A man previously put to death by the state of Texas has been implicated in a cold case murder several decades past.
Lesia Michell Jackson was just 12 years old when she was last seen alive after leaving a neighborhood swimming pool near Farm-to-Market Road 1485 in Montgomery County, Texas on Sept. 7, 1979. The disappearance was quickly reported to local law enforcement by her parents, and a search ensued. Despite what authorities termed “extensive” efforts to locate the missing girl, only Jackson’s glasses turned up by the next day, having been found “at an area intersection.”
Nearly a week later, on Sept. 13, 1979, an oilfield worker found the girl’s body in a densely wooded area along a pipeline on Exxon Road near Conroe, Texas, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
An autopsy showed that Jackson had been raped and murdered, setting off an MCSO investigation said to have lasted for several years. Despite multiple leads, the case eventually went cold.
In 2005, the MCSO created a Cold Case Homicide Squad and set fresh eyes on the Jackson case. But it would still be well over a decade before the renewed investigation took a truly promising turn.
In 2021, the department utilized a new forensic technology known as “M-Vac” to retrieve samples believed to have been left on the girl’s clothes. The process worked, and DNA samples were obtained. In 2022, scientists working with the Texas Department of Public Safety constructed an unknown male DNA profile from those samples.
That profile was then uploaded into the FBI’s vaunted Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which has proven highly effective in helping local law enforcement agencies with cold cases in recent years.
A CODIS match turned up the name of Gerald Dewight Casey, who was killed by lethal injection in a Lone Star State prison in 2002. The investigation continued, however, and a blood sample from the long-dead convict turned up an exact match with the DNA obtained from Jackson’s clothing.
“This complex and detailed investigation spanning 43 years is the oldest Cold Case Homicide investigated and solved by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office,” the department said in a press release. “The tenacity and diligence in solving this case by a dedicated team is a reminder to our public and to those who commit crimes in our communities that we will never cease our efforts to solve the hardest of cases and bring closure to traumatized families. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will continue to explore future advances in technology that can assist us in solving other cases currently under investigation.”
According to the Texas Execution Information Center, Casey was 47 years old when he died behind bars. He was convicted in 1991 for a murder committed in 1989 during an effort to raise money for a trip to Florida.
During a convoluted series of events, the since-condemned man and an accomplice first attempted to sell a man furniture and a TV. After the intended buyer balked, the two conspired to steal the other man’s gun collection and then resell those firearms. In the plot that came about and eventually went horribly awry, the gun owner’s roommate, Sonya Lynn Howell, was beaten with a telephone and then repeatedly shot and killed.
[images via Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office]
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