Indy Unsolved: Investigator searches for answers to 1986 cold case murder

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Eugene Flagg loved his black 1976 Buick 225.

“He had friends, and they seemed to be crazy about him,” said Nora Flagg Campbell. “They’d sit in his car cuz he loved the blues, BB King. He would sit in the car, and they would sit in there with him and socialize.”

Flagg and his friends would sit listening to the blues in his Deuce and a Quarter on the back parking lot of Triangle Liquor Store in the 1700 block of Roosevelt Avenue in Brightwood. On the night of November 8, 1986, Flagg let it be known he was in the market for a set of tires for an anticipated drive to New York to visit his sister.

“You had several different groups of people hanging on that parking lot,” said Roy West, the Marion County Grand Jury investigator who caught the Flagg case while he was an IPD homicide detective 32 years ago. “You had the retirees. You had people who just got off work and stopped at the liquor store to pick up something to take home, and you had a younger group of people to hang around on the parking lot and gamble and drink and, of course, there was some sale of drugs going on in the parking lot.”

By the next day Flagg’s body was found, his face beaten to a pulp, between a pair of industrial buildings in the 2200 block of Valley Street. Within hours West began putting together a file that tracked Flagg’s departure from the liquor store parking lot on Saturday night with someone in his car, maybe a man named “Steve,” to the Stickle Steam Company site. There, just after midnight, one witness overheard an argument between three men who walked away from a black car and another motorist who spotted a man on the ground and two others nearby, one of them wearing a green camouflage army-style jacket.

The man in the fatigue jacket was trying to pull the man on the ground in between the two buildings, said the witness.

In the days after the discovery of Flagg’s body, a key witness came forward.

“Around seven o’clock early Sunday morning, a cab driver indicated that he was passing the front of the liquor store on Roosevelt Avenue,” recalled West. "He looked over and saw what appeared to be four to five individuals talking loudly, appeared to be drunk, standing on the front parking lot in front of a black vehicle. One appeared to be wearing a green army fatigue jacket. If those were the assailants at the time, in all probability, that’s where they went back after all this happened.”

Later in the day when IPD officers discovered Flagg’s Buick, they determined its battery was missing.

“There was an individual that was identified as possibly having the battery to the vehicle who I believe either knew who was involved in the murder or participated in the murder himself,” said West. “He was identified and questioned.”

Informants told West a neighborhood man might know about the missing battery and maybe even the murder

The potential battery thief’s answers were evasive when he underwent a polygraph examination. He claimed he saw the Buick, blood splatters on its side, parked under a nearby freeway overpass at 4 a.m. as he was leaving the clubhouse of the Naptown Riders Motorcycle Club.

If his story was true, that would have been three hours before the cabbie said he saw a similar car a block-and-a-half away at the liquor store, presumably in running condition, amidst a group of arguing drunks, one of them in a green jacket.

West said he questioned a pair of men who went by the names “Yogi and Boo-Boo” about their knowledge of Flagg’s murder, but he came up empty.

The veteran investigator, now just months away from ending a legendary career as a murder detective, remains convinced the solution to the killing of Eugene Flagg begins and ends in the parking lot of Triangle Liquors.

“I didn’t find a person wearing that particular coat. To say that I hadn’t talked to the individual, I believe I have. Its just not having the witnesses coming forward and identify anyone,” said West. “I hit the neighborhoods and its all confined to that particular area. There was a group of young men that I was looking at pretty hard in that investigation who I still feel confident have some involvement in it.”

Nora Flagg Campbell still stays in touch with the man who began the investigation into her husband’s murder decades ago even though Detective West rarely has any news for her.

“I guess I enjoyed him because he was so nice about doing things,” she said. “I realized he had other cases. You know, I understood that very well, but I just appreciated what he was doing and he would stay in contact with me

“Flagg was a good person,” said the widow, who believes the answers to her man’s murder are still out there. “He worked, he been at the lead plant for 41 years, he started there when he was 18 years of age, and he was a good provider. He took five children in, he raised the four children that I had plus I had five. He was a very good provider.”

West is winding down a 35-year career at the end of May.

The Eugene Flagg case, documented in five detailed and specific notebooks augmented by more than a dozen thick files, sits in a packed banker’s box that occupies a shelf in the IMPD Cold Case office.

West estimates he solved more than a hundred homicide cases during his time. But he still keeps a small yellow list taped to the file cabinet drawer above his desk with the names of 21 victims, and their dates of death, to remind him of the ones he couldn’t put down or convince prosecutors to file on.

“That’s always a constant worry that, ‘Is there something there that could have brought this case forward?’” he asks, second guessing himself. “If information is developed on the case, I will always be available to come back and bring that case forward to court. I have my notes and everything I’ve done with the investigation.”

Crime Stoppers pays up to one thousand dollars for tips leading to the solution of unsolved murders, even those going back more than 32 years.

If you remembers anything about the murder of Eugene Flagg, the man with the 1976 black Buick 225 who used to sit on the parking lot of the Triangle Liquor Store in Brightwood and listen to BB King with his buddies, call 317-262-TIPS.

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