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Cold Case Spotlight

No suspects in 1978 murder of South Carolina mother Norma Lanyon Jackson

Tracey Parrish told Dateline that, in 1978, she and her mother, Norma Lanyon Jackson, spoke on the phone often. Tracey, 21 at the time, had moved out of the family house to live with her husband, so she liked to check in on her mother. Norma had raised Tracey and Tracey’s two siblings as a single mother in Greenville, South Carolina.

“I think it was hard for her to do what she had to do to keep food on the table and a roof over our head,” Tracey told Dateline of her hardworking mother. “She worked lots of hours to keep things going. She did everything she could for us.”

Norma Lanyon Jackson Tracey Parrish

On October 12, 1978, Tracey called her mother Norma, 43, just as Norma’s night shift as an auditor was about to start at the Cabana Inn in downtown Greenville. Tracey recalls her mother acting completely normal on the phone.

The next morning, Tracey told Dateline she received a phone call from the Greenville Police Department. She says they asked her to head to the hospital immediately.

Tracey said she told police that neither she nor her sister Leslie had a way to get to there, so police sent someone to pick them up from their homes and bring them together to the hospital.

When they arrived at the hospital, Tracey learned that the man who had given her and her sister a ride was a coroner. She said she immediately began to panic.

The coroner told Tracey and her sister that their mother Norma had been found by a coworker at the Cabana Inn: She had been stabbed to death.

“It's kind of hard to remember what he said after that because, as soon as he told us, I just went into shock,” Tracey told Dateline.

Tracey Parrish and her mother Norma Lanyon Jackson on Tracey's 21st birthday. Tracey Parrish

The Cold Case Unit at the Greenville Police Department confirmed to Dateline that Norma was found dead by one of her coworkers around 2:00 am on October 13. Greenville Police confirmed they interviewed the coworker who found Norma.

Tracey said that after hearing the tragic news, she went into a hospital hallway to call her grandparents, Norma’s parents, and tell them the news. She says while she was looking for a phone, she walked by the room her mother was in and got a glimpse of her body. Tracey said the sight of her mother was “bloody” and “awful.”

Since 1978, Norma’s case has gone cold. The Cold Case Unit of the Greenville Police told Dateline they have not named a suspect or person of interest, but they could not comment further to protect the integrity of the case.

Tracey’s brother and sister, Norma’s two other children, have since passed away, leaving Tracey as the only living member of her family. She says she is disappointed by how little information the Greenville police have given her about her mother's murder.

“There should be people looking out for the relatives of victims,” Tracey told Dateline. “For me, this is horrible. I haven't had any justice.”

The Cold Case Unit of the Greenville Police told Dateline Norma’s murder is an open investigation and they are continuing to use new technology to solve crimes. They would not comment on whether DNA was found at the scene of Norma’s murder, or if they had any plans to use DNA testing technology in the case.

“I tried to overcome, and I tried to do things that would make my mom proud of me,” Tracey told Dateline. However, she said, “I can't keep the past out of my mind.”

If you have any information on the circumstances surrounding the murder of Norma Lanyon Jackson, please contact the Cold Case Unit of the Greenville Police Department at (864) 467-5330 or by email at ColdCase@greenvillesc.gov.