The Unsolved 1968 Killing of Freddie Joe Fleming

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GREENVILLE, Ky — Freddie Joe Fleming, 26, was a handsome young man whose life was headed in the right direction. He had a beautiful wife who was pregnant with their second child and a four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Fleming had a tight-knit relationship with his parents and worked a blue-collar job to support his growing family.

Fleming was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back to help you in any situation. So, it’s more than puzzling to understand why someone would want him dead.

Fleming was born on Aug. 28, 1942, in Muhlenburg County to Shellie and Dathna Fleming. His father worked as a UMWA coal miner from Peabody Coal Co. Vogues Mines until retiring in 1978, and his mother was a homemaker.

Fleming married Deetra Nell Putnam, and the couple had their first child, Elizabeth Lee Fleming, on July 30, 1964. At the time, Fleming was in the Army serving in Vietnam. He returned to the U.S. a couple of years later and got a job at Quality Blacktopping Company in Central City.

He and his father were very close, and the younger Fleming always lent a helping hand to his father.

“All I had to do was holler, and he’d be there,” Shellie Fleming told the Messenger-Inquirer in 1991.

After finishing work on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 1968, Fleming stopped to assist his father-in-law, Clarence Putnam, with an electrical wiring job. The men called it a night after running out of materials.

Fleming hopped in his black Volkswagen and headed for home at dusk. Instead of driving straight home, Fleming pulled in behind the old Greenville IGA store, located at Kentucky 181 and Kentucky 62, near a loading ramp, and got out of his vehicle.

No one knows what happened next, but tenants in a nearby apartment building heard three shots and mistakenly thought they were firecrackers.

When Greenville police arrived at the IGA store at 8:30 p.m., they found Fleming dead on the ground beside his Volkswagen, the driver’s side door still open, the emergency brake set, and the headlights still on. Fleming’s blood was on the vehicle’s exterior.

Shortly after, Muhlenberg County Sheriff Jimmy Brown and state detective Joe Ginn arrived at the crime scene to discover that Greenville police had moved the body and Fleming’s car. To make matters worse, someone had used an absorbent – the kind mechanics use to soak up oil – on a pool of blood. Brown and Ginn had no idea why the police would move the body and car, but the officers likely contaminated the crime scene.

Muhlenburg County Coroner Bob Watkins said Fleming had been shot three times with a .25-caliber automatic pistol — once in the chest and each knee. Watkins ruled Fleming died of internal bleeding.

Investigators had little evidence to go on, and the case quickly went cold. Two years later, in 1970, Greenville had a new police chief, and he reopened the investigation. Fleming’s wife and her parents traveled to Frankfort to speak with Gov. Louis B. Nunn, who assured them the state would “do something to find the killer.” The FBI declined to enter the case because the murder did not occur on federal property.

A reward of $2,000 could not persuade anyone to come forward with information, but detectives and the Fleming family believed a person in Greenville knew and still knows who killed Fleming.

After the killing, rumors abound.

Shellie Fleming told the Messenger-Inquirer in late July 1991, “I’ve heard everything, you name it. From gambling to that he was a woman’s man. When I hear that, I say prove it.”

Freddie Joe Fleming: pic of his father, Shellie Fleming
Shellie Fleming c. 2008/Messenger-Inquirer (obituary)

Fleming had his own theory — someone killed his son in a case of mistaken identity.

“There was another man in the county who drove a black Volkswagen just like Joe’s. Joe wasn’t afraid of the devil, and he could’ve been coaxed. After the killer got him back there and went that far, he had to do something or my boy would’ve tore him up.”

The problem with his theory is that the killer shot his son more than once. So, if it was a case of mistaken identity, why did the killer shoot three times?

“If it were a case of mistaken identity, I can see being shot one time but not three times. That’s not mistaken identity. I can’t very well buy that,” Watkins said.

Nearly 53 years later, the police still do not know who killed Fleming. In October 2019, the Kentucky State Police made a public appeal for information, but the killer remains unidentified.

Deetra Fleming gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, Michelle Fleming, after her husband’s death. She later married Delbert Slaughter and remained his wife until his death in 1999 at age 68. She died in September 2020.

Flemings parents, brother, and oldest daughter are also deceased. His surviving daughter still resides in Kentucky with her family.

Freddie Joe Fleming: picture of his widow, c. 2020
Deetra Fleming Slaughter c. 2020/Messenger-Inquirer (obituary)

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I have a lot of questions about Freddie Joe Fleming’s murder.

Why did Fleming pull into the IGA parking lot? Who was he meeting there?

How did the person get him to pull in? There were no cell phones back then, so either he and the person had made plans ahead of time to meet, or the person followed him from his father-in-law’s home. But then that person would have to know that he went there after work.

We know the killing happened as soon as he got out of the car because the driver’s side door was still open, and the headlights were on.

I think when Fleming first got out of the car, the killer shot him in the knees. There was probably an argument or conversation that ensued. I think the killer shot him in the knees so he could not run or as a form of torture. The killer might have tried getting information from Fleming or was pissed off at Fleming for whatever reason and wanted to see him suffer before killing him.

Maybe Fleming was having an affair, and the woman’s boyfriend or husband found out and killed him. Shellie Fleming didn’t buy this one, and I’m not sure I buy it either. But I’d like to know who the other guy was Shellie was referring to who drove a car just like his son’s. If it was a case of mistaken identity, why shoot him three times? No, I definitely think the killer and Fleming knew one another.

Who called the police and alerted them about Fleming? How did they know someone had been shot? The tenants thought they heard firecrackers, not gunshots. Maybe one of them further investigated and found Fleming’s body or a store employed did.

Why did the Greenville police move Fleming’s body and car before Brown and Ginn arrived, especially when they knew the two were coming? Who cleaned up the blood and why? Did they cover up the crime for someone? Did Greenville PD know who killed Fleming? Someone purposely contaminated the crime scene. WHY?

Lots of unanswered questions in this one! I doubt the police will ever solve this case, and the killer could be deceased.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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