HOUSTON — It took 40 years for a Houston couple who was killed in north Harris County to be identified.
Their remains were found off Wallisville Road in January 1981. Thanks to advanced genealogical testing, two families finally know what happened to their loved ones.
In 1980, Donna Casasanta's son, Harold Dean Clouse Jr., 22, his wife Tina Gail Linn, 18, and their 1-year-old daughter Hollie Marie Clouse left Florida and headed west to Texas. A few months later, their family members stopped hearing from them.
"We put out feelers every way we knew how," said Debbie Brooks, Clouse's sister.
Clouse and his small family disappeared.
"I was on the freeway once and this young man passed me and it looked so much like my Jr. (Harold Clouse Jr.)," Casasantas said. "I used to tell myself he's still out there somewhere. And he'll ring the doorbell and say, 'Hey, mom."
A dog made the discovery in January 1981.
"She was found on Jan. 12," Allison Peacock, the senior forensic genealogist working the case, said.
Authorities were led to a wooded area on Wallisville Road, which at the time, was not developed.
Once the remains were found, Mary Mize, Harris County's forensic artist, drew pastel reconstructions of the victims, however, no one recognized the couple because the family had just moved to Houston.
"It really only took hours to get a really good glimpse of who these people were," Peacock said.
Soon after, Peacock was tasked with making the call to the family they had waited on for 40 years.
"Her (Peacock's) first question was, 'Do you have a family relative that disappeared a long time ago?' And I said, 'Yes. I have a brother that disappeared about 40 years ago ... Harold Dean Clouse Jr.," Brooks said. "She said, 'We found him. He was murdered.' I asked how he was murdered, but she didn't tell me at the time. But she said, 'They found his body in January 1981."
Finding out her son had been murdered didn't make things easier for Casasanta.
"When we did find out the truth ... it's so hard to accept," Casasantas said.
Two mysteries were solved, but one mystery remains: Where is Hollie Marie Clouse?
"The moment of being able to tell her about her brother, Dean, was overshadowed very quickly," Peacock said.
Brooks asked if they found the baby.
"Allison's first question is, 'What baby?' 'They had a baby less than a year old. So did they find the baby?'" Brooks said she asked Peacock.
If Hollie Marie is still alive, she'd be turning 42. She likely has no idea of her identity. That's a case Peacock is already working with Family History Detectives.