May 27, 2024

A serial killer said he killed a woman in Texas. Four decades later her remains have been identified.

More than four decades since law enforcement found the remains of a young woman on the side of a Texas highway, her remains have been identified, Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office announced at a news conference on Thursday. 

The woman was found in Elgin, Texas, when law enforcement was driving by. She was wearing a white shirt with red neck trim and dark blue jeans, according to DNA Solves, which helps crowdfund identification investigations. 

Her name was Kathy Ann Smith. She was just 22 years old, almost 23, at the time of her murder, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators at the time had no leads on who she was or who killed her. 

In 1984, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas –who confessed to killing hundreds of people, although only three were confirmed– claimed responsibility for Smith’s death.  But local officials still didn’t know the identity of the woman they had found. 

Lucas recanted some of his confessions, but didn’t recant this particular case, the sheriff said at the news conference. “I know Henry Lee was capable of committing murder,” said Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook, but couldn’t definitely say he was responsible for this particular crime. However, Lucas was listed in the investigation files, and still remains the only suspect, the sheriff said.

The grave was exhumed in 2019 to collect DNA samples after Sergeant James Miller began examining the case, the sheriff’s office said. There was not enough information to produce a DNA profile at that time. In 2022, another exhumation was conducted, the sheriff’s office said, and enough DNA existed for a lab to identify the remains through forensic genealogy.

The lab built a profile and provided law enforcement with a name in April 2023. “The problem was she was adopted,” Cook said at the news conference. Law enforcement had to get court permission to get access to the adopted family’s information so they could notify both families of what happened to the victim, before they notified the public.

The sheriff’s office worked the case “to give closure to the family,” they said.

Last week would have been Smith’s 67th birthday, the sheriff’s office. Smith left behind a daughter, who asked not to be identified, the sheriff’s office said.  “The daughter now knows what happened to her mother,” Cook said. 

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