Baby Holly’s biological aunt has revealed their ‘miraculous’ reunion 40 years after her parents were murdered in the woods and she was abducted by a cult then abandoned at a church.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Cheryl Clouse also revealed how her brother – Holly’s father – joined a Christian cult as a teenager but left after two weeks and returned home ‘barefoot’ and in a robe.
Holly is the daughter of Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Linn, a married teenage couple who vanished in 1980 after moving from Florida to Texas when Holly was less than a year old. For decades, Cheryl and the rest of her family believed they had gone off-grid with a religious group. Last year, they learned that the pair had been murdered 40 years ago and their bodies dumped in woods in Houston.
It was the result of a genetic genealogy breakthrough by a group of scientists who wanted to identify a couple known as ‘The Houston Does’ whose bodies were found by a dog in 1981.
While her parents were murdered, Holly was abducted by a group of women who wore white robes and traveled as a religious group. They dropped her off unharmed at a church in Arizona and she was raised happily by an adoptive family, only discovering last week that her birth parents had been brutally murdered.
Speaking this weekend, Cheryl, a 62-year-old nurse who lives in Alabama, told of the moment she, her sisters and her mother found out that their beloved ‘Junior’, as they called her brother, had been killed – and of their astonishment at learning his daughter may still be alive.
‘It is such an amazing miracle that we found her. The whole family is so happy and relieved. Our hearts are still healing but we’re so, so happy that we found her. And that she is alive, she has a family, and she survived. Nothing terrible happened to her. Hallelujah and Amen… we have Holly,’ she said.
Scroll down for video
‘Baby Holly’ is no 42 (left) and lives in Oklahoma. She is shown holding up a photo of her parents, taken not long before they were murdered in 1980. Her aunt Cheryl Clouse, right, spoke with DailyMail.com about the family’s emotional reunion and how they now hope to find the cult killers responsible for ripping the family apart
They had their first Zoom call as a family this week, and Cheryl hopes they will meet in person in the future.
‘It was exciting. I was very anxious. My heart was racing, it was delightful to meet her and we all took turns at letting her know who we were in the family.
‘Mom went first saying she’s her grandma. It was exciting to talk to her and see her.
‘She looks like her mother. She has her nose, chin, lips, smile, and then when I heard her voice, she sounded like Tina. It’s very exciting.
‘Our hope is to meet Holly in person and that she will allow our family to meet her and just love on her and be a part of her family. We want to pour the love on her, she needs it.’
. Our hearts are still healing but we’re so, so happy that we found her. And that she is alive, she has a family, and she survived. Nothing terrible happened to her. Hallelujah and Amen… we have Holly
The family are also hopeful that Dean and Tina’s killers will be found and brought to justice.
‘There’s a very good chance these people may still be alive. That’s my prayer. Maybe not all of them are but at least one or two of them and that justice is served,’ she said.
The family’s hope that they were alive was fueled for years by a mysterious 1981 interaction with a cult member who called herself Sister Susan, several months after the family stopped hearing from them.
Susan called Cheryl and Dean’s mother from California, telling her they had all joined a cult and no longer needed their car. She offered to drive it back to Florida in exchange for $1,000, but said they would never hear from Dean or Tina again.
They believed her because it wasn’t Dean’s first experience with religious groups; years earlier, before he married Tina, he had disappeared with a cult for several weeks.
Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Linn met as teenagers. They got married when Tina was 15 and pregnant with Holly, then moved to Texas before she was one so that Dean could get a better-paying carpenter job. Cheryl says they were both ‘sweet’, kind’ but too trusting of strangers
Holly is shown as a baby, aged 10 months, in one of the last photos that Tina sent to the Clouse family before she was murdered
‘There were some times as a young adult when he’d go off for days.
‘I can’t remember how long he was gone when he was a teenager and had been connected with these cult members but I do vividly remember when he came home because I was outside at the house in Florida.
He didn’t talk a lot about it, he just said it was a group that was learning about Jesus and faith and something that he wanted to research. ‘He never explained to me why he decided to leave. I know it would have been rough. They travelled around, they’d get their food begging… He was glad to me home. He was only 15 or 16
Cheryl Clouse, on her brother’s involvement with a cult as a teenager
‘I looked down the street and I couldn’t tell it was him until he got closer to me. It was a young man walking with a long robe on. He was barefoot or he had sandals on, I think he was barefoot.
‘As he got closer I realized ‘oh my gosh that’s Junior!’ I went yelling for him and he came back.
‘I was very surprised and kind of taken aback that he would do that just go off and join this group. He didn’t talk a lot about it, he just said it was a group that was learning about Jesus and faith and something that he wanted to research.
‘He never explained to me why he decided to leave. I know it would have been rough. They travelled around, they’d get their food begging… He was glad to me home. He was only 15 or 16 so he was very young but he liked helping people and he liked adventure and he was trustworthy,’ she said.
Cheryl told of another incident when Dean was a teenager when he brought three homeless and unkempt cult members into their family house.
‘My mom was very upset when she got home.
‘It was a man and a woman and a child. The way they appeared and everything… but my brother just said ‘mom it’s OK, they’re just out on their luck. Let’s give them some peanut butter sandwiches and they’ll be on their way. So she did, and they left.’
Cheryl believes her brother and Tina – who was a friend of the family and often visited their home – were both too trusting of strangers.
She says her brother became involved with the cult after being approached by members in the street.
Dean (top center) was eight when this photo was taken a year after his father died in 1967. Cheryl (bottom left) was a year younger. Their mother Donna (right) raised five of them alone after her husband died from organ failure caused by lupus. She remarried later and had another child
Dean is shown, center, as a teenager. His sister says he took on a protector role after the death of his father and ‘stepped up’ to look after the women in the family before joining a cult when he was 15. He returned home one day after having disappeared for weeks and was ‘barefoot’
In 1980, they moved to Texas after a shotgun wedding when Tina was pregnant with Holly. Dean was a carpenter and was offered a better-paying job. Holly was only eight months old at the time. They kept in touch for the first several months then in October 1980, the letters stopped.
‘Tina wrote a letter to my mom a letter and sent some photos of baby Holly Marie. She was 10 months old.
‘They lived with an uncle on my father’s side then they had an apartment in Leesville. All of us were very concerned [when the contact] stopped and wondering why there were no more letters… there was a lot of concern. They weren’t calling or writing or anything.
Cheryl cried as she told DailyMail.com of the ‘shattering’ moment she learned her brother had been murdered. She held out hope for 40 years that he was alive and would come home
‘They had fallen out of touch with the uncle once they moved to their apartment. Mom never got any calls from the uncle saying he hadn’t seen them… after time went by of course we became more and more concerned.
‘Every year, my mom tried to have someone track his social security number to see if it was ever used.’
In 1981, her mother received the call from Sister Susan offering the car back.
‘She said she had Dean and Tina’s car, and would return it to Florida. She said they were their family now, that they had joined their cult, and they wanted nothing to do with us. They had given up their worldly possessions and can’t speak to us ever again.
‘My mother arranged for them to bring the car, they wanted to meet at midnight and my mom was very suspicious. Her boyfriend was too. They wanted $1,000 to bring the car back. They arranged the meeting then her boyfriend called the police. They met them that night.’
At that meeting, the police officer questioned the cult members but had to let them go because, she said, there was nothing to hold them on suspicion of.
Susan looked to be no older than 30, she said, and she had with her two much younger girls.
‘They didn’t suspect any foul play at that time so there was no reason to keep them.’
For the next 40 years, the family held out hope that all three were alive. It wasn’t until their bodies were identified last year that they discovered Dean and Tina had been dead for decades.
‘He had joined [a cult] before, we thought maybe this was real. We always thought that the three of them were out there somewhere and that they would come home like he always did. When we were told they were identified… that hope was shattered. It’s still hard. The whole family is still healing. It was such a brutal way to pass.’
Dean’s mother Donna is shown visiting where his body was found in woods in Texas (left) and visiting his grave in Texas last year (right). Every year for forty years, she would contact the authorities to ask if anyone had used his social security number in the hope that he was alive, completely unaware that he had been murdered months after leaving home
Medical examiners had previously studied the bodies when they were unidentified determined that Dean had been beaten to death and Tina had been strangled.
Immediately after learning that her brother and sister-in-law were dead, Cheryl said her thoughts turned to Holly and what became of her.
Tina (above) was ‘sweet, soft and gentle’ said Cheryl. She says her daughter looks like her and sounds like her
‘We always held out hope that she was alive but you always had in the back of your mind, what if somebody stole her? That’s the big thing. Babies are always stolen and back then it was easier to take a baby and raise them as your own or black-market them or anything like that.
‘We always held out hope that she was alive out there somewhere.’
The Texas Attorney General’s Office, with the help of Identifinders International and Family History Detectives – who identified the bodies – began investigating the case.
It led them to Holly, who lives now in Oklahoma and has a family of her own.
She always knew she was adopted, Cheryl revealed to DailyMail.com, but is now overwhelmed with the brutal reality of what happened to her biological parents.
‘We’ve had eight months digesting how Dean and Tina passed. We’ve had time for that and she hasn’t.
‘They walked into the place where she works and told her who she really is. She knew she had been adopted… she needs time and the family wants to honor that,’ she said.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office Cold Case Unit continues to investigate the case. It remains unclear how many tips have come in since Holly was found earlier this week.
At a press conference earlier this week, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster revealed that the women who dropped Holly off at the church didn’t believe in men and women living together.
He said they also made reference to dropping a different child off at a laundromat.
‘The beliefs of their religion included the separation of male and female members, practicing vegetarian habits and not using or wearing leather goods,’ Webster said.
Now, investigators want to know whether or not they abducted other babies and killed other parents.
The investigation into the murders of Holly’s biological parents, Tina and Dean Clouse, is ongoing and, if anyone has information about their deaths, please contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Us For Promotions, Biography Submission, Edit Or Takedown Of An Article.