Montreal police have confirmed that the man recently charged with the murder of Jewell Parchman Langford was considered a person of interest when her family reported her missing in the summer of 1975.
Parchman Langford was a well-known businesswoman from Jackson, Tennessee.
According to various sources, she met the defendant, Rodney Nichols, in Florida, and the two lived together in Montreal for a short time before she disappeared.
When she was first declared missing, the City of Montreal Police Service (SPVM) investigated and shared the news of her disappearance with the media and other police forces. By this time, Parchman Langford was already dead.
Investigators did not realize that a body found 150 kilometers west of Montreal several months earlier was actually Parchman Langford.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) found the woman floating in the Nation River off Highway 417 near Casselman, Ontario, in May 1975.
The remains were wrapped in scraps of cloth, towels and rags, and their hands and feet were tied with ties. According to the OPP, she would have been strangled. She was not identified for the next 45 years. During this period, the woman was known as the “Nation’s Lady of the River”.
Lack of communication, scientific techniques.
Asked why the SPVM did not establish the link between Parchman Langford’s disappearance and the unidentified body, spokesman Anik de Repentigny said it was difficult because there was no DNA analysis at the time.
It was further complicated by the fact that two separate jurisdictions were involved in two different provinces.
“In 1975, everything was done by phone, fax or mail,” de Repentigny said in an email. “Information about a found body can now be quickly shared with all police services in the province, the country or even internationally, making identification much easier.”
Former SPVM detective Minh Tri Truong believes that the investigation would have had a much better chance of success in 1975 if the police had linked the discovery of the body to the disappearance of Parchman Langford.
“If they had made a link, it would have changed [the investigation] on several fronts,” says the 30-year veteran of the SPVM. “Murder charges with no body found, in the history of Canada, there have been four or five, no more.”
Truong never worked on the 48-year-old woman’s disappearance, but notes that a police questioning plays out much differently whether there is a body or not.
“Until we find the body, it’s still a disappearance,” the former police detective said.
Florida man charged with murder
The OPP said Parchman Langford was only identified in 2020 after a successful DNA profile match using forensic genealogy.
Two years later, they accused Rodney Nichols of the woman’s murder and began extradition proceedings, since he now resides in Florida.
The SPVM said Nichols is the same man who was questioned several times by investigators when Parchman Langford first disappeared.
“We worked with the OPP for several months on this investigation and shared essential information for the conclusion of the case with them,” de Repentigny said.
According to the Parchman Langford family, they stopped hearing from Jewell in April 1975.
In June 1975, a concerned relative traveled to Montreal to look for her and spoke to police, but police said an official missing person report was not made until August 1975.
After Parchman Langford’s disappearance in 1975, Nichols continued to use his car, a Cadillac, for personal use, according to multiple sources.
At the time of his disappearance, Nichols was playing with Westmount Rugby Club, where he served as team captain for a few years.
“Rodney was fun to be with. He was entertaining and outgoing. A very outgoing person,” said Henry Rozenblat, a former teammate who played with Nichols from 1973-1983.
Rozenblat recalled meeting Parchman Langford several times, saying that Nichols described her as a “love interest”.
When Rozenblat and other teammates later asked about Parchman Langford, Nichols told them that he had left and that he did not know where he had gone.
He was shocked when he learned of Nichols’ arrest.
“This is all out of place for the person I met,” Rozenblat said.
Nichols remains the subject of an extradition request by Canadian authorities. He has yet to appear in court and has not entered a guilty plea.
Citing confidentiality, neither the US nor Canadian justice departments confirmed whether a date has been set for the extradition hearing.
Nichols is now 81 years old and currently lives in an assisted living facility in Hollywood, Fla. Radio-Canada was unable to reach him for comment.
Rozenblat said Nichols told her he was born to Canadian parents who were sent to the UK during World War II.
Nichols was born in Middleton, NS, in 1942 and joined the British Army in 1961. According to a UK Ministry of Defense spokesman, Nichols served in the Wessex Brigade for about a year, but did not complete his training.