
So, for nearly 23 years, the Ivey family has suffered through this reality. And a more terrifying one—thoughts that Rev. Ivey’s own son and his new wife and her son and his stepson, all estranged members of the family, could have played a part.
“In 1998 they were both on drugs,” Ivey Waller said of her brother and step brother. “Needy and they always went to daddy.”
Joel Clayton added of the suspect, “We were told by her stepmother that the person had been killed in the progress of another crime (in Texas) I didn’t know the Texas part. And the investigator came and showed her a picture and said this is the man that murdered your husband.”
While Ivey’s wife, Margie Helmsley-Ivey told the family the case was closed, it was not. Only elevating suspicion that she may have been hiding something along with her troubled son and stepson. And while no family should play detective, this one said they are because Aiken County Sheriff’s Office did not.
“They did zero work,” Joel Clayton asserted. “They did zero follow up. They did no work at all.”
NewsChannel 6 reached out to the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office about the case.
The Cold Case Project tried to track down witness Wayne Davis based on his location and date of birth on the incident report. But a man in Warrenville with that same birth date now appears to have a death date—June 1, 2008 – almost ten years after that fatal run in with Rev. Ivey. This leaves no other eyewitnesses, only people in the Langley area that day. But the family is left with memories to cherish.
For Jamie Clayton, who was 27 when the murder happened, his is the honor to carry on his grandfather’s name and sport he once coached, America’s favorite pastime.
“He never got to see my son play baseball,” Jamie Clayton said tearfully.
For Waller, it’s the plain Jim she will miss, the one always dressed in coveralls and an orange cap. He was 71 when he was killed. The same age she is now.
“My dad and I were diagnosed with cancer three weeks apart in 1992 and we fought together and made it through. And now I’ve fought three more times and made it through and I would have loved to have had my daddy there with me. So, closure, not so much but, boy I sure would like for somebody to be held responsible. I’d like to sit across from that person and say this is what you took from me,” Waller added.
Joel Clayton said, “You stole a grandfather. You stole a father. You stole a husband. You stole a reverend, a business owner, a pillar in the community. You stole a lot of stuff as opposed to the $100 or whatever you stole out of his pockets.”
Anyone with any information about the murder of Rev. James Ivey, should call the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office at 803-648-6811. Next time on the Cold Case Project we take you to Edgefield County where Larry Sanders Jr was killed inside his home. What his family and law enforcement need to get justice and close the case.