Seventeen years ago, the Douglas and Coffee County community was deeply shaken by a horrifying crime – the unsolved murder of the beloved local and mother of three, Doris Worrell.
On Wednesday, September 20, 2006, at approximately 11:17 a.m. local law enforcement responded to a call at what was then Jon's Sports Spark. When officers arrived, they discovered the lifeless body of 39-year-old Doris Worrell.
An investigation revealed that Jon Worrell, the park's manager and Doris' husband, had left the premises around 9:40 a.m. to run errands. Doris and Paola Yarberry, an 18-year-old immigrant from Venezuela who worked for and lived with the Worrell family, stayed behind at the park to clean. When Jon returned at approximately 11:15 a.m., he discovered the deceased body of his wife.
However, there was a chilling absence of evidence – no murder weapon, no visible suspects. Paola, on the other hand, was found unharmed and seen on surveillance footage hiding from the violent encounter.
In less than a year's time, on May 2, 2007, the case took a turn when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Paola due to her expired immigration documents. She was taken to a detention facility in Alabama, where she remained for a year.
During a bond hearing, the presiding federal judge alluded to a "request made by another law enforcement agency" that warranted further examination, indicating a more ominous undercurrent to the case.
At Paola's bond hearing, the federal judge overseeing the case stated that he was going to temporarily adjourn the proceedings, explaining his decision as the need to "urther examine a request made by another law enforcement agency."
Reports surfaced that former Waycross-Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rick Currie had sent a letter to an anonymous individual in Atlanta. In it, he urged that bond be denied for Paola, alleging that she held "information crucial to a murder investigation" and openly referred to Jon as the "main suspect in the murder of his wife."
Yet, as the days turned into weeks and then months, the evidence failed to materialize, leading to Paola's eventual deportation to Venezuela.
On Thursday, March 13, 2008, Conspiracy to Commit Murder warrants were issued for Glidden Humberto Rodriguez and Brandon Eugene Cage, both residents of Douglas, in connection to the tragic killing of Doris Worrell.
Authorities didn't disclose from disclosing their presumed motive behind the murder.
However, after detaining Rodriguez and Cage for several weeks, all charges against them were ultimately dropped due to insufficient evidence, leaving the case unresolved.
Jon, along with his family and Paola, quietly relocated to Costa Rica, a country with no extradition treaty with the United States. Jon opened and operated an ice company in Central America, where he described the move as "the best decision of our lives" on his website. He also called himself as a "God-fearing and family-loving man."
In September 2016, the national investigative news series Crime Watch Daily delved into the case, revealing footage of Jon and Paola, who locals referred to as "Mrs. Worrell," living together in Costa Rica.
In the series, GBI Investigator Mark Pro stated, “Jon was originally cooperative at the beginning of the investigation but as further investigative requests were made he requested an attorney and therefore we could not have any further contact with him.”
Doris's sister, LeAnn Tuggle, has been tireless in her pursuit of justice, told interviewers, that she used to “beg” Jon to go to the GBI with her. However, Jon "refused," and would claim law enforcement was “corrupt” and that “something would happen to his children" if they continued to speak to the GBI.
Mark Pro also noted, "During her arrest, Paola made statements that led agents to suspect she possessed more information about Doris Worrell's death than she was willing to disclose at the time of her deportation."
Paola allegedly conveyed to detectives that she had additional knowledge about the circumstances surrounding Doris Worrell's demise, although she never provided further details or clarified her statement before her release. Crime Watch Daily also reported that residents in Costa Rica referred to Paola as "Mrs. Worrell."
A close friend of Doris, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared, "Doris was cherished by everyone, and we continue to hold onto hope for justice on her behalf. She deserves that. She was an exceptional, loving mother and an extraordinary person. I believe our entire community still mourns her loss."
Regrettably, despite the passage of time, no other suspects have emerged, and no one has been charged with Doris' homicide. Family members continue their relentless search for closure, while many unanswered questions regarding the motives behind this tragic incident remain.
The investigation remains active, and anyone possessing information related to this case is urged to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at (912) 389-4103.