TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Holly Marie Clouse, who went missing as a baby after her parents were killed in Texas, has been found alive more than 40 years later, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in a press release.
The Houston Chronicle reports Holly Marie and her parents, Harold Dean Clouse, 21, and Tina Gail Clouse, 17, vanished abruptly in 1980. The couple had just moved to Lewisville, Texas from Volusia County, Florida so Harold could pursue carpentry work. Their daughter was born in Texas, according to KHOU.
In 1981, a dog discovered the couples’ remains in a wooded area of Harris County. Investigators now believe they were killed sometime between December 1980 or early January 1981.
The couple died violently, according to the newspaper. Authorities said Harold Clouse had been beaten, bound and gagged. Tina Clouse had been strangled. There was no sign of a baby, and the couples’ identities couldn’t be determined.
The Clouse’s bodies were exhumed in 2011. Then in 2021, they were identified with new DNA technology.
As of this writing, no arrests have been made in their deaths.
This week, authorities announced they found the Clouses’ daughter. They said Holly Marie, now 42, is alive and well, and living in Oklahoma. Investigators visited her at her workplace on Tuesday, her father’s birthday, and informed her of the case. Hours later, she met her family on a Zoom call, the Chronicle reported. Authorities said she’ll be meeting with her biological family soon.
During a Thursday press conference, Texas First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster outlined what investigators had determined so far in the case.
Webster said Baby Holly was dropped off at an Arizona church by two women, but he didn’t say when. The women were described as barefoot and wearing white robes. They claimed to be a part of a nomadic religious group that believed in separating male and female members, practicing vegetarian habits, and not using or wearing leather goods.
These women indicated they had given up a baby before at a laundromat. Investigators believe this nomadic religious group traveled around the southwestern U.S., including California, Arizona, and possibly Texas. Sightings of this unidentified group were reported around Yuma, Arizona, in the early 1980s, and some of its women would be seen around town asking for food.
In December 1980 or early January 1981, a woman who called herself “Sister Susan” contacted the families of Tina and Harold Clouse. She told them she was calling from Los Angeles and wanted to return the couple’s car to the family.
According to Webster, Sister Susan explained Tina and Harold had joined the religious group and no longer wanted to be in contact with their families. They wanted to give up their possessions, and Sister Susan asked for money in return for the couple’s car, which she would bring to Florida.
The family agreed to the meeting and notified local law enforcement. When they arrived at the meeting spot – the Daytona race track in Daytona Beach – the family says they encountered two to three women, and possibly a man, again in robes.
“The police reportedly took the women into custody, but there is no record of a police report on file that has been found as of yet,” authorities said Thursday. “Given the age of this case, that is common. We’re still on the hunt for that police report.”
The car the women brought to Florida did belong to Harold’s mother and is described as a 1978 two-door red burgundy AMC Concord.
The family that raised Holly are not suspects in this case, officials confirmed.
“Finding Holly is a birthday present from heaven since we found her on Junior’s birthday,” her grandmother, Donna Casasanta said, in a statement released by a family spokeswoman. “I prayed for more than 40 years for answers and the Lord has revealed some of it.”
“I believe Tina is finally resting in peace knowing Holly is reuniting with her family,” Sherry Green, Holly’s aunt said, according to KHOU.
Holly has five children and two infant grandchildren, according to the Chronicle.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida worked with Texas authorities and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help reunite the family.
“It’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever been a part of,” Det. Steve Wheeler of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing to play even a small part in reuniting a family after 40 years.”
Because the investigation into the murders of Tina and Dean Clouse is ongoing, few additional details were released Thursday. Authorities are asking those with more information about the case to contact Sgt. Rachel Kading at the Texas Office of the Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-936-0742.
The cold case and missing persons investigation was done in collaboration with the Texas Attorney General’s Office Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit, the Lewisville Police Department, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the release said.