On Oct. 8, 1988, Alice Haynsworth Ryan’s daughter found her 80-year-old mother splayed across her kitchen floor and covered in blood. She had been stabbed multiple times at her home on Woodland Way in Greenville and left to die.
Now, Greenville law enforcement think they have the culprit.
The Greenville Police Department announced it had a suspect in custody for the 31-year-old cold case at a press conference Monday afternoon — 51-year-old Brian Keith Munns.
The announcement comes after renewed success with the department’s cold case investigative unit — in October, the department announced it had solved the 28-year-old murder of Jenny Zitricki, and last month, it announced the arrest of a suspect in the death of infant Julie Valentine from 1990.
Unlike the last two cold cases the department worked on, the suspect in the murder of Alice Haynsworth Ryan was not arrested using a genealogy service. Instead, the department asked the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to re-analyze evidence from the case two years ago, and in doing so, found new DNA evidence to submit to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) — the system the Federal Bureau of Investigations uses to track individuals with prior arrests.
“This produced our first big break in the case,” Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said. “In November of 2017, GPD investigators were notified of a CODIS hit to a matching DNA profile. The DNA profile belonged to a 50-year-old man living in Americus, Georgia, who was also a registered sex offender.”
Miller said the department arrested and charged Munns in February but kept the arrest quiet to allow time to finish the investigation. After Munns was arrested, the department conducted more than 30 interviews with acquaintances of Munns, one of which was with a person who said Munns told them information regarding the method of entry, injuries inflicted, area of the encounter, location of evidence, and timeline of the crime.
Munns will remain in the Greenville County Detention Center without bond until his trial. Walt Wilkins, 13th Circuit solicitor, said he would be prosecuted according to the 1988 statutes, and the solicitor’s office would not be seeking the death penalty.
Munns is being charged with possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, first-degree burglary, armed robbery, and murder.
Miller said this case took more than two years to investigate, which is longer than it took the department to investigate and charge a suspect in the Julie Valentine case, and that it was only possible with advances in DNA technology.
“It validates that we should never give up on a case — we should never give up hope, we should never give up our efforts to try and bring justice to those that were harmed and closure for their families,” Miller said.
Alice Haynsworth Ryan was a widow, a mother of three and a socialite — she was the great-aunt of Greenville Mayor Knox White and the daughter of mill president H.J. Haynsworth.
On the day of her murder, Alice Haynsworth Ryan left her home for chemotherapy treatment — she had been diagnosed with lung cancer several months prior. Her daughter had left her mother’s home for about an hour after the chemotherapy appointment before returning to find her mother’s car gone and the back door ajar.
Alice Haynsworth Ryan had been stabbed multiple times and was already dead when her daughter found her. Along with her car, several items were stolen from her home.
Now retired Cpt. Don Belue was one of the officers on the scene three decades ago. Belue said every lead they got at the time was a dead end.
“It was one of those things that you just don’t like to see, and so we were really intent on trying to find the perpetrator of the crime right away,” Belue said. “We thought we were on the track for several days, but every lead we got didn’t pan out at the time. That continued on for months after that, until it went cold.”
Joe Ryan, Alice’s son, attended the press conference Monday. After his mother’s death, Joe Ryan became a reserve police officer.
“Sometimes something would pop up — hearsay (about the case),” Joe Ryan said. “I would say I never gave up. I knew somebody had to [have done] it.”
Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller announces arrest in Alice Haynsworth Ryan case from