She was a slightly built girl with hazel eyes and naturally curly brown hair styled in the “wings” fashion that was popular that year. She had short, dirty fingernails. Her toenails were painted pink. She wore a gold necklace with a rectangular pendant with a smoky glass stone inside. of her shoulders.
Police believe the girl may have been from Port Aransas or Rockport, but she never has been identified. The person – or people – responsible for her death never have been found.
Despite the fact that it’s been nearly 30 years since the murder took place, John Burmester is working on the case. Burmester is a retired Houston Police Department homicide investigator. He is one of five retired detectives who, working as volunteers, are looking into cold cases for the Walker County Sheriff’s Department and the Huntsville Police Department.
“The point is to catch someone,” he said. “But the chances of that happening are kind of remote.”
Burmester said he has pored over the old case file and found no indications that police ever were able to collect foreign matter from the body for use as evidence to link the killer to the murder.
And so, if he simply could determine the girl’s name, that might be victory enough, he said.
“I’d just really like to get this girl identified and give someone some closure somewhere,” the detective said.
Burmester provided the South Jetty with a photo of the girl’s body and a photo illustration of what the girl would have looked like when she was alive.
“You’re probably a parent, like me,” Burmester said during an interview with a South Jetty reporter. “You see the picture, and doesn’t it kind of bother you that she’s lying in a grave with no one’s name on it? She’s somebody’s daughter.”
A coroner’s office x-rayed the girl’s mouth not long after the murder. Burmester has shown the x-rays to dentists from throughout the Coastal Bend without luck in making a match with any of the dentists’ former patients.
Burmester has consulted with law enforcement officers in Port Aransas and the surrounding areas, but no leads have sprung up yet.
He said he is working on showing the photo illustration of the girl to employees of schools in Port Aransas and surrounding area, and asking school employees if the girl resembles any students in old yearbooks. He also is trying to reach people who were teachers in this area in the late ‘70s and 1980 to see if they remember the girl.
Thirty years ago, shortly after news of the murder broke, a waitress from a Huntsville area restaurant told local police that she had spoken to the girl the day before the murder.
“Supposedly, (the girl) came into the restaurant, asking for directions to the Ellis Unit,” Burmester said, referring to the state prison near Huntsville. “She had a milkshake or something, and the waitress had a conversation with her, asked why she was going to the Ellis Unit. She was kind of young.
“She told the waitress she was going to see her boyfriend at Ellis,” Burmester said. “And, in the same conversation, it came up where she was from. She told the waitress she was from the Port Aransas area. And she told the waitress that she was 18, even though it was obvious she wasn’t.”
Burmester said the girl may have said she was from “the Port Aransas-Rockport area.”
Police have nothing other than the waitress’s statement to indicate where the murder victim may have been from, Burmester said.
At the time of the girl’s death, Huntsville area police checked to see if there were any reports out of the Port Aransas or Rockport areas of missing people whose descriptions fit that of the girl, Burmester said.
No such reports were found, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t from around here, the retired detective said. The girl could have been a runaway or a “throwaway” child with parents or guardians who wouldn’t have reported it if she disappeared.
“Over the years, we have found that a lot of the time, kids who run way never get reported as runaways or missing,” said Burmester, who spent 25 years as a homicide investigator with Houston P.D. “It’s not unusual for someone of that age or a little older to have problems at home. They leave. Parents know there were problems at home. Maybe she was sexually assaulted at home, and they don’t report (a disappearance), because it might come back to haunt them if they do.”
Police tried without success to figure out which inmate at the Ellis Unit could have been the girl’s boyfriend.
“There was only one that could have possibly been her boyfriend, if you considered their ages, but we checked him out, and he didn’t work out at all,” Burmester said.
The girl last was seen late in the day on Oct. 30, standing, possibly hitchhiking, on the side of a road just northeast of Huntsville, the detective said. The road led to the Ellis Unit.
“An old station wagon stopped,” Burmester said. “According to (the) witness, there were three males in the station wagon. And that was the last time she was seen.”
The witness didn’t actually see the girl get into the station wagon, but he assumed that she did, Burmester said.
The girl’s body was found the next day in a weedy area off the northbound lanes of Interstate Hwy. 45, about three miles, as a crow flies, west from where she was seen with the station wagon.
After the body was examined, police deduced that the victim was a white girl between 14 and 17 years old. That means she would have been born between 1963 and 1966.
She was 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed between 100 and 110 pounds. Both of her ears were pierced.
Before the murder, the girl was seen wearing blue jeans, a yellow pullover shirt, a large, off-white knit sweater with big pockets and red leather sandals. She had a brown purse with a shoulder strap.
(Anyone with information about the girl should contact Burmester at (713) 703-9495 or Lt. Charlie Perkins of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office at (936) 435-2400.)