Azella Kemp of Atkinson, N.C., was one of the last persons believed to have seen James Jordan alive on July 22. On that day, Jordan attended the funeral of Kemp's husband, Willie Kemp, in Wilmington. After the funeral, Jordan visited the Kemps' home in Atkinson, about 30 miles away. James Jordan and Willie Kemp had worked together at the General Electric plant in Wilmington.
After the visit, Kemp said, Jordan drove back to Wilmington with a friend, Carolyn Robinson. Kemp said that Jordan told her he would later be going back to Charlotte.
Kemp said an FBI agent questioned her about Jordan on Friday.
"All I told him was that (Jordan) was at the funeral and came out to the house later that evening. Then he left and said he was on his way back home. We talked about children, life. He said he would keep in touch."
Kemp said she would have no reason to believe anyone would want to harm Jordan.
"I never thought anything like that. He's just down-to-earth James Jordan. We talked of old times. There was no hint of any problems.
"I just can't comprehend that this is happening."
Hal Locklear, a construction worker from Laurinburg, N.C., discovered the body on Aug. 3 while fishing in a creek along the North Carolina and South Carolina state line.
"(The body) was just something I walked upon," Locklear said. "I was walking the banks for 30 minutes before I found anything. . . . It's dense right there. You couldn't see it from the bridge. It probably would have taken a fisherman to find it. There is a swimming hole up the road from where I found it."
The body was cremated three days later when it was still unidentified.
"This was the first time that we didn't know who we had within a few days or so," Marlboro (S.C.) Coroner Tim Brown told the Associated Press. "We were left with nobody missing in North Carolina and nobody missing in South Carolina. . . . It was not done lightly. I hope the family understands why we did what we had to do."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for an investigation into the cremation saying it, "looks to be a part of an organized cover-up and an attempt to destroy evidence."
James Raymond Jordan was born July 31, 1936, in Wilmington.
He raised his family in Wilmington and worked at the General Electric plant, where he was in charge of inventory control.
In March of 1985, he pleaded guilty in New Hanover, N.C., County Superior Court to accepting a $7,000 kickback from a private contractor who had billed the GE plant for hydraulic equipment that was never delivered.
As part of a plea bargain, Jordan received a three-year sentence suspended for five years. He also was placed on supervised probation for five years and fined $1,000. Under terms of his probation, Jordan was not allowed to leave North Carolina for more than 72 hours unless he received approval from his probation officer.
According to court records, James Jordan "with deceit and intent to defraud did cause a purchase order for eight Milwaukee 30-ton cylinders . . . to be issued (by GE)." Jordan later falsely acknowledged receipt of the equipment by Dale Gierszewski, a private contractor, the records show.
Shortly after pleading guilty in the matter, Jordan left Wilmington and settled in rural Union County, N.C., south of Charlotte.
Since leaving Wilmington, he reportedly has been involved in several business ventures. One current venture, known as JVL Enterprises, is a T-shirt plant located in Rock Hill, S.C., across the state line from Charlotte.
Times staff writers Helene Elliott in Los Angeles, Dave Distel in San Diego, Mike Clary in Charlotte and Ron Ostrow in Washington also contributed to this story.
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Trail of Mystery
Key sites in the death of James Jordan, father of basketball star Michael Jordan:
July 22: Attended friend's funeral in Wilmington and visited his widow in Atkinson. Intended to fly from Charlotte to Chicago the next day.
Aug 5: Jordan's car is found stripped in wooded area.
Aug 13: Body of gunshot victim pulled from a creek Aug. 3 is identified as James Jordan.