More on Trinity Man Arrested in Florida Cold Case–Details on the Death of “Little Missy” and the Capture of the Suspect

Cato Marion2A Trinity County man, Rodney Manley, was extradited to Florida yesterday in connection with a 15-year-old cold case–the homicide of Marion Louise Cato, battered to death and partially buried behind a motel.

A story posted a short time after her death in the St. Petersburg Times gives a sense of her life,

She was known as “little Missy” in some of the roughest parts of Clearwater.Marion Louise Cato, 31, was familiar to people at the coin laundry, bars and motels in the area of town known as the gateway. That’s where she was found dead Friday, killed by someone who left her body on a dirt path behind a cheap motel.

“We don’t know who (killed her) or why,” said Clearwater police Sgt. Doug Griffith. “She was living from motel to motel to motel. She’d just been evicted from one.”

According to the article, Cato was tiny–only 4’11” with a rich southern accent. She had three children, a “a 14-year-old boy and two girls, 6 and  3 years old.” For 15 years, her case was unsolved. Recently a new detective with the Clearwater Police was handed the case and submitted evidence to a lab that led to Manley’s arrest. Below is the press release provided by the Clearwater police.

Clearwater Police have charged a 61-year-old California man with first-degree murder in the slaying of a woman 15 years ago this month.

Rodney Dean Manley (DOB 7-16-53) was taken into custody on Wednesday by homicide detectives who traveled to Weaverville, Calif., where the suspect now resides. Manley is currently being held in the Trinity County Jail awaiting extradition.

Manley was charged in the slaying of Marion Cato, whose body was found April 28, 2000, next to what was then the Rio Hotel at 1488 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. Cato, 31, died from upper body trauma.

“This arrest shows what a new set of eyes and dogged determination can mean to a cold case like this,” said Police Chief Dan Slaughter. “For 15 years, our suspect thought he got away with murder. Our detectives made sure that wasn’t the case.”

Chief Slaughter lauded the work of Detective John Margnelli, who recently was handed the Cato case as a new member of the homicide squad. Margnelli is the detective who submitted the piece of evidence to the lab.

Chief Slaughter also thanked the Pinellas/Pasco Forensics Laboratory, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Latent Fingerprint Identification Section, the California Highway Patrol and the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office in California for their assistance in the case.

Homicide detectives, as part of their continued re-examination of cold-case homicides based upon a National Institute of Justice grant, worked closely with representatives of the Pinellas/Pasco Forensics Laboratory, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Latent Fingerprint Identification Section, and the Pinellas/Pasco State Attorney’s Office, to take another look at physical evidence collected during the investigation. Exhaustive testing by the Pinellas/Pasco Forensics Laboratory ultimately identified DNA from the crime scene as Manley’s. He lived in Pinellas County at the time and had been arrested on several occasions.

During questioning on Wednesday in California, Manley made several admissions to investigators relating to his role in this incident.




  • Battered that tiny little woman to death, I’m glad the monster will be brought to justice.

  • Donette Hightower

    Missy was my aunt and I just want to say Thank you to everyone who has helped bring her peace. She can finally rest now. I also want to say Thank you for not forgetting about her and even though it has been 15 years, we never gave up hope that this day would come. Now the question is Why did you kill her?

    • Please send Kym a more flattering picture if you have one. I’m sure Missy an her family would appreciate being remembered in a positive light!

    • I was going to say something the other day, but didn’t. Yet, I could not help but try and answer your question. Perhaps this will help in some small way. I have known Rod for the last 3+ years, since I moved into a trailer park in the area. I remember my first impression of him, as he put on the tough guy/hard case act when someone introduced him to me. In a way he was a likeable character when first met. He is a bit short for a man, and definitely has the small guy complex, big time. This probably relates in part to why he was so brutal in killing your aunt, as it probably made him feel like a big man at the time.

      He is an alcoholic and also uses other drugs at times. The only thing that matters to him in life was having enough beer and getting more beer and cigarettes. He was always trying to borrow money from everyone and anyone for that reason. Later on, I could see that he was also into scamming others for money, if he thought that he had the right weak victim. He didn’t care for anyone but himself and his beer at the end of the day. One day I pissed him off by filling in on a mechanic job which he had been struggling with. The owner gave me the go ahead to finish the job. Rod came by as I was working to tell me that I was taking his money from him. He then made a semi threat by stating that in the old days he would have just shot me. That is how he was. He finally moved to another location. Some months later after eating a meal at home, I had an episode that felt like a cross between a stroke and a brain seizure. Only by the grace of God given inner strength which I possess did I survive that. The left side of my face centered around my ear was numb all the way till January of this year, when my body finally repaired the damage. I never spoke of this incident to anyone. Shortly after this happened I ran into him, and the first thing he said to me was how he had been to see his doctor and was told that he had had a medium stroke. Right away, I knew what he was fishing for so I didn’t say anything regarding what I had experienced. The next 3 times I ran into him, he brought up the subject of his stroke every time. I still did not respond to his fishing question, but I knew from the first time that he was the one responsible for what happened to me. That is he how is, a real backstabber.

      Now everyone knows the full truth regarding his true character. It was unfortunate that your aunt crossed paths with this man. She did not deserve what happened to her. My condolences to you and your family members for your loss. Now you get to have your justice, and that is good. I understand that Florida has the death penalty. That is also a good thing, even if it only leads to his dying in prison at some time in the future. He deserves every bit of that.

    • Eva Hightower Langley

      Yes sister finally got him! I’ve had so many mixed emotions about this. I want to be at his court cases, but FL is far away. I’m gonna see what we can do about being skyped in since we live in TN

  • Eva Hightower Langley

    This Lil lady was my Aunt Missy. Thank God he has been caught. For many years we prayed and never gave up! We knew there was a killer on the run and he had to be caught!!! After 15 years ago this month, the Monster is caught!!! Thank u lord!!!! Anger and hurt come upon me as I look at this creature! My grandmother passed this last Aug, but she would be so happy to k ow that he was caught. No sentence will be good enough for me. I just want her back!! Thanks so much to the new detective that caught this. RIP aunt Missy!!! I love you! Eva aka Red

    • So very sorry about your aunt, I do know this Manley, he was married to my cousin, he beat her a lot, very violent person. If I had a way to contact you I would let you know of dates. I hope he gets the worst punishment out there. Again I am so sorry your family ever had to go thru all this. If you want to talk to me my email is, hopefully it goes thru to you

  • I don’t know how it works in Florida but in California as a victim you are entitled to some help. Here is the email address for the Clerk of the Court.

    Tell them who you are and ask for assistance. Here’s a link for victim’s rights.

  • Could you please explain who the photograph is of?

    • The woman is the victim.

      • Thank you. Usually the police mugshot accompanying a story like this is of the perp. I was about to say something inappropriate about this guy Manley, especially given there are family members of the victim reading this story. My condolences to the family and I share your relief of closure.

  • Donette Hightower

    Thank You all for your condolences. Also for posting her picture. My heart is still broken but my mind is at ease for the 1st time in years, because I know Aunt Missy is finally resting in peace. I have a lot of anger towards Manly and I know God will make him pay for what he has done but at the same time I can’t help but think of what his family is going through. Aunt Missy’s death was a horrible tragedy for us. Our lives will never be the same. So we will do our best to carry on day by day. The rest is in God’s hands now.

  • I am so glad he was caught so Missy’s family can have some closure. I really feel for her children, they were so young and have had to grow up without a mother. It is hard enough in this life without wondering who killed your mom and why you are alone. Poor babies.

  • I’m so sorry for your lost I was married to this low life 25years i t was pure hell I got my ass beat all the time I work he did not we have 4 boys together he told them I was. No good left me with them no food that’s when Ihad to get a job again iI’m sorry hope gets life

    • Carol, You are telling half of the truth, Alcohol was consumed by both you. Just like this young girl was a drug addict, prostitute who deserved to live. There is a consequence to addictive behaviors. Dont mistake my comment, no one deserves to die but the end result of drinking, substance abuse and prostitution is not good. What about innocent until proven guilty. We dont know what took place, who was there and so let the facts be brought forth. I ask myself where were little missy’s children at the time ? Where were mr manleys children ?

      Carol, your not so innocent, I was family. I saw many behaviors, too. Two people who meet in federal prison are pretty crazy to marry. I am sorry for your pain. Time has a way of distorting events.

  • Missy was my aunt. I too, am a drug addict, but I’m also a mother of four, and grandmother of a little boy named Jacob. I’m highly enraged by the comments about Missy being a drug addict, prostitute. I don’t care if you live the “Christian” life, in church every time the doors open, when you met your husband, went out to eat, he bought you flowers, paid for your meal, you slept with him, he bought you. As for the drug addict, know what addiction is. You have to drink a cup of coffee every morning to get your day going? You have an addiction. An addiction doesn’t have to be directly on drugs. Please people, gain knowledge of words you plan to use before you chose to use them.Missy was a mother, an aunt, a daughter. My grandmother went to meet her maker, never knowing who, or why her baby was taken away from her. That was a pain I seen in my grandmother’s eyes until I could no longer see into her eyes. No matter your hurtful comments, Missy was loved by many, missed by many, and wilm be mourned forever.

    • Teresa Martin Graves

      I am Missy’s sister. Our family knows well the mistakes that Missy made in her life and what it cost her. We are the ones that buried her at such a young age because this man choose to beat her to death, and then beat her some more. Her murder was violent, and an overkill. Only a monster would do something like this and drugs is no excuse for this behavior. I miss my sister every day and have for 15 years. I loved her as did our whole family. Missys children at the time was with their fathers and family members being well cared for. My sister was the youngest of 4 children and my mother mourned her baby until her dying day as we all will. This monster got away with this for 15 years, that was 15 years that he should have spent in prison instead of out partying and hell raising. At his age he won’t live long enough to do the amount of time he should for what he did but hopefully he will never be free again. Thank you to the detective and others that finally closed this case and gave us the closure we have needed for so long now. All the negative comments can’t hurt us or Missy anymore, and we thank you all for the positive ones. As for Missy, she has a family that will love and miss her forever and no one needs to try to judge her.

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