Here are three of the highlight Amherst County Sheriff’s department cases that now-retired Investigator Duvall Doss worked on.
The Buchanan murders
Douglas MacArthur Buchanan Jr., 19, killed four of his family members in Naola on Sept. 15, 1987, after a long-term, simmering family dispute. At the time, media reports referred to it as a massacre.
Authorities didn’t find the bodies until Sept. 17, which Doss remembers because it was his employment anniversary.
The motive probably was anger, Doss said.
Buchanan shot his father, Douglas MacArthur Buchanan, 44; his stepmother, Geraldine Patterson Buchanan, 31; and his two stepbrothers, Joel Jerry Buchanan, 13 (multiple gunshot and stab wounds), and Christopher Donald Buchanan, 10.
“We talked to Doug several times,” Doss recalled. “It gets to the point where I tell Doug, I know he did it and I’m going to get him.”
He convinced Buchanan’s wife, Christianne, to take a polygraph test, and they took her to Appomattox on a Sunday to administer it.
“Doug was going to take it, then they disappeared,” Doss recalled.
The two were connected to forged checks, which mostly been cashed in Roanoke, where maternity clothes had been purchased (she was pregnant). No one could identify the couple, but one merchant had written down the tag number of the pickup truck they were using.
Earlier, the two had agreed to have photos and fingerprints taken, which turned out to be crucial because neither had ever been arrested.
“They ran because they thought they would get arrested on checks,” Doss recalled.
They turned themselves in, in Albuquerque, N.M.
Doug Jr. confessed to everything, relating that after deciding to shoot his relatives, he first killed his father with a rifle, dragged the body inside and waited for his two stepbrothers to come home from school.
Buchanan first shot the younger boy, then the older one, taking him inside and shooting him again. Then he shot the younger one again, before trying to hide them so that his stepmother would not know what was going on when she arrived home, Doss recalled.
Having run out of rifle ammunition, Buchanan retrieved his father’s pistol.
Then, something occurred, extraordinary even to a seasoned law enforcement officer.
“He was hiding behind a door, when the older boy gets up and comes back in there,” Doss recalled. “You think about that. I would have had a heart attack and died right then.”
“He (Buchanan) took him back in (to the home), and stabbed him nine times.”
Buchanan was indicted on four counts of capital murder and four counts of the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was convicted, and executed on March 18, 1998.
Doss credits Danny Viar, who was assigned to the original forged-checks case, as being a key investigator; Viar had been assigned to the checks case at Lynchburg Police Department, went to New Mexico with Doss to pick up Buchanan and his wife.
James Henry Burley killings
Doss won’t speculate publicly about what motivated James Henry Burley, then 44, but he had “known him forever,” as local folks do, and he simply stuck with the evidence to arrest a killer.
Anger might have played a role in the case. Burley’s most recent girlfriend had obtained a protective order, shielding her from him, according to previous stories in the Amherst New Era-Progress.
Doss, meanwhile, was confronted with two bodies of relatively young women, unusual, and which led to the evidence that exposed the exploits of an apparent serial killer, unique in Amherst County crime history.
The body of Robin Jeanette Burge was found on Nov. 15, 1995.
Then, hunters had found the body of Jackie Dorsey Carter, on Dec. 28, 1995, in a heavily wooded area in the county where they had grown up.
Both victims had been living high-risk lives as prostitutes, Doss acknowledged.
As for Burley, meanwhile, he had been shooting deer out of the bedroom of his house, as they mingled in a garden below, where he had put out bait.
He was, initially, under the radar.
The tip came like this:
“There was a girl that (now-Investigator G.P.) Higginbotham picked up in the middle of the night in February, and she said something that made us believe that Burley had something to do with it,” Doss recalled.
Higginbotham called Doss, and away they went, in the middle of the night, to track down the lead.
Once they arrived at Burley’s home on Kentmoor Farm Road, Doss saw the tire tracks on his 1969 Chevrolet pickup truck, which matched tire tracks from one of the crime scenes; he got a search warrant for the truck.
The deputies continued the investigation. They called Burley, and he eventually came to the door.
“He really didn’t want me to take the truck,” Doss recalled. “I asked him if I could search the residence (he didn’t have enough evidence to obtain a search warrant for the residence).
“He said ‘yes,’” Doss recalled, telling Burley that he was looking for a particular type of firearm and that if he found others and not that particular weapon, then he wouldn’t charge him, knowing all along that Burley was a convicted felon (grand larceny, tractor theft, Campbell County).
Doss found a .32-caliber revolver police special, beneath clothes in a basket. Tests showed that the weapon had been used to kill both women.
“And when I found it, I knew he was the one,” Doss recalled.
They took the weapon to a lab that day, where it was test-fired, and which conclusively matched the facts from one (and hence, both) homicides.
Burley faced two murder trials, one for each victim. After he was charged, Virginia officials changed the law: If you kill more than one person in a calendar year, then you will face a capital murder charge. (Buchanan’s case did not apply, as he had killed multiple victims, already a capital offense.)
Burley lost his final appeals in the late 1990s. He died on Feb. 21, 2008, at Greensville (Va.) Correctional Center, said Traylor, the Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman.
Sal’s Pizza robbery-murder
Sal’s Pizza formerly was in a building at South Amherst Highway and Mays Street in Madison Heights (near what is now a Jiffy Lube outlet), and it no longer exists.
Later, the business was moved to a structure in what was the Kmart shopping center (now Lowe’s), and the defunct Kroger supermarket structure in what is now the River James Shopping Center. Nearby is the Madison Heights branch of the Amherst County Public Library.
Two juveniles burst into the pizzeria at 12:45 a.m. on Dec. 13, 1986, clad in masks and armed with two .12-gauge single-shot shotguns.
Killed were Giovanni “John” Russo, 34, and Michael Eugene Pugh, 23.
Two other people ran for their lives, and survived.
Charged and tried as adults were Shane Campell, then 16, and Robert Henry “Bubba” Mayton Jr., then 17.
They were apprehended almost immediately, and masks and shotguns were recovered. Both suspects were photographed during the court process, smiling, for the Amherst New Era-Progress.
They received multiple life sentences.
Said Doss: “They’re still in the penitentiary.”