365 Days of Texas True Crime: Elizabeth
Back in 2019 I wrote about the Elizabeth Henry case. I have some more pictures to post with it so I figured I would repost and refresh.
Elizabeth Kathleen Henry went missing from her home at 3610 Apollo Ct in Midland on a Monday, August 19th, 1991. The last time anyone saw were was after football practice that afternoon at Midland Lee High School. Elizabeth was a trainer.
On the day she went missing a 911 call was made from her home at 2:14 p.m. where a girl was heard screaming and then the line went dead. Police were dispatched to the address where the call came from and arrived within five minutes. They found the garage door open and the back door unlocked but other than that the house looked normal. They reported that the home showed no signs of a struggle.
Her 1987 Ford Broncho II was found abandoned at the Midland International Airport the very next day around 9:25 a.m.
In the days following her disappearance the FBI and the Texas Rangers joined the search and investigation for the pretty young teenager. A specially equipped airplane was brought in by the FBI August 29th, all the way from Washington D.C. to aide in the ground search. At the time the nature of the special equipment on the plane wasn’t released to the public but I think it’s safe to assume it was some kind of heat sensitive equipment that is often used in a search for an individual law enforcement believe may be the victim of a violent crime.
Further investigation found that around 1 p.m. on the day Elizabeth went missing she called her mother, Carolynn, to ask what she should wear to a parent/student yearbook meeting at Lee High School. She was an assistant editor on the yearbook and she couldn’t go to the meeting in the clothes she was last seen in at practice, pink shorts and a white blouse. The call to 911 that came from her address was made just a little over an hour after she spoke with her mother.
Friends and family were interviewed and although the police “go-to” of Elizabeth being a runaway came up, as it always seems to, it was quickly squashed by everyone law enforcement spoke to.
Elizabeth’s grandparents rushed to Midland from their home in Houston to join in the search for their granddaughter and support her parents Ralph and Carolynn. According to her grandfather, Ralph Sr., Elizabeth and her father were close and she would never just do something like runaway.
The Henry home became search headquarters quickly after her disappearance with friends and family plastering flyers with her picture on them throughout the Midland/Odessa area and knocking on doors trying to find anyone who may have saw anything.
After Elizabeth spoke to her mom, about 1:45 p.m., she got a call from a friend. She spoke to her friend for a few minutes but cut the conversation short when she told him that someone was at the front door. Another friend called at 2 p.m., that call didn’t last long either, her friend saying that “She was very evasive”. Fourteen minutes later the 911 call was made.
When the police arrived shortly after the call they were accompanied by a neighbor into the home. The front door was locked but the garage door was open. Although police didn’t find anything unusual inside, those who knew the responsible, sweet, teenager saw that things just weren’t right. The television and stereo were on, along with the lights. The Henry’s two small dogs, Quicke and Sandy, were still inside the house, and her family knew she would never leave things on in the house and she always put the dogs out before she left. They knew she didn’t leave on her own.
While the police were inside the home with the neighbor, her parents were at the yearbook meeting that Elizabeth was supposed to have met them at until around 4 p.m. It was the neighbor who alerted her parents when they arrived back home of the situation.
Adding to the mounting evidence that Elizabeth didn’t leave on her own was what her father found. Elizabeth wore contact lenses and sunglasses to protect her sensitive eyes from the sun. Both were left in the home.
When her vehicle was found the next day by friends who were searching tirelessly, her purse with her checkbook, credit cards and some cash were all found inside.
Unfortunately, the Midland Police Department at the time was unequipped with the expensive equipment needed to analyze fingerprints so when the vehicle was found to contain fingerprints that did not belong to her, there was nothing that could be done with the evidence.
Then something happened that, at least to family and friends, all but confirmed the families worst fears.
Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend, Sumner Pendleton, 23, got into a vehicle parked in his enclosed garage on Saturday, August 31st, turned it on and died shortly after of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was a 1987 Lee High School graduate and had served three years in the Army. At the time he had been attending Midland College. Although investigators said that no connection between the two events had been made, the writing was on the wall for those who knew Elizabeth. Even to those of us reading about this case for the first time, the implication that Sumner was involved is just too easy to make.
Elizabeth was searched for throughout the West Texas area. Realtors were asked to search all their empty listings, vacant buildings were searched, fields and large desolate areas in surrounding counties were scoured. Elizabeth’s father contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, Va. the day after his daughter went missing to ask for help. The search went national when her photo and information regarding her disappearance aired to over 3 million Texas households. A massive amount of evidence was sent off for analysis but returned results that offered no help in finding the missing girl.
Because of issues with the pathologist who originally autopsied Sumner Pendleton, his body was exhumed to be autopsied a second time in order to validate his cause of death.
In early 1992 the 911 call that was made by Henry was released and it was revealed that she said her boyfriend had tied her up before she screamed and the line went dead. Oh how I wish I could find the recording of that call!
Then came what was called a break in the case in December of 1992. The FBI announced that human hair found in an oil tank in Andrews County likely came from missing teenager, Elizabeth Henry, who they believed had been kidnapped. A worker was removing oil from a tank found the hair and immediately notified authorities. The oil tank was located on an oil ease in the northwest corner of Andrews County, about 35 miles northwest of Midland.
At the start of November 1993, hunters discovered human remains just northwest of Midland. Bones were scattered around the area as well as two rings and a watch were found. The jewelry was show to Elizabeth’s family who identified it as belonging to the teenager. One of the rings was a class ring that bore her name on it.
Days after the remains were sent in for identification it was announced that they did in fact belong to Elizabeth Henry. Although her remains were identified, her cause of death was not.
Her disappearance and death remain unsolved to this day.