Darrell Gene Devier’s 1979 rape and killing of 12-year-old Adairsville girl Mary Frances Stoner is being talked about again thanks to attention from the Netflix show “Mindhunter,” which was released in October 2017.
Rhonda Cook, veteran reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reflects on her coverage of the case then and since.
As a reporter for 40 years I have covered dozens of executions, including 26 as a media witness inside the death chamber.
Only a few do I remember in detail and one of them is the case of Mary Frances Stoner.
I am not sure how much I wrote about her kidnapping, rape and murder because stories I wrote in 1979 are long gone.
What is branded in my memory are the conversations with her family leading up to Darrell Gene Devier’s execution in 1995 and a follow-up visit with them after he was electrocuted to ask if his death had brought them “closure.”
The moment I walked into their house four years after Devier’s electrocution, I saw that it had not.
In my mind I still see the memorial in a special room dedicated to their long-gone 12-year-old daughter. I hear their anguish as they speak of Mary Frances 20 years after her murder and four years after her killer’s execution. I have a vivid memory of walking with her mother to her child’s grave just a few yards up the hill behind their house.
Families of murder seldom want to talk to reporters once an execution has been set.
But the Stoners were generous in sharing their heartbreak even as they prepared for the death of their little girl’s killer and how the years and Devier’s execution did not bring them peace.
If she had lived, Mary Frances would be well into middle age; probably around 48 or 49 years old. But for her parents, she will always be 12 years old and in the sixth grade.