The missing daughter of two newlyweds who were murdered and dumped in the Texas woods more than 40 years ago was left at an Arizona church by members of a religious cult.
Holly Marie Clouse, then an infant, was left at the church in the early 1980s by two barefoot, white robe-wearing women.
They identified themselves as members of a ‘nomadic religious group’ that practiced separation of the sexes, vegetarianism and didn’t believe in using or wearing leather.
The women claimed to have previously given up another baby at a laundromat.
Holly Marie Clouse was an infant when her parents Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Clouse disappeared in late 1980 while moving from Florida to Texas.
Harold, 21, and Tina, 17, were found in dead in a wooded area of Houston on January 12, 1981. However, their identities remained unknown until last year when DNA connected the couple to family members in Kentucky.
The couple’s infant daughter, Holly, was not found with their remains, leaving investigators to believe she could still be alive.
Family history detectives located Holly, a 42-year-old mother-of-five living in Oklahoma.
Police showed up at Holly’s place of employment in Oklahoma on Tuesday, on what would’ve been Harold’s 63rd birthday.
Holly was connected her with her extended biological family and hopes to meet them in-person soon, the Texas Attorney General’s Office reported.
Holly Marie Clouse (pictured as a baby) was an infant when her parents Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Clouse disappeared in late 1980 while moving from Florida to Texas
Now, more than four decades later, Holly (pictured) has been reconnected with her biological extended family
Holly spoke with her extended family for the first time via the internet on Tuesday.
‘It’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever been a part of,’ Det. Steve Wheeler, 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 is unclear if she had been made aware of her biological parents’ identities prior to Tuesday as officials have not yet disclosed how they identified Holly.
Investigators with Texas’ newly-formed Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit began looking for Holly after officials confirmed the identities of Harold and Tina earlier this year.
The Hope for Holly project 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.
Harold Dean Clouse, 21, and Tina Gail (Linn) Clouse, 17, (pictured together with their one-year-old daughter Holly Marie) were found in 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
The Texas Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit began looking for Holly (pictured as a baby) after officials confirmed the identities of Harold and Tina earlier this year
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released an ‘age progression’ photo earlier this year projecting what Holly might look like as an adult
‘Finding Holly is a birthday present from heaven since we found her on Junior’s birthday. I prayed for more than 40 years for answers and the Lord has revealed some of it… we have found Holly,’ her grandmother, Donna Casasanta, said.
‘Thank you to all of the investigators for working so hard to find Holly. I prayed for them day after day and that they would find Holly and she would be alright. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Mindy Montford. We will be forever grateful.’
Harold and Tina Clouse, who married in 1979, disappeared in late 1980 during their move from Volusia County, Florida, to Texas. Harold was pursuing work as a carpenter.
The couple’s car was returned to their family after they disappeared, and relatives were led to believe the newlyweds had joined a religious cult and no longer wanted to be contacted.
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. Their were no signs of their infant daughter at the scene.
Harris County’s forensic artist Mary Mize in January 1981 drew pastel reconstructions of Harold (left, in his youth) and Tina (right, in her youth) Clouse after their bodies were found, but nobody was able to identify the pair because they had only recently moved to Houston
Officials have not yet revealed how they identified the Oklahoma mother-of-five as missing Holly Marie Clouse (pictured during infancy)
Harris County’s forensic artist Mary Mize at the time drew pastel reconstructions of the couple after their bodies were found, but nobody was able to identify the pair because they had only recently moved to Houston.
The Clouse’s bodies had been exhumed in July 2011 to check if the pair were related. But a major break came in the 40-year-old case in 2021, when forensic scientists Misty Gillis and Allison Peacock, of FHD Forensics, were contacted by Indentifinders International and handed the baffling puzzle.
The team inserted new information in GEDmatch.com and were able to match the Harold Clouse’s DNA with his cousins in Kentucky.
Investigators reached out to Harold’s sister, Debbie Brooks, and ultimately identified the bodies as Harold and Tina.
Brooks then asked the team if they had found the baby, but the scientists had been unaware that Holly, who was last seen in Lewisville, Texas, even existed. The discrepancy sparked the renewed search for the child.
Holly’s extended family (pictured in February at the site where Harold and Tina’s bodies were found) has said finding her was a ‘present from heaven’
‘The very first thing that ran through my head when we heard Holly was found was the call that 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 Holly’s sudden discovery just popped into my head. To go from hoping to find her to suddenly meeting her less than 8 months later — how miraculous is that?’
‘It is such a blessing to be reassured that she is alright and has had a good life. The whole family slept well last night. The Hope for Holly Project was a success thanks to Mindy and her team,’ her aunt, Cheryl Clouse echoed.
No arrests were ever made in connection to Harold and Tina’s murders and the investigation into their deaths remains ongoing.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit.