Founder’s Musings • December 2, 2021
Copyright, 2021, Allison Peacock
What about their daughter?”
These were certainly not the first words I expected to come out of the mouth of the surviving family member of a murder victim we had just identified.
As a communications expert for a company that investigates cold cases for law enforcement, it was my job to break the heart of a Florida woman with a simple phone call. Although I knew it was sad news, she exclaimed that our call was actually the joyous answer to a decades long prayer – for their 80 year old mother to have answers as to what happened to her firstborn son while she was still alive. There had been no word for over 40 years. After driving away from New Smyrna Beach, Florida bound for a new job in Houston, the young couple and their baby were never seen again by their immediate family.
In addition to designing new case handling systems and operational tactics for the genealogy team at Identifinders International this past year, FHD Media/Family History Detectives® also did investigative genetic genealogy case work. In October of 2021, I analyzed DNA matches in order to identify a female victim found in Houston in 1981 along with another investigative genealogist’s John Doe. I soon identified a definitive set of grandparents; yet I couldn’t get her actual name due to a lack of access to recent records in certain states. So I began contacting first cousins all over the country in order to try and hone in on her identity.
You’d think this would be it and we’d have had her momentarily, but it wasn’t. And we didn’t. After more than a week of reaching out to dozens of people in the large extended family, no one had returned my call or emails. I eventually became bereft that this young woman had died 40 years ago and no one I had communicated with cared enough to reply or offer to assist within the family. One cousin even yelled at me and hung up after saying the fact of a deceased first cousin had nothing to do with him.
As it turned out, the grandparents’ eleven children were simply raising families in so many states spread out from Kentucky to California that two generations later they just weren’t all that close. Her immediate family was actually looking high and low for her and had filed a missing person report with the Salvation Army shortly after they disappeared four decades ago.
A few days after my week spent striking out with the descendants of the grandparents I’d identified, my fellow Identifinders genealogy team member, Misty excitedly called me to announce she had conclusively identified the John Doe found with my female victim. Like she always did, she asked me to look over her research first. We call this a sanity check. Starting with nothing and coming up with an identity for unknown subjects can be daunting for the most experienced researchers. It can sometimes be hard to believe you’ve actually done it. It was a great joy for me that Misty always asked me “am I crazy” or “did I just solve this?” when her work was complete. (Hint: She was never crazy and she ALWAYS solved it.)
Among missing child Holly Marie’s many family members waiting to meet her are Joe and his boys. Holly’s parents’ siblings married, making Joe her double first cousin! He and his boys might share a strong resemblance to Holly and any children she might have had.
Agreeing with her analysis, it was time for a law enforcement check and a background check. Neither turned up anything on her proposed subject – not surprising for someone who died in 1981 and was never heard from again. This meant it was time to call a family member for confirmation. Even though I approached the notification with the hope that it would help me with my identification of his female companion, I hadn’t foreseen that our victim had both a wife and daughter.
When I began genealogy professionally a few years ago after two decades of it being merely a passionate hobby, I could never have foreseen that it would become the tool for law enforcement that it is today. Nor that I would be working daily with detectives, DNA labs, and victims’ families to bring closure to decades old traumas. It is a rare and unique privilege to be the person on the other end of the line when a 40 year old answer is delivered to a loved one. I will never take this gift for granted.
I had only done a few of these notifications when I called Florida that day, yet I understand from colleagues that have been doing this a lot longer than I have that her comment to me that meant there was a missing baby related to our Doe case was unheard of. Thankfully, as fate would have it, just minutes later I was able to determine that John Doe’s female companion was indeed his wife when one of my dozens of pleas for help was returned at long last. One of her cousins called me back with the answers as to our victim’s wife’s parentage.
She was, in fact, the granddaughter of the couple I had identified. Recent Oklahoma births are not accessible on public genealogy databases, so I might have spent weeks longer looking for her had we not identified her husband and found her name on their marriage license. It solved two cases at once when we found his Kentucky birth record online and were able to locate his living family members in Florida.
Learning that this beautiful young couple who were cut down as they were just beginning their adult lives actually had a one year old daughter left me breathless.
Where is she? Even knowing that Holly was not found deceased with them, the most basic of obvious answers was hard to grasp. If she is alive, whomever took her and raised her MUST have clues or even answers as to what happened to her parents.
Holly Marie Clouse was just beginning to walk when her family last knew her whereabouts in 1980. (Clouse Family photo)
Were they killed in order to kidnap the baby? Or was she simply collateral damage?
One year old infants don’t just get left behind when mom and dad are murdered and suddenly get taken in without someone notifying authorities. Unless there is a lot to hide.
If Holly Marie is still alive, she will turn 42 years old next month, although she probably doesn’t even know her real birthday. And she’d have no way of knowing that she was raised by someone who at the very least was a third or fourth party to the murder of her parents. At the most, they may have been involved directly.
Thankfully, Family History Detectives® is the custodian of the DNA of several of Holly’s close family members. Like many who were raised with questions about their origins – even those that are barely a whisper – she may test her DNA one day. We all eventually want to know more about where we come from.
And when she does, her true family will be waiting to embrace her.
The next installment in this case series in found here.
Primary Post Photo: Dean and Tina Clouse were photographed with their infant daughter, Holly Marie in 1980 shortly before they all three disappeared. Holly’s parents were found murdered in Houston, Texas in January 1981 and were identified in October 2021 using forensic genetic genealogy. Holly has not been seen since shortly after the photo was taken. She would be 41 years old today. (Photo: Clouse family)