In 1980, a young couple moved from Florida to Texas with their baby girl, Holly Marie, before disappearing.
The last time family and friends of 21-year-old Harold “Dean” Clouse Jr. and 17-year-old Tina Gail Linn Clouse heard from the couple was in October 1980, when Tina texted a letter to Dean’s mother, Donna Casasanta, with pictures of Holly standing and pushing her walker.
On January 12, 1981, a man walking through the woods with his German Shepherd came across the badly decomposed remains of two people along Wallisville Road on the outskirts of Houston, about 265 miles from the Clouses’ last known address in Lewisville. . Investigators could not identify the two victims – a man who had been beaten to death and a woman who had been strangled.
Almost 40 years later, in October 2021, a team of genetic genealogists with Identifinders International, LLC, were able to identify the deceased as Dean and Tina Clouse.
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“I was elated in the sense that, you know, I could give him back his identity and that…he has a name now. He has a story, a family,” forensic genealogist Misty Gillis told Fox News Digital. when she was able to identify the remains of Dean Clouse.
She continued: “It’s really hard to identify someone, because although you give them an identity again and you give them back the feeling of being a person … you start thinking about your own life, your own family and everything. like that. I mean, he was a son. He was a father. He was a brother. And there’s a ripple effect.”
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Gillis began his career in genetic genealogy about three and a half years ago, after helping his grandfather discover the identity of his own father. She then decided to direct her passion and personal expertise in genealogical research into a full-time career helping to identify human remains and solve homicides and sexual assaults.
Gillis launched his research into the Clouse cold case in 2021 after discovering the then-unidentified couple’s photo illustrations on The Doe Network – a non-profit organization dedicated to shedding light on cold cases. She noticed that their deaths were linked, which she thought was unusual, because “you might find gay remains if it’s a dumping ground for a serial killer or something, but the fact that he’s act of a man and a woman involved… I was very intrigued by that.”
“Were they brother and sister? Were they lovers? Were they friends? What’s the story? Gillis remembers thinking at the time. “What could have happened to them when they were both so young when they were found together?”
Indentifinders International contacted Harris County, which sent the remains to a lab that works with Indentifinders. Lab work creating a DNA profile for the couple’s remains took about four months, and genealogy research took about seven days before Gillis and fellow genetic genealogist Allison Peacock, founder of FHD Forensics, identified the couple as Dean. Clouse and Tina Linn.
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“Peacock and I had a three-way call and called [Dean’s] sister and said, ‘Is there any chance that someone is missing in your family?’ And she said, ‘Yes, my brother Dean.’ And we said, “Well, we’re sorry to inform you, but we believe we’ve identified his remains, found in 1981 in Harris County, Texas.” And that’s when she dropped the ball and said, ‘What about his wife and child?'”
Gills had no idea that Baby Holly was part of the Clouse family until this moment.
At that time, Peacock contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which opened an investigation into the apparently missing child.
In June, Texas authorities announced they had found “Baby Holly” – a baby who went missing after her mother and father were mysteriously killed in 1980 – alive and well as a 42-year-old woman.
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The story captured the nation’s attention because it not only provided answers to a nearly 40-year-old cold case, but also shed light on the possibilities for independent genetic genealogy research.
Donna Casasanta said at the time that her family learned of Holly’s well-being on Dean’s birthday, calling the news ” birthday gift from heaven.“
“I prayed for over 40 years for answers, and the Lord revealed some of it…we found Holly,” she said. “Thank you to all of the investigators for working so hard to find Holly. I prayed for them day in and day out that they find Holly and that she is well.”
First Deputy Attorney General of Texas, Brent Webster revealed that baby Holly “was left in a church in Arizona and was cared for.” None of the people caring for Holly were considered suspicious, he added.
Webster described how two women “who identified themselves as members of a nomadic religious group” brought Holly to church.
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“They indicated that the beliefs of their religion included the separation of male and female members, the practice of vegetarian habits and the prohibition of using or wearing leather goods,” he said. “The women indicated that they had previously abandoned a baby in a laundromat.”
The group would have traveled to the southwestern region of the country, such as California, Arizona and possibly Texas.
Investigators believe they were murdered between December 1980 and early January 1981.
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The Attorney General’s Office Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit asks anyone with information related to the case to call 512-936-0742 or email the unit here.
Fox News’ Christina Corbin and Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.
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