By Thom Patterson
(CNN) — William Jordan, who would now be 73 years old, may appear as harmless as a kindly old grandfather on the surface, but authorities warn that his long life includes cold-blooded murder.
On March 6, 1974, Jordan, 31, and his 24-year-old partner-in-crime, Ted Prevatte, carjacked an Atlanta high school principal, forced him to go to a small rural lake, made him kneel down, put a shotgun to the back of his head and shot him dead.
James Rouse Jr. was the principal at East Atlanta High School. After giving a lecture at a nearby college, he’d stopped at a Holiday Inn to call his wife from the hotel bar and say he was running late, his son Kevin Rouse told CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh.”
“After a long day of being at work I can only assume he stopped and had a few drinks,” Rouse said.
Police believe Jordan and Prevatte had stopped at that same bar. They had just hitchhiked to the Atlanta area after ditching a car in Florida they’d stolen in North Carolina.
Now they were looking for a new form of transportation to continue their crime spree.
“Several hours later, when he should have been home and never made it, we knew there was a problem,” Kevin Rouse said.
“This was not a crime of passion,” said Tommy Allen Jr., the former sheriff of Wadesboro, North Carolina, who eventually chased down and arrested the killers more than 40 years ago.
“They wanted his car and what money he had,” Allen said. “It’s that simple.”
“I don’t think you could get much worse than that,” said Keith Lank, a fugitive investigator for the Georgia Department of Corrections.
At the time of the trial, Jordan insisted he didn’t pull the trigger, said Charles Bishop, a retired Gwinnett County (Georgia) Police Department detective who investigated the case.
“I don’t want to say Prevatte was cavalier, but he was certainly remorseless,” Bishop said. “Bill Jordan, on the other hand, had little to say. He was very quiet. But he swore up and down he did not kill that guy — that Ted did.”
Allen said one piece of evidence suggested that Jordan was telling the truth. When he was fingerprinting Prevatte, Allen said he noticed a cut in the web of his right hand between his thumb and forefinger.
“We thought that would be consistent with firing the weapon, it recoiling and making that mark,” said Bishop. “And that was the primary piece of evidence that we focused on him as far as being the shooter.”
Although both men were convicted and sentenced to death, their sentences were later reduced to life in prison.
The ‘mind boggling’ escape
The way Jordan won his freedom is remarkable to say the least.
Basically, he just drove away.
In 1984, Jordan was picking blueberries as part of a prison work detail. Because he’d been a model inmate, prison guards allowed Jordan and another prisoner to take a prison vehicle to fill it up with gas.
When they did, they just kept driving.
“It’s mind boggling to think that somebody could have gotten the death penalty sentence and then ended up escaping from a minimum security facility,” said David Simmons, another Georgia Corrections fugitive investigator.
Police captured Jordan’s fellow escapee not long after their prison break.
He told authorities that Jordan got on a bus to Wadesboro, where he was hoping to see his mother. Jordan’s cousin confirmed he did briefly stop at her home to say goodbye one last time, before moving on.
‘Nobody has a clue’
Now, 32 years later, Lank said he’s “sure nobody has a clue who he is. …People may see him as an elderly man, a grandfather … but actually he’s a cold blooded killer.”
“Is it possible that Jordan is deceased? Yes, it’s a strong possibility,” Lank said. “I hope not, because I want to make sure we catch him.”
Allen hopes that if Jordan is still alive, maybe someone who knows him will see this story and be able to “connect some dots that maybe didn’t make sense to begin with.”
Height: 6 feet, 2 inches
Weight: 135 pounds
Convicted of armed robbery and murder
On the run since 1984
Distinguishing features: Skeleton tattoo on right forearm
James Rouse Jr.
High school principal, Atlanta, Georgia
The victim’s son
“Jordan was given the keys and allowed to roll out the door,” said Kevin Rouse. “I’m not even sure you can call it an escape at that point.”
The fugitive’s cousin
“I think within probably a day of the escape that [Jordan] did stop by and speak to his mama for a minute to let her know, ‘You see me now, this is probably the last time.'”
Gwinnett County, Georgia, Police Department
“It was a horrendous crime. He was involved,” said Charles Bishop, a retired detective who first investigated the case. “We owe it to humanity that justice be served and this man pay for the crime he was involved in.”