WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Investigators in Walker County continue to investigate the death of Eric Cates and his dog more than six years after their bodies were discovered in a burnt truck behind an old school building.
On March 21, 2015, Hunters found Cates and his dog, Gypsy, in the truck. Since then, Cates’ mother has been fighting to learn what happened.
“You are the voice for your children. You owe it to them to get justice,” Tobbie Stover said.
Stover said that within the last year, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office took over the case and is now being investigated by the Cold Case unit.
“Mom is not giving up,” Stover said.
The Walker County mother described her son as a “jokester” who could make anyone laugh. Stover said her son was in the process of changing his life around.
“I know every mother says that ‘my son was doing good, he was over the drugs’, but when I finally got to see the toxicology report, even that confirmed what we had said, Eric had been doing good. He was clean,” she said.
The Walker County Sheriff’s Office was originally the lead agency on the case. Jim Underwood was sheriff at that time. Investigators originally looked into the possibility of an overdose or an accident, but the death is now being investigated as a homicide.
Sumiton Police Chief TJ Burnett confirmed to CBS 42 that he was assisting the AG’s office in the investigation.
A spokesperson for the AG’s office released the following statement to CBS 42:
“While the Alabama Attorney General’s Office is unable to specifically comment on developments in the Eric Cates case, we can confirm that we are currently working with other law enforcement agencies in pursuit of those responsible for Mr. Cates’ death. Furthermore, we encourage anyone with information on the Cates case to contact the Attorney General’s Cold Case Unit at 1-866-419-1236, or by email at coldcasetips@AlabamaAG.gov.”
While Stover is encouraged by the progress on the case, she believes there are still people who are withholding information from law enforcement.
“I am hoping that people will come forward now that they know the Attorney General’s Office and Chief Burnett are handling this case,” she said.
A motive for Cates’ death has never been released. Stover said investigators are looking into all tips that come through.
“He may have been working undercover and he was seen as a threat and as an informant, as a snitch and that may have led to his murder,” she said.
Stover believes the AG’s Office is making substantial progress. There’s been an increased interest in the case after it was featured on Secrets True Crime Podcast with help from Echo 7 Foxtrot Private Investigations out of Alabama.
“You have your good days and your bad days and here lately, I have had a lot of good days,” said Stover, who is optimistic there will be an arrest.
For more information on Cates’ and other open cold cases with the AG’s office, click here.