Dozens of bodies in Houston bayous: Who are they and how did they die?

By Cathy Tatom - Investigative Producer, Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Screaming, thumping and cries for help -- those were the gut-wrenching sounds neighbors claim they heard from the apartment of 58-year old Rebecca Suhrheinrich shortly before her dismembered body was found in Greens Bayou last July. In the days before and after that gruesome discovery, other bodies were found in the muddy waters of three more Harris County bayous.

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An undated photo of Rebecca Suhrheinrich.

Was it a coincidence or perhaps something more sinister? We wanted to know who these people were and how they came to die in or near the murky waters of Brays, Sims, Greens and White Oak bayous.

Channel 2 Investigates identified at least 40 people who have lost their lives in or around Harris County bayous since 2015. The map below lets you see when and where they were found. In a few cases, we couldn’t place a person because their autopsy only said, “found in a bayou,” not which one or where along it.

MAP OF BODIES FOUND IN HOUSTON BAYOUS

Six deaths including Suhrheinrich’s are subjects of criminal investigations. Autopsies list the rest as accidental drownings, suicides or undetermined. Autopsies and law enforcement records helped us put names and faces to many victims.

PHOTOS: Deaths in Houston bayous

Family members also helped us get to know the victims in a few cases by sharing photos and information about their loved ones.

Mike Edwards was a carpenter and a University of Texas business graduate. He died at the age of 59 in Brays Bayou in early February 2018.

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He’s one of at least eight people who died along a stretch of Brays Bayou that zigzags from MacGregor Park east to past I-45. It’s in the same area where Channel 2 Investigator Joel Eisenbaum discovered a graveyard for vehicles in 2015.

READ: Joint effort will recover more cars from Houston bayous

Mike’s brother Gary Edwards vividly remembers the day his brother died. He told Channel 2 Investigates he got a call from his brother's roommates saying Mike hadn't been seen since he left for his morning walk. Gary told us Mike liked taking walks by the bayou. "Mike had some physical and mental problems. It was almost like he was developing Parkinson's because he would shake real bad and he found, if he took walks, it would help him out."

After hearing his brother had not returned home, Gary got in his car and went looking for Mike. As evening fell, his son and police called to tell him Mike's body had been found in the water.

"I was pretty much devastated. We think he either tripped or he slipped or somehow lost his balance and fell into the bayou," Gary said.

Gary said he will always remember his brother for his quirky sense of humor, strong opinions and their annual fun dreaming up and making Halloween decorations. "We loved doing Halloween big. My kids got old, too old to go trick-or-treating. He, my son and I said, 'Let's do something to scare the kids when they come for Halloween.' So Mike and I would start about August. We'd start figuring what we were going to do, what we needed to do, how to put it all together. And then the month of October was spent usually putting up Halloween decorations."

This year, Gary decided not to put up Halloween decorations. It just would not have been the same without Mike.

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In 2017, 24-year old Colby Osorno was swept away and drowned in the rain-swollen, fast-moving waters of Greens Bayou while out to visit friends after Hurricane Harvey. His mother, Gloria Deanda-Osorno, told Channel 2 Investigates she still struggles every day to make sense of his loss. She said she and Colby were very close. She fondly remembers her 6-foot-4 son's passion for playing basketball at Memorial High School. She said she hopes one day to meet other families who lost loved ones during Hurricane Harvey. She believes it may help them all cope a little better with such unimaginable deaths.

In 2016, Vincent "Vinny" Stolese was just 18 years old. His autopsy only says his body was found in a bayou. His mother, Donna Becklin, of New Orleans, told Channel 2 Investigates she isn't sure which bayou her son was found in, but thinks there was a refinery in the area. What she does recall is her son had recently graduated high school. She proudly remembers him in his uniform as a Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge cadet recruited by several branches of the military.

"He went to a party and fell in with a bad crowd that got him to run drugs between New Orleans and Houston," she said.

Becklin believes Vinny had a falling out with two men who drugged him and then tossed his body into a bayou in Harris County. She doesn't know if he was dead or alive when he went into the water. Instead of dwelling on how her son died, she prefers to remember one of their favorite trips together. They went to a Coast Guard station, where he got to sit in a helicopter and dream about what, at the time, appeared to be his bright future.

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Luke Lubrano, 40, died in Buffalo Bayou in July 2015. His cause of his death is listed as unknown. Channel 2 Investigates spoke with his father, Frank Lubrano, who lives in Rhode Island. He hopes people hearing about deaths in bayous raises awareness that these people had lives. He said Luke was the middle child of three children he adopted and raised.

"Luke always had problems, including drug and alcohol addiction," he said. "He was in and out of prison and rehab facilities."

At the time of Luke's death, Frank said Luke was homeless in Houston, but living among others like himself. He then remembered that Luke had called shortly before his death asking for a copy of his birth certificate. Frank mailed it, but didn't hear anything else about his son until he got a call from the Houston Police Department telling him Luke had drowned in Buffalo Bayou. He questions how it happened, saying his son was a good swimmer.

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In April 2015, 22-year-old Ashton McNeese was excited to be starting a new job as an industrial radiographer. His parents told Channel 2 Investigates that, the night before his new job was to start, he went out with friends to celebrate. At some time during the festivities, he decided to jump into Buffalo Bayou. He accidentally hit his head and drowned in the fast-moving water. Ashton's parents remember their son as adventurous, outgoing and always willing and excited to try something new.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find photos or relatives to tell us more about the rest of the victims:

  • - Juan Ramirez, 31, undetermined, bayou not named, date of death May 2, 2015.
  • - Anh Nguyen, 50, accident/drowning, Brays Bayou, date of death May 26, 2015.
  • - Jerusha Villarreal, 9, accident/drowning, White Oak Bayou, date of death Aug. 11, 2015.
  • - Jason Boyal, 36, accident/drowning, bayou not named, date of death Sept. 14, 2015.
  • - Osniel Venegas Sanchez, 25, accident/drowning, bayou not named, date of death Sept. 24, 2015.
  • - Roy Turner, 65, undetermined, Brays Bayou, Jan. 4, 2016.
  • - George Dawkins, 61, undetermined, bayou not named, date of death Jan. 22, 2016.
  • - Julio Santillana, 44, undetermined, Sims Bayou, date of death April 20, 2016.
  • - Joseph Robicheax, 22, car accident/drowning, Buffalo Bayou, death date May 15, 2016.
  • - Francisco Hernandez, 40, undetermined, Brays Bayou, date of death Sept. 11, 2016.
  • - Jeremy Niesen, 48, accident/multiple blunt force injuries, bayou not named, date of death April 24, 2017.
  • - Saw Htet, 26, Brays Bayou, undetermined, date of death Aug. 10, 2017.
  • - Glenn Davis, 51, accident/drowning, Brays Bayou, date of death Sept. 24, 2017.
  • - Curtis Edwards, 55, accident/drowning, Brays Bayou, date of death Oct. 11, 2017.
  • - Mario Steven, 58, accident/drowning, Greens Bayou, date of death Oct. 17, 2017.
  • - Marvin Herrera Larias, 22, accident/drowning, bayou not named, date of death Dec. 24, 2017.
  • - Victim listed as "unknown," undetermined, Sims Bayou, date of death Dec. 29, 2017.
  • - Ricky Smitt, 57, undetermined, bayou not named, date of death June 19, 2018.
  • - Gary Kersh, 54, accident/drowning Brays Bayou, date of death July 22, 2018.

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