A highly regarded homicide sergeant with Amarillo Police Department who died of COVID this month handled 116 murder cases and solved them all.
“One hundred percent,” department spokesman Cpl. Jeb Hilton told The Daily Beast.
But in one case—the killing of a woman who went missing in 2016—Sgt. Mike Dunn was unable to recover the body. Dunn remained in regular contact with the family of 28-year-old Nicole “Nikki” Moore and assured them he would continue to do everything he could to return her remains to them.
“His main thing was trying to find Nicole Moore,” Hilton said. “He was going to do that before he retired, but he just didn’t get the chance.”
Moore was last seen in Amarillo on Dec. 2, 2016. Her dark blue 2012 Cadillac STS was found on Jan. 6, 2017, in the parking lot of a Toys R Us there. She had told people before her disappearance that she was going to New Mexico with a local businessman and rodeo roper named Billy Glenn Ivy. The local district attorney, Randall Sims, explained the connection by telling the Daily Beast, “Billy liked women and he had a very open marriage.”
Ivy went from being a person of interest to prime suspect as Sims and Dunn began investigating him. Ivy appeared to most people in town to be just a regular guy who ran a paint business and whose wife had an insurance business. Dunn and Sims came to view him as an icy-hearted killer who was convinced he could outsmart anybody and stay a step ahead of any investigation.
“He’s the worst person I’ve ever had dealings with, and I’m 36 years in the business,” Sims said.
But Sims was teamed up with one of the best in the person of a tireless and tenacious former Marine.
“He’s the most squared-away guy I’ve ever met,” Sims said of Dunn. “We spent many a time on a patio in the evening trying to figure what [Ivy] is going to do next.”
In May 2020, Ivy was charged with killing Moore. He was also arrested for hiring somebody to kill a pregnant woman named Charlesetta Telford in June 2016. The gunman who shot her multiple times in the back was allegedly under instructions to make the unborn child the primary target. Ivy was said by police to be the father.
A number of silencers were found in Ivy’s home and Ivy was suspected of other murder-for-hire plots, which he allegedly continued to hatch from jail.
“Hiring people to kill people,” Dunn told the press.
An inmate turned informant recorded Ivy saying, “They’ll never stop me, they can’t stop me. I will never quit.”
Ivy was facing two death penalty trials when was found dead in his cell early on Sept. 16, 2020, from what the coroner ruled a fatal drug overdose.
Dunn appeared at a press conference at Amarillo Police Headquarters. Even though COVID-19 cases in the area were ebbing, he was conscious enough of the threat to take the precaution of wearing an American flag mask until he stepped up to the podium.
“Today is about Nicole,” he said. “We want to bring Nicole’s body home. She deserves the respect of a proper burial and her family deserves closure, since justice is going to be denied.”
He said he had called Nicole’s mother shortly after being notified Ivy was dead.
“She was saddened because she knew what that means,” Dunn said. “She knows now it’s going to be even more difficult to bring Nikki home. So we will remain in contact with her going forward.”
He had kept the family informed as he tried everything he could think of to find her.
“Including air, land, boat, horseback and K-9 assets,” he now told the reporters.
Dunn revealed that a contraband cell phone had been found in Ivy’s cell after his death. Ivy had used it to record a scheme involving Moore’s remains that he apparently hoped would help him cheat the executioner.
“We know, based on this recording that we received, that Ivy secreted her body and that he intended to use that to try and work out a deal,” Dunn said. “He called it ‘Plan A’ and in the process of this, his intent was to kill somebody.”
That somebody, Dunn said, was Ivy’s wife, Joanie.
“He planned to kill his bride, his wife and blame the murder of Nicole Moore on her and recover the body in exchange for some type of leniency.”
Ivy died without leaving any clues as to Moore’s location. The search for the body would continue. Dunn was convinced that somebody out there knew something.
“If you’ve been intimidated, if you've been scared, if you’ve been threatened, for whatever reason that you haven’t come forward up till now, I’m asking you to come forward,” Dunn said.
The American flag mask was around his neck, ready to be reapplied when he stepped away from the podium.
The homicide squad has only three detectives and Dunn had to handle his share of new cases in the days ahead. He maintained a perfect clearance rate.
“He got the job done,” Hilton said. “The one thing he could not do was find the body of Nicole.”
He kept up an old school “murder board” for the Moore case: an array of photos and reports connected by yarn.
“There’s a whole wall of it,” Hilton told The Daily Beast.
The murder board remained up as the virus began to surge in the area, fed by such hotspots as a meat-packing plant and a prison.
“Just all the sickness going around,” Hilton said.
As would no doubt meet the approval of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the police unions in New York in Chicago and Seattle, the Amarillo Police Department has no vaccine mandate. It is not known if Dunn got the shot, which prevents severe illness and death in the overwhelming majority of people who get it.
Dunn died Oct. 22, nine days after Sgt. Raquel Saunders succumbed to COVID-19. She was assigned to the domestic violence squad.
Both deaths were classified as being in the line of duty, and both funerals were held at Hillside Christian Church, eight days apart. Saunders was 50. Dunn was 51.
Imagine if two sergeants had been shot to death in little more than a week and their department had no bullet-resistant vest mandate.
After Thursday’s funeral, Dunn was laid to rest at Llano Cemetery. The remains of the woman he worked so tirelessly to bring home to her family are believed to be still out there in the vastness of the Texas panhandle extending into New Mexico.