Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BRUTAL KILLING STILL UNSOLVED; Ponte Vedra Beach Woman Called for Help but Was Killed 28 Years Ago. FORMER HUSBAND DEFIANT Kenneth Alexander Says Cops Can Knock on His Door, but He Is Innocent. WHO KILLED THIS MOM?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BRUTAL KILLING STILL UNSOLVED; Ponte Vedra Beach Woman Called for Help but Was Killed 28 Years Ago. FORMER HUSBAND DEFIANT Kenneth Alexander Says Cops Can Knock on His Door, but He Is Innocent. WHO KILLED THIS MOM?

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM SCHOETTLER

Nancy Jo Canode begged for help in hard breaths as her killer closed in.

"Operator, get me the police," Canode pleaded. "Emergency."

The Ponte Vedra Beach mother told the woman to hurry.

"Oh, God," Canode cried.

The phone went dead.

A rope was wrapped around the 39-year-old woman's neck and through her mouth, like a bit on a horse. A paring knife and an ice pick were repeatedly thrust into her body, which laid face down on her bedroom floor.

She had been raped before and after her death. The killer smeared the bloody fingers of one hand between her shoulder blades. He left the knife on her back.

It's been 28 years since Canode's teenage daughter arrived home from school to find her body. Twenty-eight years of wondering who killed her and why.

St. Johns County Sheriff's Office detectives are hoping that DNA technology unavailable at the time will help them solve the March 3, 1981, slaying. They continue to wait for new test results.

Josephine Canter continues to grieve over the loss of her only daughter. Canter, 93, hopes the case is solved before she dies.

"As the years go by, you try to put it beyond, but it's impossible," said Canter of Jacksonville. "You never, ever forget it."

Detective Tim Rollins said he hopes he can solve the case with solid evidence and perhaps a lucky tip.

"We're on the right track," Rollins said.

Among the most intriguing suspects was Canode's husband of 18 months, Kenneth Alexander. He offered an alibi and denied any involvement when first interviewed by detectives. He then hired a lawyer and stopped cooperating. Alexander later collected nearly $160,000 on a life insurance policy he took out on his wife two months earlier.

Other suspects interviewed included renowned serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who said he was in the area at the time but was later cleared.

Alexander told the Times-Union Wednesday he bears no resentment or animosity toward the killer 28 years later. He invites detectives to knock on the door of his Texas home, which Rollins said he may do. Alexander said has nothing to hide.

"They keep playing the same song without changing the lyrics," said Alexander, 63, who declined to say why he changed his last name from Canode years after the slaying.

THE MURDER

Nancy Canode was an attractive ebony-haired housewife who enjoyed roses, camping and spending time with her two daughters and son from her first marriage.

The one-time secretary married her second husband, Kenneth, in September 1979. By most accounts, they were a happy couple who were active at First Baptist Church in downtown Jacksonville. A hint of trouble some time before the slaying occurred when one daughter said she found her mother crying over her husband's concern about financial troubles.

Canode lived with her daughter, Suzanne, and husband at The Fountains condominiums near Sawgrass on Florida A1A. Suzanne, a Fletcher High School sophomore, walked out the door with her stepfather about 6:40 a.m. on a chilly, overcast Tuesday morning. She was off to school, while her stepfather, an insurance salesman, was headed to Georgia.

Canode made her frantic call for help 20 minutes later. There is no sign in police records that any deputies were dispatched. A detective at the time, Neil Perry, said he believes a deputy went by and neither heard nor saw anything. Alexander sued the Sheriff's Office, claiming negligence contributed to his wife's death, but the case was dismissed.

Suzanne, 15, came home about 3 p.m. She unlocked the front door, threw her school books on the sofa and turned on the radio. After calls to her mother went unanswered, the teen climbed 10 stairs and spotted her mother's feet lying on the master bedroom floor.

The teenager called police, then ran screaming from the home into a neighbor's arms. …

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