A gruesome murder nearly 25 years ago turned into a cold case for investigators. As time marched on, records and knowledge were lost.
Twenty-four years, later Kilgore police have a suspect whoâs proving difficult to track down.
By most accounts, thereâs only one person outside law enforcementÂ left in Kilgore who really cares about solving the 1990 murder of Joy Burns.
âBeen on there a long time,â Jim Brinkley said asÂ he pointed out a bullet hole in the back of the liquor store he owns and once rented to Burns.
âJoy was a very nice lady,â Brinkley said.Â âShe was frail, small in frame. Give you the shirt off her back.â
Burns ran the store herself until one day when the wrong customer pulled up outside.
âThis guy walked in that door that day and ordered a six-pack of beer,â Brinkley said.Â âShe got the beer for him, put it in the sack. He gave her a ten dollar bill. She rang it up and when she did, he started around the counter.â
BurnsÂ grabbed theÂ handgun she kept for protection but the man got it out of her hands and she ran to the back of the store.
âShe came back here, got a butcher knife and came back out,â Brinkley said.Â âShe was laying right here on this mat. So she probably got, probably got right here when he shot her. Because she fell backward on that mat.â
It was Brinkley who asked Kilgore P.D. to re-open the case after all these years.
Criminal Investigations Supervisor Trae Portwood holds the caseÂ file, which had to be re-built because records from before the age of computers were missing.
But the evidence was preserved.
âWe do have a sample thatâs possibly consistent for DNA,â Portwood said.
Genetic testing has come a long way since 1990.
Where the original investigators believed they had nothing to go on, new techniques have uncovered what could be the killerâs DNA. Itâs even been put into the national database but no matches have been found.
âThen I realized itâs somebody thatâs actually been looked at back in 1991,â Portwood said.
Even with a temporaryÂ DNA dead-end, Portwood thinks the answer has been staring everyone in the face from the beginning.
âThey were not able to ever definitively tie him to the offense,â Portwood said.
He wouldnât say who the original suspect was, partially because finding himÂ will beÂ both incredibly simple and unusually hard.
âThe suspect has actually been deceased since 1991,â Portwood said.
With the likely killer six feet under, Portwood said he doesnât have the probable cause to exhume the body. So now heâs looking for the dead manâs relatives,Â aÂ DNA sample from them will matchÂ DNA from all those years ago and prove â whoever he is â that he killedÂ Burns.
âThat was useless. Senseless,â Brinkley said.Â âBecause he could have grabbed the beer and run out the door with it and she wouldnât have chased him.â
Maybe then Brinkley will be able to get some rest.
âThe only thing he got out of this store was the gun he shot her with,â he said.Â âThe ten dollar bill was still laying cross-ways in the drawer.â
If you remember anything about the murder of Joy Burns at the Rose Package Store in 1990, call Kilgore PoliceÂ at 903-983-1559.