ATLANTA — Between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Sept. 20, 1999, Elaine Nix, 18, chatted with her boyfriend, Billy Millwood, on a payphone outside Zack’s Food Rack on Candler Highway in Gainesville, GA. Nix did not have long-distance service at home, so she would use this payphone to chat with Millwood several times a week. Sometime after she hung up the phone, Nix vanished.
When Nix failed to come home that night, her mother, Becky Nix, was worried but did not panic. Nix sometimes stayed the night with friends.
An hour after the phone call with Millwood ended, a police officer observed Nix’s car parked near the payphone. Nix was nowhere to be found. The officer later stated that the hood was still warm, the keys were in the ignition, and Nix’s purse and cigarettes were in the back seat. Instead of investigating further, the cop drove away.
Nix’s mother went to the gas station to look for her daughter the next day. The car was in the same place where the cop spotted it. The keys, Nix’s purse, and cigarettes remained inside the vehicle. Becky Nix called the police, and a massive search began.
Surveillance video at Zack’s showed only the front of the store. During Nix’s phone conversation with Millwood, a small dark-colored pickup truck pulled into Zack’s parking lot. But the police never found the vehicle or driver.
Nine days after she went missing, police recovered Nix’s body near an industrial park in Buford, GA, 17 miles from Gainesville. Someone cutting grass behind the park made the gruesome discovery. Nix was naked but still had on her jewelry. Police never found her clothing. The medical examiner estimated her death to have occurred six to nine days after she vanished.
Because the body had been in the sun for so long, the medical examiner could not determine how she died. She was not shot or stabbed to death or showed signs of strangulation. The ME listed the cause of death as undetermined and ruled homicide as the manner of death.
Zack’s Food Rack and the body location sit near Interstate 985. Truckers would pull over and rest at Zack’s, and many employees from factories and warehouses in Buford lived in Gainesville. So the theory is either a trucker or factory worker abducted and killed Nix.
Some speculation was on Millwood. After all, he was the last known person to talk to Nix. However, telephone records showed he was home during the conversation. Millwood lived 30 miles away in Cleveland.
In 2005, Elaine’s father, David Nix, spoke with Gainesville Times and said that a man told him he saw four unidentified men drag Nix away from Zack’s Food Rack. David Nix refused to reveal this man’s identity, but he did turn the information over to investigators.
“In 2010, identical letters were sent to Gainesville women named Becky Nix and Jennifer Boyd. Eventually those women — unintentional recipients with popular names — got in contact with the correct people, the ones actually connected to the decade-old murder of an 18-year-old girl,” wrote Gwinnett Daily Post reporter Tyler Estep.
“They said that three people were at a trailer, and they were out drinking beer, and they saw a girl at the payphone, so they went up to her and offered her money,” Becky Nix told Estep. “She didn’t want their money, then they took her anyway and were driving around with her. Just step-by-step. They said where they put some of the evidence.”
The letters were supposed to be a confession from a prominent local businessman.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office claimed it was a hoax because what was written in the letter did not match the facts of the case.
Nix’s murder remains unsolved. There is a $5,000 reward. Anyone with information can call the Gwinnett County Police tip line at 770-513-5390.