365 days of Texas True Crime: The Queen
Tawny the Rock Chick here, your resident true crime aficionado. As interesting as I find true crime from all over to be, it’s the local stuff that I can really dig into. You could say I’m a bit obsessed with researching stories of murder and missing persons from this area. I’ve spent countless hours reading old newspapers articles, requesting files on cases and sifting through data cases online regarding homicide cases that you probably didn’t even know existed. This area holds more sordid secrets than you may know and I’m going to tell you about all of them, one day at a time. It’s 365 Days of Texas True Crime and todays story goes like this…..
It's weird to think that someone who is an avid reader, researcher and writer of local true crime cases would live so close to several related locations and actually end up even working with the murderer in one of the very same cases I’ve read, researched and wrote about. For those of you who don’t know I live next door to what was once the home of possibly Midland, Texas’s first and only known serial killer. As I said before, I worked with the murderer in a cold case that I’ve researched and read about, and I live a few streets from a house (that I pass almost every day) where a ruthless murder took place.
On this day back in 1977, a housewife, who was eight months pregnant was stabbed to death, right across the street from a school. The same kind of school the killer attended, not attended in the past, was currently attending. That’s right, her killer was just a junior high school kid.
Born to Alvin and Martha Seabaugh in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Janice (from what I could find) was an only child. Cape Girardeau is pretty well right between St. Louis and Nashville, Tennessee, next to the Shawnee National Forest. The Mississippi River runs right through the town, so you can imagine how green everything there is compared to West Texas. Janice was an exceptional kid. She graduated from Delta High School in 1971 and was a 1972 graduate of the Office Training School of Cape Girardeau.
She was smart, popular and absolutely beautiful. She was on the year book council as an ad salesman, and if you don’t understand how that’s notable I’ll tell you; if you’re on the year book council to sell ad’s, it means the people with money in town know you or your family, and/or you a very charming individual with an exceptionally outgoing personality.
Which is also why, I’m sure, she was voted on so many “courts” her senior year. Janice was on the homecoming court, the basketball homecoming court and was voted Senior year Queen all in her senior year. She was a member of the National Honor Society, a Quill and Scroll member, voted an outstanding senior, she was a cheerleader, on the Student Council, awarded the Missouri University Curators Scholarship and ominously enough, she was also a member of the National Forensic League.
This young lady was accomplished, she was smart, outgoing and beautiful and I can imagine her folks were so very proud of her.
Terry Abernathy, the man she would end up marrying, was no slouch either, he graduated from Advance High School in 1970, was on the varsity basketball team, an honor student and was a member of the F.F.A (Future Farmers of America). He was a junior attending Southwest Missouri State University in Cape G. in 1973 when he and Janice were married.
Terry was a geophysicist and as many do, he ended up in dusty ole West Texas, where the oil money was. They moved to Midland, TX, in 1975. The house the Abernathy’s lived in and where Janice would end up dying in, was at 4301 W. Storey, across from Alamo Jr. High. My step son actually spent a year there before we decided that just wasn’t the school for him. Their house was right on the corner of Storey and Delmar. They were getting ready to have their first baby together, and they had waited, responsibly, until Terry was out of college and he had a good, reliable job, they had been married about four years so it was the perfect time to go ahead and start a family.
Janice was at home on the morning of June 14th, 1977. Terry had left in the early morning and Janice was alone in the home. When Terry came home for lunch he found his wife, who was eight months pregnant, lying on the living room floor. She had been stabbed to death.
That morning a young man knocked on the Abernathy’s door. When Janice answered the door the teenager asked to use the telephone. It is thought that Janice let him in, he wasn’t a hoodlum looking kid and he wasn’t menacing in anyway, just a kid at her door asking to use the phone. With the school being right across the street maybe she thought he forgot something and needed to call his parents. As it turns out the young man was an honor student and was called “one of the finest athletes to come out of junior high here”.
16 year old Jimmy Ray Fox was picked up at his home around Midnight just a couple of days later. It was said in the paper that the medical examiner determined that if Janice had received immediate medical attention, the baby would likely have survived.
Janice was stabbed several times, in the neck, arms and torso, with at least one stab wound penetrating her abdomen, a hunting knife, believed to be the murder weapon was found at the scene. Neighbors were interviewed and told police that they didn’t hear anything unusual that Tuesday morning. It turns out that Fox was allowed in to two other homes in the same neighborhood under the same pretexts of needing to use the phone but left both without harming anyone else. It was said early in the investigation that the county would be seeking to try Fox as an adult. Which is exactly what happened, after some tests to determine his mental health and a grand jury decision to try him as an adult he plead guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison, and before you even think it, no he did not actually spend 50 years in prison, shocked? Me either. Fox spent months in the Midland County jail and was 17 by the time he was sentenced to 50 years in February of 1978. I’ve had a hard time finding anything on him but at some point he was paroled and went on to live many more years, I found his obituary somehow years ago, but have since forgotten what file I saved it under.
The worst part of the whole story is that I have a friend who’s mom went to school with Jimmy. If I can get her to sit down with me, I will post an audio interview with her. She says that on that day, Jimmy took her and another girlfriend to lunch…..just hours after he stabbed Janice to death and stole her checkbook. You see, the reason they found him so fast was that he cashed a check under her name in order to use the cash to take these girls to lunch. My friend’s mom told him that she remembers it looked like he might have had blood on his clothes and she recalls that nothing seemed out of the ordinary with him at all, as far as his demeaner. He just stabbed a pregnant lady to death, steals her check book and cashes a check, all so he could run some game on some girls? Yep, that’s exactly what he did. He took the life of Janice Martha (Seabaugh) Abernathy and her unborn baby girl, Amy Michelle Abernathy for a few bucks.
I tried to find a picture of Jimmy Fox and although I did find that name in an yearbook for Midland Lee it was for the 1979 school year and this happened in 1977 so I can’t be sure the person in the year book is the person involved in this incident. If I do happen to find a picture of Jimmy I’ll be sure to update the blog with it.