http://libertycountyoutlook.com/_wsn/page5.html“Missing Child, Wounded Hearts” - “Someone, somewhere, knows something.”The words are spoken softly, firmly, and without quavering, but behind them lies a decade of grief and frustration. They are spoken by Susie Cain who faces the tenth anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance this month - as well as the 28th birthday of that same daughter. Jessica Cain was 17 when she disappeared the morning of August 17, 1997. Her family would have celebrated her 18th birthday on August 28. Instead, they were embroiled in a search that involved hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement agencies from around the country, and eventually resulted in them offering nearly a quarter of a million dollars to anyone who could help them find Jessica. Ten years later, C.H. and Susie Cain are still waiting. “You go on with your life,” Susie Cain says. “You have to, and Jessica would want us to. For one thing, we have to be here for her if she’s ever found. But for another, Jessica was vivacious and full of life. We would dishonor her if we just gave up.”Jessica’s story, as tragic as it is to those who knew and loved her, has become part of a larger epic that, to this day, occupies a unique place in the annals of America’s crime. Collectively gathered under the umbrella term of “the killing fields”, “the I45 corridor killings, her disappearance adds one more name to a long list of young women who went missing some of whose bodies were later found in an area paralleling I45 south of Houston. The list contains the names of over 30 young women, added since the early 70s, who are either still missing from, or whose remains have been found in, that general area. The vast majority of those instances remain “unsolved.” Susie Cain says that while time may diminish the immediate piercing of grief, it does nothing to erase the underlying loss and pain. “That is always with us,” she says. “Jessica is gone, and no passage of time will make that any easier to bear.”It was early 1:30 a.m. the morning of August 17, 1997, when Jessica left Bennigan’s Restaurant in Clear Lake, driving her 1992 tan Ford pickup. She had been at a cast party for a musical in which she had performed, and was on her way to Tiki Island, where she lived with her parents. Her parents, who had attended the musical, grew worried when she didn’t return home by 2 a.m. and her father went looking for her. He found her truck abandoned on the I45 shoulder near Highland Bayou Park in LaMarque with her wallet inside. A later search of the vehicle also disclosed Jessica’s duffel bag with clothing, a coin purse with money and her driver’s license, and truck keys. One of Jessica’s friends later said she had seen the truck parked on the southbound shoulder shortly after she left the restaurant. That friend also reported that Jessica was last seen walking towards a 1993 or newer red Isuzu Amigo parked behind her truck. Jessica Cain was never seen nor heard from again.Law enforcement officials, including an FBI task force, searched for several possible witnesses, including the driver of the Isuzu Amigo; another person who was driving a white pickup truck with a toolbox and a light bar with rotating yellow and orange lights; and an African-American male who was driving a purple Dodge or Plymouth Neon at the time he may have seen Jessica. None of those possible witnesses ever came forward with information about the young woman’s disappearance. The Cains were adamant about the impossibility of Jessica having left voluntarily. Due to start her freshman year at Sam Houston State University the week after the disappearance, they described her as a “model teenager” who “had no enemies” and would not run away from home. Jessica’s disappearance in August 1997 followed close behind an earlier tragedy in April 1997. Laura Smither, 12, was abducted from a jogging trail in Friendswood. Her nude body was found two weeks later in a Pasadena retention pond. Laura’s father, Bob Smither, joined in the massive hunt for Jessica as did Tim Miller, founder of the Houston-based Equusearch. Miller’s 16-year-old daughter, Laura, was found dead in the “killing fields” in League City in February, 1986. To date, no one has been charged with her murder, nor that of Laura Smither. Theories about the person or persons involved in the decades-long unsolved murders and disappearances are as numerous as the multiple agencies involved in the investigations. Those theories have resulted in a “suspect list” posted on numerous Internet websites. Only one conviction has been obtained for any of the disappearances/murders - that of Anthony Shore, who was convicted in October 2004 in the murders of four young women and girls, three of which had been previously considered I45 corridor victims. Shore was sentenced to die for killing Laurie Tremblay, 16, Maria Del Carmen Estrada, 21, Diane Rebollar, 9, and Dana Sanchez, 16. The four killings stretched from 1986 through 1995. While originally considered a suspect in other slayings, he has never been substantially linked to any other cases. Several of the suspects have histories of sexual assaults and violence, and at least one - Mark Stallings, currently serving what amounts to life in prison on aggravated assault charges - offered a confession in 2001 to the killing fields murders. Most officials, however, consider that confession to be suspect and, in fact, he has never been charged with any of those crimes. Private investigator hired by the Cain family later claimed that there was a possible link between Jessica’s disappearance and Jonathan David Drew, who was subsequently convicted of the murder of a Houston waitress in 1998 and suspected of several sexual assaults. Reportedly, a search of Drew’s former home in League City produced a vial containing several human teeth. William Lewis Reece, an ex-convict who served 10 years in an Oklahoma prison for rape and aggravated kidnapping, was charged in October 1997 with the May abduction of a young woman from Webster. Reece was a construction worker who had worked at a site near the Smither home. A few days after Jessica’s disappearance, he brought his own bulldozer to a ranch near Alvin and began moving huge mounds of horse manure. Investigators later searched through that pile, but found no evidence of human remains. The owner of that ranch, Robert Abel, now deceased, also came under intense official scrutiny when he seemed to fit an FBI profile of the killing fields murderer. Again, however, that investigation turned up nothing of substantive value to officials. In August 2006, Equusearch founder Tim Miller received a letter from an unknown person who, Miller believes, may have murdered his daughter - and perhaps other “killing fields” victims. More than 20 years after Laura Miller’s death, the letter’s author claimed to be “the last man your Laura saw and many more.”Shortly after Miller received the letter, he revisited the site on Calder Drive in League City where his daughter’s remains were found and where he had previously erected a cross in her memory. As alluded to in that letter by the symbol of an upside-down cross, Miller found the actual cross in the field broken. Also found were two pornography tapes, one featuring 16-year-old girls. Laura had been 16 when she was killed. Officials were unable to recover any forensic evidence from the letter, and despite Miller’s public pleas, the author has never again contacted him. It’s the unknown that has tormented the parents and family members of the young women down through the years, including the Cain family. In September 1997, as the search for Jessica continued, one man voiced a truth to a Houston Chronicle reporter that has only grown more definite in the 10 years following Jessica’s disappearance. Alton Ramber of Hitchcock was the father of then 14-year-old Sandra Ramber who disappeared from her Santa Fe home in 1983. While officials considered her disappearance to involve “foul play,” the case had never been solved. Remembering the last time he saw his daughter, Ramber said, “I remember teasing her for picking at some food on my plate at breakfast. She was happy. But when I got home, was gone. It’s only now that I can even talk about,” he continued. “I’ve had to try to put it behind me or else I would have gone crazy.” As the Cain family can attest, “putting in behind you” does not mean the loss, the ache and the horror of not knowing what really happened goes away. Jessica Cain occupies as large a part in their hearts as she ever did. But, Susie Cain is quietly confident. “People may think that what they know or believe or have seen isn’t important enough to report, or that someone may have already done so. That’s not true. We need all the information we can get. Someone, somewhere, knows something.
If you are that someone, contact the LaMarque Police Department at 409-938-9269. Or, if you’re more comfortable dealing with a local law enforcement agency, contact the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office at 936-336-4500, or Eastex Crimestoppers at 936-724-TIPS (8477). Your information can remain
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