Murder in Murphysboro: The Cindy Pavey Story
On December 2nd, 1991, a woman in Murphysboro, Illinois, went to check on her friend, twenty-two-year-old Cindy Pavey. Cindy had two young daughters, ages 4 and 3, who had also not been seen that morning. When the friend arrived at the apartment of Cindy Pavey, she found the two young girls sitting on the couch watching television. The two girls had special needs and Cindy was an attentive mother, so this was very odd. She went to the back of the apartment and when she opened the bedroom door, she found the devoted young mother lying dead.
Cindy Lou Eckert was born May 2nd, 1969, to Richard and Marlene Eckert. She has one sister, Ginger, whom she was very close to growing up. Ginger told me that the two would finish each other’s sentences and shared looks that caused bursts of laughter, sometimes annoying others who weren’t part of their special bond. Cindy loved animals and flowers, particularly pink flowers. As she grew older and became interested in boys, she drifted a bit from her sister.
Cindy married Don Pavey in the 1980’s and the couple had two children. Tiona was born in 1987 and Misty followed in 1988. Both girls had disabilities and required special care. Cindy was a doting and loving mother. Her daughters were the most important thing in her life. Her marriage, however, was not successful and by 1991 she and Don were estranged and living apart. Cindy also had a steady boyfriend. Cindy’s family described her as “too-trusting” and said that people “use and abuse her” due to this trusting nature (Brinkman, 1991).
Cindy Pavey’s autopsy revealed she died from blunt force trauma. She was severely beaten in the head and was lying face down in a pool of her own blood. The pathologist believed she had been dead between eight and twenty hours when she was found. She had multiple skull fractures and that was determined to be her cause of death. There were no signs of forced entry in the apartment, leading authorities to believe that the murderer was someone Cindy knew. “It wasn’t a messy crime scene” Murphysboro Police Officer Jim Butler said (Bean, 2001). She was disrobed from the waist down, indicating a possible sexual assault. Semen was found inside of Cindy and was collected for testing. There was nothing missing from the home to indicate a robbery.
Police initially looked at Cindy’s estranged husband and boyfriend. A romantic partner is frequently the first suspect in murders. Cindy’s husband was investigated first. The two had a history of domestic arguments and police had been involved in the past. Cindy had met with her husband days earlier about the pending divorce. This seemed like a motive enough according to the Murphysboro Police Department. A witness came forward to report they had picked up a hitch hiker near Cindy’s apartment and the description of the man matched her husband.
Cindy’s husband was brought in and questioned about his whereabouts on December 2nd, 1991. He was not able to provide a solid alibi, increasing their suspicion. However, the witness was unable to pick her husband out of a line up, and his shoe size did not match bloody boot prints found at the scene. While still a possible suspect, police had to broaden their investigation.
The next suspect was the man Cindy had been seeing. He had a history of violent behavior that included domestic violence, drug and alcohol intoxication, and resisting arrest. Some friends stated he had been physically abusive to Cindy. Her sister Ginger told authorities that Cindy and her boyfriend frequently argued, including a big argument days before the murder. Her boyfriend was looking like a likely suspect.
Her boyfriend came to the police department on his own. He seemed distraught, which some police felt was an act. The investigators felt he was trying to be overly helpful to divert suspicion from himself. The nature of the crime was consistent with a crime of passion, indicating the perpetrator was personally involved with Cindy. Her boyfriend told authorities that he had slept with Cindy a few days before the murder. He said he was at Cindy’s house the day of the murder but insisted he was very much alive when he left. Police were not so sure.
The boyfriend went on to explain he had been calling Cindy all night and was unable to reach her. He said he believed that Cindy was cheating on him. The phone records backed his story, but police wondered if this was an attempt to form an alibi. A search warrant allowed police to take her boyfriend’s shoes and compare them to the boot prints at the scene and look for forensic evidence on the shoes. Unfortunately, there was no evidence found on his shoes to link him definitively to the crime.
Although neither Cindy’s boyfriend nor husband could be eliminated completely, police continued to look at other suspects. They even investigated Cindy’s boyfriend’s buddy, who had previously helped her boyfriend stalk Cindy. Again, this lead became a dead end with no definitive evidence to link him to the murder. Police still believed her boyfriend may be involved and was likely their prime suspect. Without significant evidence, however, the case went cold.
Tiona and Misty went to live with their father after the loss of their mother. In 2001, an article in the Southern Illinoisan newspaper described the crime as the tenth anniversary approached. Cindy had been gone ten years and there had been no arrests. Tiona, who was deaf, had been diagnosed with leukemia and continued to face challenged. Misty, who had a learning disability, was also continuing to struggle and was living in a children’s home in Du Quoin according to the article (Bean, 2001).
Seven more years would pass before the investigators would finally crack this case. The semen found inside of Cindy was sent off for more precise testing and comparison in CODIS. When ran through CODIS, police found a match. The DNA belonged to Quincy Damell Hughes. Quincy had no known relationship with Cindy Pavey and was not on their radar at all. He was a neighbor of Cindy Pavey, however, at the time of her murder. Quincy Damell Hughes was charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
Quincy Damell Hughes was born December 11th, 1970. Hughes had a criminal history dating back to 1991, the same year as the murder. His criminal history included battery, forgery, theft, and aggravated battery to a peace officer (Testa, 2008). He was sentenced in 1993 to two years in prison for aggravated battery and another three years in 1994 for forgery. In 1997 he was sentenced to three more years for aggravated battery. When he was arrested in February 2008, he was already sitting in Jackson County jail on unrelated charges.
Quincy Hughes accepted a plea deal in November of 2008 after admitted to the murder. He received a sentence of thirty years in prison. He is expected to be paroled in August of 2022. Thirty years hardly seems like enough time, but Quincy Hughes will likely spend just fourteen years in prison.
Tiona Pavey, Cindy’s oldest daughter, died in 2012 at the age of twenty-five from what Ginger told me was complicated of strep throat as a result of leukemia. Cindy’s family, including her sister, parents, and children, were forced to live their lives without Cindy. The motive behind this crime is still unclear, but it seems that Quincy Damell Hughes was a predator and Cindy was his prey.
Cindy L. Pavey (1969-1991) - Find a Grave Memorial
Bean, S. (2001) Unsolved murder: even after 10 years, police determined to find killer. The Southern Illinoisan. 02 Dec 2001
Brinkman, P. (1991) A trusting nature may have opened the door to murder. The Southern Illinoisan. 4 Dec 1991
Rosenbery, P. (1991) Police: death of 22-year-old called homicide. The Southern Illinoisan. 3 Dec 1991
Testa, A. (2008) Alleged killer has long criminal history in Jackson County. The Southern Illinoisan. 20 Feb 2008
Thomas, B. (2008) Defendant pleads, gets 30 years. The Southern Illinoisan. 13 Nov 2008
Nightmare Next Door (2012) Nightmare next door: Devils in the details. Season 2 Episode 22; available on Discovery+
Individuals in Custody (illinois.gov)
My personal communication with Cindy's sister Ginger 000