Nearly 25 years later, Cumberland detective’s murder ‘still has an opportunity to be solved’

East Bay

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — It was the summer of 1996 when Cumberland Police Detective Corporal James Grimes was found dead.

Nearly 25 years later, Providence Police Maj. David Lapatin vividly remembers when he learned Grimes was murdered.

“It was kind of shocking that we had an off-duty police officer killed downtown,” Lapatin said.

Lapatin said Grimes, 33, started his night at a bar in downtown Providence.

“He was found dead in his car after he left the bar,” he said. “We believe it was someone who was in the car with him.”

Lapatin said Grimes was driving a vehicle used by the Cumberland Police Department’s Narcotics Division. He was found dead inside that vehicle in a parking lot on Matthewson Street.

Surveillance images obtained by 12 News shows a shadowy figure running from the vehicle. While the images were enhanced by the FBI, they fail to shed light on the person’s identity or what exactly happened inside that car.

“My brother wouldn’t let a stranger in his car,” MaryEllen Grimes, James’ sister, told 12 News. “He knew that person.”

MaryEllen said she will never forget the call she received from her father the morning after her younger brother was murdered.

“It was numbing. I still feel numb,” she said.

John Grimes, MaryEllen and James’ brother, said their family is frustrated by the lack of answers surrounding his death.

He said their parents died without ever learning the truth.

“It’s like 25 years went by in the blink of an eye and nothing has changed,” John said.

MaryEllen and John remember their brother as a family man who had fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a police officer, recalling a moment when he pretended to dust for fingerprints in their home.

“One time as a little kid, my mother told me this story: He had taken Comet and scattered it around the house and she said, ‘Who did this?’ and he just looked up at her and said, ‘Sorry about that, chief!'” MaryEllen said.

Unfortunately, his time on his hometown’s police force was cut short. MaryEllen isn’t sure whether her brother’s undercover work ended up putting a target on his back.

“He said to me, ‘Something big was happening and in a few weeks, it’s really going to be big’ and so I said, ‘What is it?’ and he said ‘No, no, no, no,’ and I said ‘Jimmy tell me what was it? What is it?’ and he said, ‘No, no if I tell you your life will be in danger,'” MaryEllen recalled.

When asked what she thought of her brother’s remarks, MaryEllen said she feared her brother’s life was in danger. That was the last conversation she ever had with him.

Lapatin said even though it’s been nearly a quarter of a century, Grimes’ case is not filed away in the department’s cold case room. He said just this summer, investigators submitted DNA evidence for testing.

“This case still has an opportunity to be solved,” he said. “We have new eyes on it now. These guys are enthusiastic. Hopefully we’ll come up with something.”

Grimes’ friends and family are offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in the case.

Anyone who with information is asked to contact the Providence Police Department at (401) 272-3121. The Cumberland Police department also has a tip line at (401) 333-2222.

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