Well, I wonder if it wasn't Teardrop. He had the means and the motive. Other factors point to it as well. In the Godfather there is fratricide to deal with "family business." Teardrop may have killed his brother to prevent his brother from exposing the rest of them. He doesn't want Ree to know this and puts obstacles in her path. The question remains endlessly debatable. I'd also like to know what other people think.
hmm. Killed by his own brother. That makes this story even more dreary. Why are they so poor? If the dad cooked meth for a living, shouldn't there be money available? Why are they eating deer and squirrel? If there is no money to be made in illegal drugs, why are they risking life and liberty to do it?
Teardrop definitely DIDN'T kill Jessup. At the end of the novel/movie he suddenly says, "I know who killed Jessup" once the money for the bail is returned and the bail bondsman says the guy who posted it won't be coming back to claim it.
I'm beginning to think that it's irrelevant. The question is not what we're losing/missing in not knowing the perpetrator. The question is what would be gained in knowing. I'm thinking that we'd gain nothing - and maybe we'd lose something in finding out. The important thing is that everything (including, probably, Teardrop's eventual death) resolves itself in accordance with a fairly unusual set of societal rules.
I agree with the last poster. The question is notwho killed Jessup... What is known though, is that Teardrop will be finding this person, and starting a whole war. This was said earlier in the book when Jessup had said that he had better not find out who killed Jessup because it would lead to his eventual (as well as many others) death.
Like a couple others who have commented here, I do not think it is important for the reader to know who killed Jessup. We do know that it was because he turned snitch and we do know that Teardrop is going to kill whoever it was. The author doesn't tell us more because this is not a story of Teardrop's revenge. He (probably) did not include any more information and did not have Teardrop's revenge take place in the novel in order to illustrate that all the killing and killing and killing is meaningless.
Oh, I'm not so sure that the killing is meaningless; just the opposite, in fact. The societal rules are what make the killing necessary: It's well understood that, if you snitch, you will get killed. If you discover the murderer of your brother, you have to kill the murderer. And then you can expect to get killed yourself. It's the way it goes, and understanding the importance of that is what makes the whole book make sense, finally.
I think James is right: It's not a story of Teardrop's revenge. In part, it's a story of a society that obligates Teardrop to sacrifice himself for the sake of revenge.
I believe that someone in Thump's family killed Jessup. That is why "they" won't be coming back to claim the bail money. I think that Thump put up the bail, in the first place, so Jessup would be released from jail and be placed in a position where he could be killed.
Who killed Jessup? When Ree is in the barn after being beat up: "She recognized Little Arthur, Spider Milton, Cotton Milton, Buster Leroy and one of the Boshell men, Sleepy John." When Uncle Teardrop is ranting to Ree about how he can't know who Jessup's killer is: "They'll all come for me then...Buster Leroy...Little Arthur...Cotton Milton,Whoop Milton,Dog..Punch...Hog-jaw...that droopy-eyed m#therf-er Sleepy John. When he bondsman comes to bring the bond back to Ree the bondsman says this about the person who posted it:"He never gave a name and, hell, I couldn't even say for sure the man was ever even all the way awake,..." After that Teardrop says he knows who killed Jessup. I think all signs point to Sleepy John. Also, Uncle Teardrop says Jessup would never snitch on any Rathlin Valley folk so it definitely would have been one of the Hawkfall "gang".
You might be right about Sleepy John, although I don't remember anything about a banjo - must have been sleepy myself during that part. But, why after getting the bail money returned did Teardrop suddenly realize who killed Jessup? He wasn't there when the bail bondsman originally told Ree about the man who covered the rest of the bond (the part about how he wasn't even awake and didn't leave a name). Maybe we're not supposed to know, but obviously something clued Teardrop in on the answer, and I'm frustrated that I can't figure out what it was. I haven't seen the movie. Are there any answers there?
I don't think that Teardrop is going to be killed. When Thump and Teardrop meet, after Ree had been beaten, Thump said that it was done and over with. I think Teardrop will disappear for awhile and Ree will raise her siblings in peace. An agreement was reached between the families.
Having just finished this great book, I agree with Christopher. It is the bondsman's comment about a sleepy bagman that immediately gets to Teardrop. Getting Jessup out of jail (earlier in the book the sheriff tells Ree that Jessup didn't want to leave after his bail was raised) puts him out in the open where the Hawkhill (sp?) Milton clan can kill him before he trys to indict them. Remember, the Milton wives know exactly where the body is buried. I suspect that Teardrop will try and kill Thump and then the rest of the clan which is impossible in their world. He's a dead man and he and Ree know it in the last few pages of the book.
I also agree with the comments that this is less about who and more about the society these people live in and how they survive.
It may have been a group effort. Jessup's mistress saw him with three guys. Sleepy John could have been instructed to drop off the money: that large of a sum either has to be collected by the group (all of those possibly implicated by Jessup) and/or financed by the Boss. The wives knew where the body was hidden so maybe they were in charge of concealing it. What motive would Sleepy John have over that of any other who was being implicated? Bottom line: they all were being implicated. Maybe they all stoned Jessup to death. I don't think Teardrop killed Jessup because he cared enough about Ree to save her and risk himself (ie breaking the windshield of Milton's cronies) to help her. If all this is an "act" to fool Ree (put her on a wild goose chase) it seems a lot of effort to trick a girl who early on knew her dad was dead and just wanted proof of it. If Teardrop killed Jessup, and then saw how much Ree was suffering, he could've cut off Jessup's hand and thrown them onto the porch himself. So I guess in the end, Teardrop was at least sure that Sleepy John was complicit, and used him as a starting point for retribution. It is ironic that Jessup breaks "the code of the clan" (and suffers for it) while Teardrop upholds the Code (ie. seeking retribution for his brother's death) and so will suffer his own demise. You just can't win.
It is a compelling ending. At the end when Ree is talking with the bondsman and Teardrop hears the comment about the sleepy man who left the bag of money, Teardrop turns shades of white. He doesn't turn red which might indicate anger, but white which to me indicates a sudden sick feeling of shock. To me it suggests that Teardrop dropped off the bag of money while in one of his sleepy, drugged, stuporous like the one where he is driving with Ree and basically falling asleep at the wheel. He suddenly realizes his own complicity in his brother's death. He was just trying to help, but he unknowingly set Jessup free making him accessible to the Thumps who killed him