‘Breakdown’ S04, Ep. 3: A murder and a mask


ADEL, Ga. — Virginia Tatem waited in the darkness for bundles of the Valdosta newspaper that she would then distribute in Adel. It was September 1998.

She would later say that she heard what sounded like a gunshot. And then, in extraordinary detail, Tatem would describe a man driving by in a car belonging to the woman who had just been shot. She detailed the man’s race, the ribbing of his shirt, his facial hair, the stud in his ear, even his trousers. She would never forget the face of Devonia Inman, Tatem said.

» Previous seasons of Breakdown available here

Lee Grimes said he was standing next to Tatem awaiting his own delivery of newspapers. Grimes says it was dark: he saw nothing like what Tatem described and insists that she didn’t, either.

The third episode of the AJC’s new podcast season, “Breakdown: Murder Below the Gnat Line,” went up on iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcast platform early Monday.

On that September night, Taco Bell night manager Donna Brown was carrying the evening's receipts to her car. She was robbed, shot and killed in the parking lot, and the killer drove off in her car. A mask was later recovered from the car, and the prosecution made much of it at Devonia Inman's trial. Since the killer was wearing a mask, the state said, Donna Brown couldn’t have identified him. But he shot her in the face anyway — "like stepping on an insect," the DA said.

Many years later, with Devonia Inman in prison for the murder, that same mask would figure in a stunning revelation about the case.

It’s all explained in the third episode of the AJC’s exclusive podcast “Breakdown: Murder Below the Gnat Line.” You can download it on iTunes free of charge, or stream it directly from the AJC right here.