The missing daughter of two newlyweds who were murdered and dumped in the Texas woods more than 40 years ago has been left in an Arizona church by members of a religious cult.
Holly Marie Clouse, then a child, was left at the church in the early 1980s by two barefoot women in white dresses.
They identified themselves as members of a “nomadic religious group” who practiced gender separation, vegetarianism and did not believe in the use or wearing of leather.
The women claimed to have already abandoned another baby in a laundromat.
His biological parents, Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Clouse, had disappeared in the late 1980s during a move from Florida to Texas.
The newlyweds were found dead in a wooded area of Houston on January 12, 1981. However, their identities remained unknown until last year when DNA linked the couple to family members in Kentucky.
Holly, now 42, was raised by a family not considered suspect in the murder of her biological parents, the Texas attorney general’s office revealed Thursday. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her five children.
holly and his birth family first met earlier this week via the internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is hosting an in-person meeting in the near future.
Holly Marie Clouse (pictured as a baby) was a baby when her parents Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Clouse disappeared in late 1980 while moving from Florida to Texas.
Now, over four decades later, Holly (pictured) has been reconnected with her biological extended family
Harold and Tina’s family was contacted by an alleged member of the religious cult, who went by the name of Sister Susan, in late December 1980 or January 1981.
The woman told the family that Harold, 21, and Tina, 17, had joined their church group and no longer wanted to have contact with their loved ones. She also claimed that the couple were giving up all of their possessions.
Sister Susan, who claimed to be calling from Los Angeles, California, demanded money in exchange for returning the vehicle to Florida, where the family lived.
They agreed to meet the woman at the Daytona racetrack in early January and alerted authorities to the arrangement.
The family described interacting with two to three women, and possibly a man, during the encounter. The individuals were wearing dresses and appeared to be members of the same group that dropped Holly off at the church.
The group returned the car, which belonged to Harold’s mother, and Florida police reportedly arrested them, but the Texas AG office says they have yet to find any record of the incident.
Harold and Tina were last heard from by their family in October 1980 while living in Lewisville, Texas.
They were murdered between December 1980 and early January 1981. Harold had been beaten, bound and gagged, while Tina had been strangled.
Their bodies were found by dogs off Wallisville Road in Houston between January 6 and January 11. They remained unidentified until last year when family DNA linked the couple to the bodies.
No arrests have ever been made in connection with the Harold and Tina murders and the investigation into their deaths is still ongoing.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit.
“We wish Holly the best. We’re grateful to have found her, but we need to continue our investigation to find out who killed them,’ First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster said at a press conference on Thursday.
Harold Dean Clouse, 21, and Tina Gail (Linn) Clouse, 17 (pictured with their one-year-old daughter Holly Marie) were found dead in a wooded area in Houston, Texas in January 1981 – at the time. , their identities were unknown
Their bodies were found by dogs two months later off Wallisville Road in Houston. Harold had been beaten, bound and gagged, while Tina had been strangled. The area where their remains were found is pictured in February 2022
Police showed up at Holly’s Oklahoma workplace on Tuesday, on what would have been Harold’s 63rd birthday.
Authorities connected her with her biological relatives and the extended family spoke online for the first time.
“It’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever been involved in,” said Det. Steve Wheeler of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office told KHOU. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to play even a small part in reuniting a family after 40 years.”
It’s unclear whether she was told the identity of her biological parents until Tuesday, as officials have yet to reveal how they identified Holly.
Investigators from Texas’ new Cold Case and Missing Persons unit have begun searching for Holly after authorities confirmed Harold and Tina’s identities earlier this year.
The Hope for Holly Project has spanned across state lines with law enforcement officials in Texas, Florida and Arizona working to find Harold and Tina’s missing baby.
Meanwhile, Holly’s extended family said finding her was an answered prayer.
“Finding Holly has been a birthday present from heaven since we found her on Junior’s birthday. I have prayed for over 40 years for answers and the Lord has revealed some of them. .we found Holly,” said her grandmother, Donna Casasanta.
“Thank you to all of the investigators for working so hard to find Holly. I prayed for them day in and day out that they find Holly and that she is okay. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will always be grateful.”
The Texas Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit began searching for Holly (pictured as a baby) after authorities confirmed Harold and Tina’s identities earlier this year.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released an ‘age progression’ photo earlier this year, projecting what Holly might look like as an adult
Harris County forensic artist Mary Mize drew pastel reconstructions of the couple after their bodies were discovered in 1981, but no one has been able to identify the couple because they had not moved only recently in Houston.
The Clouses’ bodies were exhumed in July 2011 to verify if the couple were related.
But a major break came in the 40-year-old case in 2021, when medical examiners Misty Gillis and Allison Peacock of FHD Forensics were contacted by Indentifinders International and handed over the baffling puzzle.
The team inserted new information into GEDmatch.com and were able to match Harold Clouse’s DNA with his Kentucky cousins.
Investigators contacted Harold’s sister, Debbie Brooks, and eventually identified the bodies as Harold and Tina.
Brooks then asked the team if they had found the baby, but the scientists were unaware that Holly even existed. The discrepancy triggered the renewed search for the child.
Harris County forensic artist Mary Mize drew pastel reconstructions of Harold (left, as a youth) and Tina (right, as a youth) Clouse in January 1981 after their bodies were discovered , but no one could identify the couple as they had only recently moved to Houston
Officials have yet to reveal how they identified Oklahoma mother of five as missing Holly Marie Clouse (pictured in infancy)
“The very first thing that came to mind when we heard that Holly had been found was the call I got eight months ago from [Peacock] about my sister’s death,’ Les Linn, Holly’s uncle, said after police found his missing niece.
“The juxtaposition of that call with suddenly finding Holly came to mind. To go from hoping to find her to suddenly meeting her less than 8 months later – isn’t that miraculous?
“It’s such a blessing to be reassured that she’s fine and had a great life. The whole family slept well that night. The Hope for Holly project was a success thanks to Mindy and her team,’ echoed her aunt, Cheryl Clouse.
Holly’s extended family (pictured in February at the site where Harold and Tina’s bodies were found) said finding her was a ‘godsend’