This is the first in a weekly series on unsolved murders in Gainesville. Anyone with information for police is asked to call the Gainesville Police tips line at 770-533-5873 or the criminal investigations division at 770-534-5252.
No one was sure why anyone would want to kill Jake Claude Porter.
The 48-year-old, nicknamed “Pops” by co-workers, was well-known in the low-income Cleveland Street neighborhood behind the Salvation Army, for his easygoing personality and the signature cigars he smoked.
A creature of habit, he worked at Craig’s Classic Car Wash across from J & J Foods on Jesse Jewell Parkway and kept to a regular routine after work. He was usually seen having breakfast at Waffle House on Sunday mornings.
When he failed to show up to work for the second straight day on the morning of Tuesday, July 30, 1991, a co-worker went to his house to check on him. He found the front door unlocked, went in and discovered Porter face-down on the living room floor, a large amount of blood soaked into the carpet underneath him. He had been dead as long as two days.
A floor fan lying beside him was covered in blood. An autopsy showed Porter died of blunt force trauma to the right side of his head.
In the months that followed, dozens of people were interviewed, some were polygraphed, and what few leads that were produced led to dead ends. The reason for the killing remained a mystery: No one could say that Porter, who lived alone, had any enemies, and robbery was apparently not a motive.
There was no sign of forced entry and no defensive wounds to Porter’s body.
“He probably knew the attacker,” said Gainesville Police Detective Gordon Hendry, who has been assigned the cold case.
While numerous people were questioned in the killing, none have been cleared.
“The case is still in open status,” said Lt. Carol Martin. “At this point we can’t clear anyone until we make an arrest.”
Hendry believes the homicide might have been prompted by a sudden dispute between Porter and a visitor to his home.
The small, white, wooden-frame house at 723 Cleveland St. no longer stands, torn down several years ago.
The Porter murder is among Gainesville’s oldest unsolved homicides and is getting a new look from investigators. All of the evidence, from clothing and fingerprints to a wooden club found discarded in a grassy area outside the house, has been preserved in police lockers.
Police are hopeful that advances in forensic sciences, particularly in the area of DNA and fingerprint matching, may give them a break that eluded detectives nearly two decades ago.
“They did an excellent job of collecting evidence at that time, but now there’s new technology available,” Martin said. “We never get rid of any evidence in a homicide investigation, because you never know what’s going to change in the scientific area.”
Police are also looking to publicize the older unsolved homicides in the hopes they may get a phone call.
“Maybe so much time has passed that people will feel more comfortable talking,” Martin said.