HOUSTON – Texas has its share of homicide cases that have gone cold.
While some have heated up and been solved when people come forward or evidence is retested, other cases remain on the books without answers for families whose loved ones were lost.
KPRC 2 is looking back at both the solved and unsolved cases featured by the Texas Department of Public Safety to acknowledge the ability to solve cold cases and perhaps seek justice in cases that remain cold.
READ MORE Inside Texas Cold Cases:
For 15 years, a murdered man’s sister ran an advertisement in her local Texas paper, seeking any information that would help figure out who gunned down the successful construction worker in his home with his own .22 Ruger pistol.
The family had its ideas about Raymond Litchfield’s wife, Margaret, but she appeared to have a solid alibi, her story was consistent, and there was no apparent motive.
Year after year, the advertisement reportedly appeared in the paper. Nothing.
The case went cold.
Raymond “Red” Litchfield was found dead on the kitchen floor of his home on January 29, 1999. He had taken three bullets from a small caliber weapon.
Authorities noted from the blood trail and other bullet holes that the shooting began in the bedroom and, as he tried to escape the shooter, he moved down a hallway and then into the kitchen where he died.
EMTs reportedly noted that Raymond Litchfield’s body was “hard as a rock” and that it was in full rigor when authorities were called to the home.
Margaret Litchfield, Raymond’s wife, was the 911 caller. She told authorities that she had seen Raymond alive that morning when she left him to work and run errands. He was home that day because it was raining, and he couldn’t work outside doing construction. Margaret had come home around 2 p.m. after she’d run several errands and cleaned houses around town. Several witnesses backed up her account of where she’d been throughout the day – a local coffee shop, the grocery store. She even had a timestamp from when she got her vehicle registration renewed that day.
She also told law enforcement -- the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office, along with several Texas Rangers that arrived to process the scene -- that she didn’t know anyone who harbored resentment against her husband, that they got along well and that they were doing well financially. She’d also said there was no life insurance policy on him.
No one had tried to force their way into the home, authorities determined, and nothing was missing from the house except for Raymond Litchfield’s .22 Ruger pistol. The gun, which had been kept in Raymond’s bedside table, was never found.
Raymond Litchfield died at least six hours before he was found, an autopsy determined, but as Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd noted in his rundown of the case, at that time, no expert was enlisted to help establish time of death.
Law enforcement did have their suspicions about Margaret at the time. After interviewing family, friends, bank employees and employees of Raymond Litchfield’s business, no one knew of anyone who would want to hurt him. A bank employee, however, said the day before Litchfield was found dead, Margaret had called to reschedule a financing meeting about a boat so she could tell him about a credit card debt that could potentially affect his financing options for the large purchase.
No other leads were developed. Time passed. The killer was free.
Year after year Faye Litchfield Powell’s ad ran in the newspaper. Her family still suspected that Margaret had something to do with Raymond’s death.
Faye’s husband, James Powell, approached Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd about the case in 2012. Boyd pulled the case and started seeing issues with Margaret’s account.
“Upon initial review, I had the same concerns as the family: that Margaret either knew more about or was more involved in her husband’s death than she initially represented,” Boyd wrote. “The facts surrounding the shooting itself caused me to believe that the murderer would have to know intimate, personal information about Red the day he was killed.”
Boyd also recalled that Margaret’s story changed in “significant” ways since her telling in 1999.
“In 1999, she claimed the last time she saw him, he was returning to bed and that she leaned over and kissed him goodbye, telling him, ‘See you later, lazy bones.’ However, in her testimony to the grand jury in 2013, she claimed that the last time she saw him alive, Red was naked and smoking pot at the kitchen counter. This was a serious deviation in her story, even with 15 years passing since the murder,” Boyd wrote. “We also gathered information about Margaret’s whereabouts that day that suggested she had intentionally traveled to and stopped at locations throughout the area to create her alibi. Additionally, we determined that the Litchfields’ financial condition was not as robust as Margaret told investigators in 1999. The payout of a life insurance policy, which Margaret had initially lied about to the original investigators, had a significant impact on the investigation.”
In April 2015, Margaret Litchfield was indicted, arrested, and charged in the murder of her husband.
Dr. Kendall Crowns, a medical examiner from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, looked at the case and determined Litchfield had died “anywhere from six to 18 hours before his body was found, but in his opinion more likely around the 12-hour mark,” according to Boyd’s writing about the case.
“That meant that Margaret would have been in the house when Red was killed,” Boyd wrote.
It’s been said, to follow the story, follow the money. Law enforcement went back to the money, and it turned out to be the key to the case.
Margaret Litchfield apparently killed her husband over the debts. As the Dallas News put it, “Texas jury convicts woman who killed husband rather than explain $8,000 credit card bill.”
The bank clerk who spoke with Margaret reportedly testified that she had been erratic on the phone, calling to frantically change the appointment with the bank. She had also received money from several insurance policies -- one amounting to $30,000 -- in the wake of her husband’s death.
Boyd noted that the jury took three hours for deliberations before returning a guilty verdict. In October 2016, Margaret Litchfield was sentenced to 60 years in prison. She is now behind bars. Her projected release date is October 5, 2076.
This case was the subject of an episode of “Snapped” on Oxygen Network. A great preview and tidbits from the case are below from YouTube.
“Looking back on how we approached this 17-year-old murder case, I realize how important it is to give certain cases a second and third look,” Boyd wrote in his report on the case. “Re-evaluating information (and then testing that information against its original source) and enlisting help from the law enforcement community on how that information has changed can make an old or cold case take a drastic turn. In this case, our re-evaluation of what led up to the murder of Red Litchfield ultimately led to closure for his family and justice for our community.”
What do you think about this cold case? Should it have been solved sooner? Let us know what you think in the comments.