HOUSTON - At first glance, the shoreline of Lake Houston looks like most inland lakes in Southeast Texas: it’s a place for fishing, boating and swimming.
More than 100 miles away, in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, is Calcasieu Lake, a place that looks quite similar.
The lakes have something in common.
More than a year ago, in March 2018, roughly three weeks apart, two grisly discoveries were made: the severed heads of two women.
“The cases have some similarities to them. (We're) not ruling out that they are similar, not ruling out that they have nothing to do with each other either,” said Houston Police Homicide Detective A. Barr.
What makes the cases similar?
Investigators said both victims had auburn hair and both of their heads were found in a plastic bag in close proximity to a lake. Both are thought to be within the same age range.
In Louisiana, the LSU Faces Lab used the remains to create an image of the victim. Sketch artist Lois Gibson used photos of the head found near Lake Houston to create a sketch.
“Finding the identity of the person has been more of a struggle than anything else,” Barr said.
Late last month, a new rendering was released by the Texas Department of Public Safety after the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences developed an anthropological profile using the skull.
Dr. Lee Ann Grossberg is a forensic pathologist who is not involved in these cases but said the work she does often uncovers clues that are extremely useful to police.
“In this particular case, you would probably want to look for whether the person was strangled or not, which might be very difficult but there are some findings in the eyes and face that you could look for,” Grossberg said.
Homicide detectives from the two law enforcement agencies have met face-to-face to compare notes and are keeping one another updated on their findings.
“Looking for similarities, looking for differences and trying not to get tunnel vision that these two are strictly related,” Barr said.
More than a year after their investigations began, they still don’t know who the women are or who killed them.
Houston police investigators have chased down and eliminated nearly 80 leads.
“As we run down leads, we eliminate more people,” Barr said. “We've gotten tips from all over the country.”
One tip came from as far away as England. About a month ago, the well all but dried up. But since the new sketch was released at the end of April, Houston detectives are getting about two to three tips a day.
“It's a person that somebody is missing somewhere. It's a person's mother or a person's sister or wife,” Barr said.
If DNA from the head is put into a national database the FBI uses and there’s a hit, HPD homicide detectives said they’d be able to identify the mystery woman that way. They are waiting on local forensic examiners to take that next step.
Anyone with information that could help investigators is urged to call Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
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