Incredibly, recent advances in science called Genetic Genealogy have helped to identify a woman who vanished as an infant over 40 years ago
The following article was written by the fully accredited and degreed professional journalist, Kurt Dillon. It is fully sourced and linked to direct reports from: the Independent, The State of Texas Office of the Attorney General, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Indentifinders International, and the Houston Chronicle.
Amazingly, when her parents were murdered in 1980, their toddler daughter, known to the media then only as ‘Baby Holly’ vanished and had never been seen or heard from again. Until now.
That’s because breakthroughs in the relatively new science of Genetic Genealogy have definitively identified a 41-year-old Oklahoma woman as ‘Baby Holly’.
In an incredible story, first reported by The Independent, the youngster, was left at an Arizona church by a nomadic religious group not long after her parents were brutally murdered in a wooded area on the outskirts of Houston, Texas.
For over four decades, nobody knew what happened to the entire family. That’s because the bodies of Baby Holly’s parents, though found several months after the murders, remained unidentified and listed as a John and Jane Doe. DNA testing was in its infancy in the early 1980s, and the technology simply didn’t exist that was sufficient to make a positive identification of their remains. And so it stayed–for over four decades—until just last year.
Then, last week, Investigators found Holly, who had been adopted by a couple shortly after being dropped off in Arizona by the religious group. They approached her at her workplace earlier this week and told her of her identity. A few hours later, she was on a Zoom call with her biological grandmother and aunts and uncles.
The following is a video of the press release delivered by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Texas Attorney General’s Press Release
Holly Marie Clouse and her parents Tina, 17, and Harold, 21, disappeared in Texas in 1980 after moving to the state from Florida.
Back in 1981, investigators found the remains of the murdered couple, but their identities remained a mystery until 2021. Last year, their bodies were exhumed and identified using genetic genealogy technology implemented by Identifinders International.
As it turns out, Dean, Baby Holly’s 21-year-old biological father, who was a carpenter by trade, was beaten to death. Tina, Holly’s 17-year-old mother, had been strangled.
In a strangely ironic twist, Holly’s biological paternal grandmother, Donna Casasanta, said that Holly had been located by investigators on the anniversary of the birthday of her murdered son, Holly’s father, Dean. Casasanta called it “a birthday present from heaven.”
“I prayed for more than 40 years for answers and the Lord has revealed some of it… we have found Holly,” Ms. Casasanta said. In an interview with The Independent, Holly’s grandmother said she was “overwhelmed” to find out that Holly was alive, well, and living in Oklahoma.
“I was crying for joy because we’ve all been praying that we would find her and she would be okay – and she’d had a family that took care of her and raised her proper … we were very glad for that,” Ms Casasanta said.
She went on to explain the pure, raw emotions that enveloped her later that day, during the emotional Zoom call with her long-lost granddaughter. “When I first seen her, I wanted just to grab her up and hug her. Because I remember holding her when she was a little baby,” she said. “She looks a lot like her mother. She also has a lot of Clouse in her; she looks a lot like some of my sons and … her great-aunt. I started crying because I loved saying that … my son got a sweet woman. He did. I’m thinking the whole time, looking at her, thinking of Tina.”
She went on to say, “I took it as a gift from heaven, and I do believe that. When you stay with the Lord and you go through the storms of life – and we all have our storms of life – there’s a blessing at the end of that tunnel.”
Her aunt, Sherry Linn Green, also welcomed the idea of reacquainting herself with Holly. “After finally being able to reunite with Holly, I dreamed about her and my sister, Tina last night,” she said in a statement. “In my dream, Tina was laying on the floor rolling around and laughing and playing with Holly like I saw them do many times before when they lived with me prior to moving to Texas.
“I believe Tina’s finally resting in peace knowing Holly is reuniting with her family. I personally am so relieved to know Holly is alive and well and was well cared for, but also torn up by it all. That baby was her life.”
Officials from the Texas Attorney General’s Office made many statements regarding the progress they made but stopped short of releasing the details of how they found Holly, how she survived the murder or how she came to be adopted.
As part of their announcement regarding the discovery of Holly, Ken Paxton of the Texas attorney general’s office said, “I am extremely proud of the exceptional work done by my office’s newly formed Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit. My office diligently worked across state lines to uncover the mystery surrounding Holly’s disappearance. We were successful in our efforts to locate her and reunite her with her biological family.”
The two genetic genealogists who first worked on the case and helped make the breakthrough say they cannot believe how much Holly looks like her mother.
“I cried during the whole thing,” Misty Gillis, the Identifinders contractor who worked on the case last year, told The Houston Chronicle. “It was extremely surreal,” added Allison Peacock, who worked with Ms. Gillis before starting her own genetic genealogy investigations company.
“I found out like 10 minutes after they talked to her,” Ms. Peacock told The Independent, adding that investigators sat down at the woman’s place of employment and “texted me a picture of her and said, ‘Look who we found.’”
She says the long-lost Baby Holly “reacted in such a way that, six hours after being met by these detectives in her place of employment, we were on a video conference hosted by the attorney general’s office with about 25 of her family members and detectives and both genealogists – and she was just open to it.”
Her genetic research company, based in Austin, was subcontracted last year to a California-based company called Identifinders International. There, another genealogist, Misty Gillis, became interested in a decades-old John and Jane Doe case.
“We would sometimes let the genealogists go out and find a case they saw on the internet that they liked, like a John Doe or a case that was unsolved,” Ms. Peacock tells The Independent. “Most of the time, we take cases that walk in the door, but we get our pet cases.
“Somebody said, ‘Let’s do this man and wife; it might be a couple.’ So we reached out to [ Texas authorities] and asked if they had DNA on hand for this couple, and they did, and then we were lucky enough to get a grant.”
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children thanked law enforcement for its work in solving the mystery of Holly’s identity.
“We know that with advancements in technology and the hard work and dedication of law enforcement, we can get answers, even after four decades,” said John Bischoff, vice president of the Missing Children Division at NCMEC.
“We are thrilled that Holly will now have the chance to connect with her biological family who has been searching for her for so long. We hope that this is a source of encouragement for other families who have missing loved ones and reminds us all to never give up.
“NCMEC applauds the collaborative effort of the Texas Attorney General’s Office Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit, the Lewisville Police Department, and all the assisting agencies who came together to make today’s news possible.”
Kurt Dillon reporting – Because the Truth Matters!
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