DOBSON, N.C. — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office held a news conference Wednesday after it made an arrest in the 1980 rape and killing of a teenage girl.
Robert James Adkins, 62, of Dobson, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree forcible rape.
The sheriff’s office said the charges stem from the death of Ronda Mechelle Blaylock. FOX8 heard from Ronda’s mom back in 2015. She has since passed away.
Ronda, 14, was a ninth-grade student at Atkins High School when her parents reported her missing on Aug. 29, 1980.
Jeffrey Shouse and Sherri Thigpen were around their cousin Ronda’s age when she disappeared.
“We would have sleepovers together and we would go to my grandparents' house together,” Thigpen said.
Ronda and a friend got into a blue pickup outside of a bowling alley in Rural Hall. Three days later, her body was found in the woods off Sechrist Loop Road in Pilot Mountain.
“I just remember being outside and riding my bike and crying because I was sad that she was gone,” Thigpen said.
The medical examiner determined Ronda had been stabbed to death.
“I would have asked him ‘Why? Why did you do that to her?” said Tammy Worrell, who was close friends with Ronda in middle school. “She was a sweet, loving and caring person and she did not deserve it.
Adkins was arrested on Friday and is being held in the Surry County Detention Center without bond.
“I hate that it took so long but I’m glad that they finally made an arrest,” Worrell said.
“Very relieved and thankful that finally, it looks like they have somebody that is responsible,” Shouse said.
“I think that’s wonderful that they didn’t let it go,” Thigpen said. “I am hoping that the evidence is enough that they can put him behind bars for the rest of his life.”
“I just hope he never sees the light of day and dies in prison,” Shouse said.
On Wednesday, FOX8 learned that a combination of all the evidence, including interviews, lab work and review of materials led to Adkins' arrest.
FOX8 also learned Adkins was previously considered a suspect and investigators had spoken to him multiple times before the arrest. They did, however, say Adkins was shocked when they showed up at his home to take him to jail.
At the news conference, Capt. Scott Hudson described what it is like to finally have someone behind bars after nearly 40 years.
“Anytime you close these type of cases that take this many hours it is mental on the family as well as investigators. And when you come to a conclusion and you finish it up and you look at it and you go back and you just take a side breath because you finally know that this case started a new chapter,” Hudson said.
Some of Ronda’s family members, including her aunt Vicky Thomas, were at the news conference.
When asked how her sister Rebecca Lynne Blaylock would have reacted to the arrest, Thomas said “I don’t have to tell her anything. She knows, she was the guidance for Friday’s arrest. From beyond she guided, that was a given. She said this was the day, one year from when she passed. She said it was time.”
The family is planning an event next month to remember Ronda, honor her parents and thank investigators. The family also plans to keep up with the case as it moves through the court system. They want him to remain behind bars.
“He’s already had his lifetime,” Thomas said. “He’s had 39 years a free man that he shouldn’t have had.”