AUSTIN (KXAN) — A baby girl who went missing 40 years ago after her parents were found dead in a wooded area in Texas was found “alive and well,” according to a release from the Office of the Texas Attorney General.
Baby Holly is now 42 years old. Her parents, Tina Gail Linn Clouse and Harold Dean Clouse Jr, were victims of an apparent homicide in 1981 in Houston and couldn’t be identified at the time of their death. They had been living in Lewisville at the time. Holly was not found with her parents, the release said.
How they found Holly
In 2021, Identifinders International used genetic genealogy to identify the bodies of the couple, which hadn’t been identified since they were found in January of 1981 in the Houston-area.
“We first sent the remains to a lab to extract DNA from the bones,” explained president and founder Colleen Fitzpatrick. “And from that, we sent it to our lab to make genealogy data, essentially.”
Fitzpatrick said the data came back in October 2021, and it took them just 10 days to solve the case.
“The top matches were like second cousins,” she said. “So, we started with those people, built their trees, and sort of looked for that missing piece.”
Fitzpatrick said they identified Dean Klouse, and once they contacted his family, they realized their Jane Doe must be his wife, Tina.
“All we had to do was build her family tree to see if it fit in with what we already had,” she said.
Fitzpatrick said her company uses a data pool called Gedmatch, which compiles DNA from people who voluntarily opt-in through other companies, like 23 And Me.
“It’s not like a superhighway into those databases. You know, it only has people that voluntarily give there, but it opens up you know, a pool for you to look at,” she said.
Fitzpatrick is also part of the Texas attorney general’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Advisory Committee. She said once they had identified Dean and Tina, they let the attorney general’s office know, so they could start tracking down Holly.
The Linn and Clouse families searched for answers after they last heard from the family in 1980 and Identifinders International identified Tina and Dean Clouse last year.
Holly has been notified of her biological parents’ identities and has been in contact with her extended family, the release said.
“They had contacted Holly. They had told her what happened. She was actually quite happy. You know, you know, of course surprised,” Fitzpatrick said.
“It was so exciting to see Holly. I was so happy to meet her for the first time. It is such a blessing to be reassured that she is alright and has had a good life. The whole family slept well last night,” Holly’s aunt Cheryl Clouse said in the release.
“A case like this really brings out the power of what we’re doing,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not closure, it’s more like release to the family. Now they can they know what happened, they can let go. They can rebuild their life, they can move on. They don’t have to use all that energy wondering what happened.”
What we know so far about what happened
Brent Webster, first assistant attorney general and member of the cold case unit, said a church in Arizona had taken baby Holly in.
“Two women who identified themselves as members of a nomadic religious group brought Holly to church,” he said during a press conference on Thursday. “The women indicated they had given up a baby before at a laundromat.”
He said the women appeared to be part of a religious group; they were wearing white robes and had bare feet. He said they also indicated that their religious beliefs dictated that they had to be vegetarian, that male and female members had to be separated, and they could not use or wear leather goods.
He said the family members who raised Holly are not suspects.
Webster said in late December of 1980 or early January of 1981, a woman who called herself ‘Sister Susan’ called the families of Tina and Dean Clouse.
“Who explained she was calling from Los Angeles, California, and claimed that she wanted to return Tina and Dean’s car to their family,” Webster said. “She further stated that Tina and Dean had joined their religious group and no longer wanted to have contact with their families.”
He said Sister Susan said she wanted to return the Clouses’ car and belongings to the family in Florida, but wanted money in exchange.
The family agreed to meet her, but also called local police, Webster said.
Webster said two to three women and possibly one man showed up, and officers arrested two women– but state investigators haven’t yet found a record of that. He said that’s common when they are looking for old case files.
Webster said they believe the Clouses were murdered around the time of that phone call. Their bodies were found in early January 1981. The family hadn’t heard from the couple since October.
Tracking down other Texas cold cases
She said they’re also working on a handful of other cold cases in Texas, and this case offers some hope.
“It’s out there, you can do it, you know, try. You know, keep that fire burning, you never know,” she said.
The investigation into the murders of Tina and Dean Clouse is ongoing. If anyone has information about their deaths, please contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at email@example.com, the release said.
The cold case and missing persons investigation was done in collaboration with the Texas Attorney General’s Office Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit, the Lewisville Police Department, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the release said.