HOUSTON – It was just before dusk in January 1981 when a college student’s German shepherd emerged from the woods with a curious object in her mouth.
The find – a partially decomposed human arm from the elbow to the fingertips – led police to the remains of a young couple who had been tied up and killed in a dense woodland on the outskirts of Houston.
For 40 years, the victims were nameless – until late 2021, when a team of genetic genealogists identified the pair as Dean and Tina Clouse, a young married couple who had moved from Florida to Texas for work.
However, the revelation only deepened the mystery: Where was the couple’s 10-month-old baby, who would be 42 years old if alive today?
“I was shocked to learn they had a baby,” said Allison Peacock, one of the two genetic genealogists who worked on the case. “It hit me hard – just all of the implications of what that must mean.”
Harold “Dean” Clouse Jr. and Tina Clouse, pictured here in New Smyrna, Florida, before they left for Texas in 1980. (Clouse family)
A new Fox News podcast, “What About Holly?” hosted by Cristina Corbin, delves into the mystery of the unsolved murders as well as the disappearance of the couple’s child, revealing stunning new details about the case. The nine-part series, produced by Fox News’ Investigative Unit, also features an exclusive interview with a member of a nomadic religious group – identified as “Sister Susan” – whom investigators questioned in connection with the case.
Sister Susan, who spoke with Fox News on condition of anonymity, said the Christ Family – a nomadic religious group that rose to prominence in the 1970s – had no involvement in the murders of Dean and Tina Clouse, who are believed to have joined the group in 1981.
“We lived a life of non-violence,” said Susan, who has not been named a suspect in the case or implicated by investigators in any wrongdoing.
“For people to accuse us of being a part of their murder, that’s not real. That’s not true at all,” she said.
‘A Terrible, Terrible Feeling’
Harold “Dean” Clouse Jr., 21, and Tina Gail Linn, 17, left the sleepy beach town of New Smyrna, Florida, in 1980 with their infant daughter, Holly Marie, in tow. The couple first stayed with family in Baltimore before driving to Lewisville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where Dean was said to have a job offer with the construction company, D.R. Horton.
“I had this terrible, terrible feeling that I’d never see him again,” said Dean’s mother, Donna Casasanta. “Something kept telling me, ‘Jump in your car and go get them.’ I would give anything now if I had listened to my inner self.”
In October 1980, Tina sent a letter to Casasanta with photos of Holly standing upright and pushing her walker. The letter was the last time the family heard from the couple. About three months later, Casasanta said she received a strange phone call from an unknown man informing her that the red AMC Concord she had loaned her son had been found abandoned in a suburb of Los Angeles.
Three women in white robes later returned the car to her, according to Casasanta. She said a woman identified as “Sister Susan” told her that Dean had “joined a group” and was cutting off contact with his family.
“She said, ‘You can’t talk to your son. He can’t talk to you. He’s joined this group, he has to give everything up that belongs to him,’” Casasanta recalled.
Sister Susan, for her part, denied that an exchange between her and Casasanta took place.
Ten-month-old Holly Marie Clouse is pictured here pushing a walker in late 1980. (Clouse family)
Bodies in the Woods
On Jan. 12, 1981, the badly decomposed remains of two people turned up in woods along Wallisville Road on the outskirts of Houston, some 265 miles from the Clouse’s last known address in Lewisville. Investigators were unable to identify the remains of the woman, who had been strangled, and the man, who had been beaten to death. A bloody towel and a pair of green gym shorts were found at the scene.
“They were ruled homicides, we just didn’t know who they were,” said Lt. Robert Minchew of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “The original investigator at the scene really didn’t have a lot to go on, so she couldn’t talk to their family, friends or workplace or anything like that.”
He continued, “They were listed in our system as ‘Jane Doe 701’ and ‘John Doe 703.’”
In 2011, forensic anthropologists exhumed their remains as part of a project to identify unknown murder victims. However, the couple – nicknamed “Romeo and Juliet” – remained anonymous until a team of genetic genealogists in October 2021 was able to identify the pair as Dean and Tina Clouse, as first reported by the Houston Chronicle.
The Texas attorney general’s newly-formed cold case unit launched an investigation into the Clouse murders and whereabouts of their daughter in January 2022. Six months later, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster announced at a news conference that investigators located Holly alive and well in Oklahoma. Webster told reporters that two women, who were part of a “nomadic religious group,” dropped Holly off at a church in Yuma, Arizona, in late 1980. The child was raised by a pastor, who is not considered a suspect, Webster said. Still, the announcement prompted new questions: Who were the women? To what group did they belong? Did they have any involvement in the Clouse murders?
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has not named any suspects in connection with the crime. In an interview with Fox News, Mindy Montford, a senior counsel of the Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, confirmed that the Christ Family was one of several groups investigators were focusing on – noting that there were many nomadic religious groups active in the U.S. at that time.
“They didn’t condone any sort of violence,” Montford said of the groups. “And so at this point, we are looking into these groups only because we believe that – just as in any case – you want to talk to the last people that your victims were seen with or associated with.”
For the families of Dean and Tina Clouse, meanwhile, the news of their brutal deaths and the unexpected reunion with Holly 40 years after the crime has been bittersweet.
“The miracle itself has been performed in finding Holly, and we are elated at that,” said Tina’s brother, Les Linn.
“But, we want justice for Dean and Tina,” he said, “and something’s going to break. It’s coming. I have a good belief in that.”