This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Michael Jordan’s dad, James Jordan, who was fatally shot while napping on the shoulder of US Highway 74 in North Carolina.
The July 23, 1993 murder shocked Chicago and the nation.
“Pops,” as Michael Jordan would refer to him, was not just any dad. He was the devoted father of Michael Jordan, considered by many as the world’s greatest basketball player in history. James Jordan was 57 at the time of his murder.
James Jordan, was last seen July 22, 1993 when he had dinner with friends in Wilmington, North Carolina before heading for his home in Charlotte. He was scheduled to be on a 9 a.m. flight the next day to Chicago where he supposed to play in a charity golf tournament that his son Michael was sponsoring.
James was two hours away from home when he decided to pull over his cherry-red Lexus that Michael Jordan had bought with the North Carolina license plate “UNC 0023”— a nod to the college jersey Michael wore while playing basketball for the University of North Carolina.
According to Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt, who prosecuted and won convictions in the murder case, Larry Demery of Rolwand, North Carolina and Daniel Andre Green of Lumberton, both 18 at the time, were looking to rob someone that night at a roadside motel. Instead, they came upon Jordan’s Lexus pulled over on the side of the road. In Britt’s opening statement he described Green has the trigger man with a criminal history, who pointed the gun inside the car and shot James Jordan one time in the heart with a .38 caliber revolver.
The boys then drove the Lexus to Pea Bridge Road and dumped the body into Gum Creek, according to court documents at the time. For three days, the boys drove the car around and used the car phone to call friends and a 1-900-sex line. When James Jordan didn’t arrive in Chicago for the charity golf outing, Britt said Michael Jordan’s security team was alerted and started investigating the disappearance, but no missing persons report was filed.
It wasn’t until badly decomposed body was discovered in Gum Swamp Creek on Aug. 3 by fishermen Hal Locker that Jordan’s mysterious disappearance started to be solved. The body was handed over to Coroner Tim Brown of Marlboro County, S.S., who performed an autopsy and discovered the cause of death - a single shot to the heart. Unable to identify who the person was, the body was cremated but dental records and fingerprints were preserved.
According to police records, Jordan’s stripped Lexus was discovered by police officials Aug. 5 . The boys had dumped the car in the woods near Fayetteville. They stripped the car of its vanity license plate and stole a replica of an NBA championship ring from the Bulls’ 1990-991 season, one NBA All-Star ring, Jordan’s wallet, watch and other items. It was only when police traced the vin number of the Lexus that they learned it belonged to James Jordan. The dental records were later matched to James Jordan and the Jordan family was notified.
Robeson County Sheriff Hubert Stone led the Jordan murder investigation, quickly pegging the murder on Demery and Green, who were childhood friends. At the time, Stone characterized the crime as a carjacking,--a random act of violence.
Demery testified at their 1996 trial that Green shot Jordan as he slept in his car. Green was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery. He is serving a life sentence currently at Lumberton Correctional Institution. Demery pleaded guilty to the murder and a string of other robberies as part of a deal worked out with prosecutors. He received a 40-year concurrent sentence and became eligible for parole in 2016. He applied for parole but was denied the past two years.
Michael Jordan, is now the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships.