Cold Case: Joanne Valentine

Found Murdered: 9/26/1993

To the rest of the world she was Joanne Valentine, but to her sisters Linda, Pam, and Faith, she was their "Jobee."

At 47, Joanne had it all: her loving husband Vinny, two handsome sons, a beautiful custom built home on the Magathy River, and a thriving nightclub, Rumblefish, she and her husband opened together.

"They had a wonderful, wonderful life," says her sister Linda Grunder. "They had a wonderful life and it was just taken from them. It's just unbelievable, unbelievable that this could happen to us."

It was the morning after a busy Saturday night at the club. Joanne was working that night without her husband, who left early because he wasn't feeling well.

The club closed at 2 a.m. At around 4 a.m., a co-worker walked Joanne to her car. She left and drove the 15 minutes to her home off Broadwater Road in Arnold.

When she pulled up to her driveway it was dark. Suddenly a car full of people pulled up behind her. They got out of the car and started arguing with Joanne.

No one knows what they were arguing about, but it was load enough to wake up Vinny and the neighbor.

At some point during the argument, someone believed to be a man with long hair pulled out a gun and shot Joanne. He then ran back into the car, fired another shot towards the house, and took off out of sight.

Pamela Bustard, Joanne's younger sister, lived just a few doors down at the time. She was asleep when she got the call. It was Joanne's oldest son on the other end.

"As soon as I answered the phone and heard his voice, when he said 'My mom's been shot,' your brain's not really registering. Your mom's been shot? Your mom's been shot?" says Pam.

She got in her car and raced over. She arrived to find a horrific scene unfolding before her. Vinny and the boys were pacing as the neighbor stood over Joanne trying to revive her. He moved over when he saw Pam.

The medical crews were not far behind. The loaded Joanne into the ambulance and took her to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

"I felt pretty much certain when she left she, she was gone," says Pam. "It seems like it would have been a miracle if they could have done something for her."

Pam's first call was her sister Faith. Faith then called their older sister Linda.

Linda worked with Joanne at Rumblefish and had just gotten home. Her phone was off the hook. So, when Faith tried to call her, there was nothing on the other end. Faith decided to go over there herself to tell Linda was happened. When she arrived, Linda was sitting on her bed getting ready to go to sleep.

"She's standing at my doorway and she says 'Hunny, hunny! Jobe's been shot!'," says Linda.

The sisters raced over to the hospital. It was clear when they got there, Joanne wasn't going to make it.

"She had one of those blue pumps. They were pumping air into her and her eyes were fixed, they were half shut staring into the ceiling and I knew that she was dead. I knew they were just keeping her alive," says Linda.

The sisters left the hospital so they could tell their parents what happened before it showed up on the morning news.

Joanne was taken to Shock Trauma where her organs and tissue were saved for donation.

At the same time the sisters gathered in their parent's bedroom and told them Jobee was gone.

Six days later, Joanne's family and friends gathered for her funeral. They had no idea that, at the same time, police were busting two men with a connection to Joanne's murder.

The two men, Edward McLeod and Gilbert Griffin were busted for shoplifting film at the Lakeshore Shopping Center off Mountain Road. As officers searched the car for the stolen items, they made a game-changing discovery. In the trunk of Griffin and McLeod's car was a gun. It was a .38 Taurus, the same gun used to kill Joanne.

Police held the men on the robbery charged while the gun was sent to the Maryland State Police for a ballistics test. What they got was a match.

"The gun recovered from the trunk of the vehicle was the gun used to kill Mrs. Joanne Valentine. The (bullet) matched the markings from the barrel of the gun," says Investigator Michael Garvey.

Joanne's sister found out a few days later. They were ecstatic.

"She's been gone less than a week and they have the murder weapon," says Pam. "So we all look at each other and say, 'This is going to get solved. We're going to find out who killed Joanne.'"

Police spent the next year building up a case against Griffin and McLeod and on December 19, 1994, the two men were indicted by a Grand Jury for first-degree murder.

At that point, it seemed like everything was going well.

A few days later, the sisters were called into a small room to meet with the prosecutor. They were excited, expecting more good news about the case. What they got was anything but.

"It was terrible. It was absolutely terrible to get that kind of news when we didn't dream that's what it was going to be," says Linda.

They were told that the defense attorney found a solid alibi for Gilbert Griffin. He could never have killed Joanne because,

on the night of her murder, he was in jail.

Griffin had been picked up by Baltimore County Police, they say. Officers checked the databases early on to make sure Gilbert was not in any of the state logs. Griffin, however, suffered from a skin condition and was never fingerprinted that night. He was never fingerprinted so he was never put in the system.

"Mr. Griffin was interviewed several times by Anne Arundle County Police and not once did he ever say, 'Whoa, wait a minute. I was in jail when this happened.' Never said it," says Garvey.

He was in jail though. The defense attorney found record of it in a dining log. Charges against McLeod and Griffin were dropped.

"It's definitely frustrating," says Garvey. "You put your heart and soul into these cases, and you're working with the family hand in hand. Every road (has) some bumps in it. This road had a few more bumps then most of them."

The case continued to suffer in the years that followed. A jailhouse informant who claimed he overheard Griffin and McLeod talking about the murder, turned out to be a liar. And the Maryland State Police ballistics expert who tested the gun found in the trunk of the car, turned out to be a fraud. He killed himself after an investigation was launched against him in 2007.

Now, almost 18 years later, Joanne's case is cold.

"Cold case. There's cold case TV shows. They get solved. Cold case, cold case. You see stuff in the papers about murders that are 20, 25 years old get solved. Will we be lucky enough to be one of them?" says Pam.

For the next 10 years Joanne's family held a vigil at the site where she was murdered. They prayed, sang, and remembered their wife, sister, mother, and friend. They did it until it hurt too much. Now, eight years later, they are reviving their efforts, hoping to reach someone out there with information.

If you know anything about the murder of Joanne Valentine, please call the Anne Arundel County Police Cold Case Squad at (410) 222-3456.
 

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