We aren’t big on anniversary stories, particularly when they dredge up black-eye events under the false heading of news — the hook for such a recall being something as contrived as the anniversary divides evenly by five or perhaps 10.
But on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the murder of James Jordan, the father of the best basketball player who has ever lived, we will suspend that policy and return to July 23, 1993, on this page only. We hope it becomes apparent why with each word read.
1993 was a time when Robeson County had yet to fully recover from some turbulent times in the late 1980s, specifically Feb. 1, 1988, and March 26, 1988. Resentment lingered following the merger of all the county school systems, and at the Sheriff’s Office, the Stone Age was winding down.
People were eager to believe the worst.
Then the news arrived — way after the fact, adding to the conspiracies that would arise — that Michael Jordan’s 57-year-old father had gone missing while on a trip from Wilmington to Charlotte that took him right through the heart of Robeson County. You know most of what matters concerning this story — that James Jordan stopped his new, red Lexus for a nap alongside U.S. 74, that he was murdered by two teens during a botched robbery, and his body was dumped and found later in a creek that fed the Pee Dee River in South Carolina.
Larry Demery and Daniel Green, drug-using and violent teenagers when James Jordan was shot to death, are both serving life sentences in prison for the murder, with each saying the other guy pulled the trigger. Green continues to work the court system in an effort to prove he was not the triggerman.
There are, as we suggested, many unanswered questions concerning the murder, and if you Google today we are sure you will have no problem finding an anniversary story; one that appears in the Chicago Tribune, the city whose NBA Bulls won six championships with Jordan leading the way, is particularly comprehensive.
You will find many interesting sidebars, the time between James Jordan’s disappearance and public acknowledgement; that the murder was drug-related, perhaps involving the illegitimate son of Sheriff Hubert Stone; questions about blood evidence, specifically its absence in the Lexus, and other holes in the investigation; the cremation of the body before it was positively identified; and even the suggestion that Michael Jordan’s gambling was somehow involved, prompting his sudden and one-year retirement from the NBA.
It all conjures up this thought: If you look hard enough for something, you might find it whether it exists or not.
All of the seemingly unanswered questions about James Jordan’s murder don’t kick aside what appears plain to us, and that is that Demery and Green killed Jordan when a robbery went bad, but even if you believe that Green enlisted after the fact, Green is where he should be.
This tragedy belongs intimately to the Jordan family, especially Michael Jordan, who has never made secret of his special relationship with his father, and the loss that he suffered then and now.
But Lumberton and Robeson County were also victimized by this horrific event, being unfairly tagged because of the actions of two trouble teenagers.
It was an act that could have occurred anywhere, but in fact did here — and the 25th anniversary just resurrects the embarrassment and the shame that we as a community felt then and do now. There is much assigned to Robeson County for which we bear blame, but not this.
It was just our bad luck.