Paul A. Moses finally slipped up big-time, according to Joplin police.
He applied for Social Security benefits this summer in San Diego.
A fugitive from justice in the killing of a Joplin woman 29 years ago, Moses made the mistake of seeking benefits using his real name and Social Security number. His application tripped an alert in an FBI database long on memory when it comes to unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for murder.
The FBI informed Joplin police that Moses appeared to be living somewhere in San Diego.
“We began working with them to try to figure out exactly where he was living,” said Lt. Brian Lewis, head of criminal investigations for the Joplin Police Department.
Cpl. Larry Swinehart traveled to California and spent about five days there in the middle of August trying to locate Moses, Lewis said. The Joplin detective was unable to find the 64-year-old suspect but did learn that he had been frequenting a community outreach center for seniors.
Swinehart informed the FBI office in San Diego of that before returning to Joplin, and Friday morning the information paid off with the arrest of the suspect.
Moses was described as a transient when he fled Joplin in 1984 after the murder of Frances Ramsey, 62, a native of Indianapolis who lived most of her life in Joplin. Her husband, Richard Ramsey, died five years before her murder.
Ramsey’s body was discovered the morning of Aug. 11, 1984, inside the unoccupied half of a duplex at 2337 S. Main St., about 14 blocks from her home in the 900 block of Main Street. The cause of death was reported to be blunt force trauma to her head.
A woman who lived in the occupied half of the duplex returned home to find that there had been a burglary and her television was missing, Lewis said. One of the officers who responded to her call reporting the crime happened to peer into the unoccupied half of the address, which was undergoing some remodeling, and spotted Ramsey’s body, he said.
According to Lewis, it is possible that the burglary was related to the murder, although investigators remain unsure to this day.
A bloody suspected murder weapon was recovered at the scene. Lewis declined to identify the object other than to describe it as an apparent weapon of opportunity. He said officers recovered other evidence linking Moses to the crime scene, although he also declined to specify what that was.
Investigators soon learned that Moses had been seen with Ramsey late the previous night in a bar on Main Street, but they were unable to locate him for questioning, Lewis said.
A warrant was issued charging Moses with first-degree murder. When it became apparent that he may have fled the state, the FBI office in Kansas City obtained a warrant on him for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Prosecutor Dean Dankelson said Wednesday that if Moses does not waive extradition, Jasper County will initiate proceedings in California. The county has 90 days to complete extradition, he said.
Dankelson said he has met with the Joplin police detectives now assigned to the case, and he is reviewing the old police reports.
“We’ve begun the process of locating witnesses in conjunction with (police),” Dankelson said.