Georgia prisoner linked to soldier’s 1982 cold case killing

Credit: Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Credit: Georgia Bureau of Investigation

René Dawn Blackmore was shot to death 40 years ago

Investigators believe they’ve solved the killing of a young U.S. Army private who vanished on her way back to her barracks at Fort Benning four decades ago.

René Dawn Blackmore, 20, went missing the night of April 29, 1982, the GBI said. The Arizona woman’s sweater and wallet were discovered a month later on the side of the road in Cusseta, less than 20 miles from Columbus.

Blackmore’s remains were found in late June of that year near a logging road a few miles south in Chattahoochee County. Investigators determined the soldier had been killed by a shotgun blast and later identified Marcellus McCluster as a possible suspect in her disappearance and slaying.

But that investigation eventually went cold, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said this week. The case stalled for nearly four decades until late 2020, when the GBI established a Cold Case Unit comprised of retired investigators and decided to take another look at Blackmore’s death.

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Working alongside the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division, the Chattahoochee County Sheriff’s Office and the local district attorney’s office, Reynolds said the unit was able to link McCluster to the deadly shooting.

A grand jury indicted him late last month on one count of malice murder and four counts of felony murder, but it didn’t take long for authorities to find him. Now 64, McCluster is already serving a life prison sentence near Augusta for an unrelated 1983 murder conviction in Stewart County, officials said Thursday.

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Kimberly Schwartz, assistant district attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, said Blackmore’s life was cut short ahead of her 21st birthday. Though her killing went unsolved for 40 years, the prosecutor said “there is no expiration date on that kind of evil.”

“We can’t know what accomplishments she might have celebrated,” Schwartz said. “We don’t know who she might have loved, what relationships she might have built, what dreams she might have realized. All of those things got extinguished by a blast from a cheap shotgun.”

Citing their open investigation, authorities did not elaborate on how they linked McCluster to the shooting or whether he and Blackmore knew each other. His arraignment is scheduled for April 25.