Solved Detroit cold case murder brings closure

Published On: Jun 06 2012 06:32:05 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 06 2012 08:01:45 PM EDT

Winfred and Joseph Ayers were the Detroit of their generation.

Joseph, a World War II veteran survived the Pearl Harbor attack aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia when it sank as it sat at the dock that bloody Sunday. He finished his Pacific tour and came home to Motown. He landed a job on the assembly line with Chrysler and went on to raise a family here.

Winfred was a housewife and later survived breast cancer.

What they couldn’t survive was the change that had overtaken their city.

Theirs was a story told over and over again and is still told to this day. Young white children who’d gone to college, graduated and set out on their own.

They moved to the ‘burbs while their aging parents remained behind, stubbornly hanging on to their homes; hoping things would get better, praying they might rescue a lifetime’s sweat equity.


On April 26, 1987, Detroit police responded to a call on their Bentler Street home on the city’s west side.

They found them unconscious on the floor bleeding from severe cuts. Rushed to the hospital, doctors could not save them.

The family left to clean up a bloody mess, tears rained down as they walked over the tape marks on the floor where their beloved parents and grand parents were left after being savagely attacked. Their son Lou still can’t believe it happened a quarter century later. He said they were blue collar people, didn’t have any money and had nothing to steal. Yet someone punched out a window with his hand, went inside, confronted the Ayers and killed them and got away with it until now. It turns out those few drops of blood did the monumental work police officers alone could not do all these years.


It was the Ayers’ granddaughter Sharon Kwolek who kept calling the Detroit Police Department cold case unit asking for one last look to see if the killer could be found. Sergeant Barbara Kaylor said in a news conference this afternoon “there was a blood sample left behind when he [the killer] broke into the apartment that had been preserved by our evidence techs the day it happened and was in our property room. I retrieved it and sent it to the lab.” That test hit on an already incarcerated career criminal by the name of Rodriguez Rayford, 51 of Detroit. He is well known all over the state. He has prior convictions on breaking and entering and felony firearms charges in both Wayne and Ingham Counties. He is now charged with the break in and murders in the Ayers’ case. He is currently

serving time at the Carson City Michigan correctional facility and was questioned for about 45 minutes on this case last month. Sgt. Kaylor says in that interview she was able to get enough information from Rayford to help make the murder case.

The Ayers’ family held back tears at today’s news conference while holding a well preserved picture of their loved ones. They said there hasn’t been a day in all that time they haven’t thought about Winfred and Joseph, their lives, what they missed, how they died. They say this high tech police work will help them find the closure they need for such a long time living in doubt and pain. They thanked the Detroit Police Department for the dedication to solving this case.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says this murder happened in the months before he became a Detroit Police officer and is gratified now as chief the officers he commands were able to solve this crime. It came with the help of federal cold case funds. As you might expect to happen in the modern day Detroit that money has run dry. The chief hopes the feds will come through with another half million dollars [that’s the most they can ask for and could come in October] to help fund the DNA testing that could be done on what the chief admits are hundreds of cases collecting dust inside the DPD evidence lock up. It’s crime scene evidence only one dna test away from solution. Let’s hope that money comes.

There is no doubt there are many other families living with this kind of crushing pain as this city’s streets have run with the blood of innocents for so long. Let’s hope the closure they seek is forthcoming soon.