Midessa Missing and Murdered:Elizabeth Henry
This area has seen a massive increase in population in the last few years primarily due to the oil and gas industry. There are people who live here now that have only been here for a short time, however, there are still some folks around that have been here forever. These are the people who remember when Odessa used to be called “The Energy City” and those same people are the ones that will remember the stories I’m going to focus on in a blog series called “Midessa Missing and Murdered”.
Before we get into the story I want to encourage anyone reading this who is connected to a missing or murdered person or knows someone who is to contact me. Relating these events is so much easier when you have the perspective of someone who was there at the time. So if that sounds like you or someone you know and you would be willing to let me ask you a few questions please let me know, I’d love to pick your brain. Moving on.
The part of these events that’s most unfortunate is how little information can be found. What I have found is through my subscription to an archived newspaper website and even though it contains a ton of information that just can’t be found anywhere else it still doesn’t have as much information as it should. The first story about a missing 17 year old girl shows up in the Odessa American newspaper on August 21st 1991. The paper has the story filed under “Reports” in the paper, in between stories of vehicle accidents and robberies. This is the section of the paper that relates crime information. The short five sentences on page 3B describe the kind of event that sounds like it came out of a movie. A 911 call is made on a Monday August 19th 1991 around 2:15 p.m. with a screaming girl on the other end and then the line goes dead. By the time the cops get to the residence at 3610 Apollo St. where the call came from, which only takes about 5 minutes, the caller is no where to be found. They find the garage door open, the back door locked and no indication of what prompted the 911 call. A 17 year old Midland Lee High School student is now missing.
Elizabeth Henry was last seen at football practice for the Midland Lee High School football team where she is a trainer, she was wearing pink shorts and a white blouse. The day after Elizabeth makes the 911 call her 1987 Ford Bronco II is found abandoned at the Midland International Airport at 9:25 a.m. Elizabeth Henry called her mother at around 1 p.m. on the day she went missing. She was calling to ask what she should wear to a parent student yearbook meeting at Lee High school because she couldn’t go in the pink shorts and white blouse she was last seen in. About 45 minutes after she spoke to her mother a friend called her. They talked for a few minutes but the conversation ended when Elizabeth said someone was at the front door. At 2 p.m. another friend called but that call ended shortly as well. Fourteen minutes later the 911 call was made.
As was the go-to for the time there was speculation that the teenager ran away from home but her daddy, Ralph Henry jr., who was very close to his daughter, didn’t give the idea a second thought. Inside the house the lights, stereo and television were all left on and the family’s two dogs, Quicke and Sandy were inside. Elizabeth would never have left the dogs inside or without turning everything off behind her. She wears contact lenses and has sensitive eyes which she wears sunglasses to protect during the day. Her contact case and sunglasses were left at the house. Her purse, containing her checkbook, credit cards and some cash were found inside her vehicle. With her father saying there was no way she just ran away and the call made to 911 where the caller could be heard screaming and then the line going dead, it was painfully obvious that Elizabeth did not leave on her own. According to an article in the Odessa American there were fingerprints found on Elizabeth’s Bronco that did not belong to her but there was nothing they could do with them because the Midland police department didn’t have the computer system needed to analyze them.
On the last day of August the son of a former detective and prominent drug awareness consultant in Midland got into a vehicle at his home on Stranton Drive, in a closed garage and started the vehicle, eventually succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning. His name was Sumner Pendleton and he was the ex-boyfriend of the missing girl.
Pendleton graduated from Lee High School in 1987 and then went on to serve three years in the Army. He was recalled during the Persian Gulf Crisis. He had been attending Midland College. When the popular teenager went missing her friends and family did everything they could to try and find her. They scowered the area searching for her, which is how her vehicle was found, they put up posters and flyers with her picture on them all over west Texas. The FBI showed up, they asked area realtors to check all their vacant or unoccupied houses, they had a special plane brought in to search from the sky, they questioned over 200 people and even arranged polygraph tests for associates of Pendleton to try and find out what happened. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, Va were called in to help in the search the day after Henry went missing by her father. The effort to find Elizabeth Henry was huge but it was as if she had completely vanished.
On Halloween in 1992 an oil field worker in Andrews County removing oil from a tank found hair and other evidence that later proved to belong to Elizabeth Henry. Then in November of 1993 on a Sunday afternoon some hunters found jewelry and bones scattered in a field northwest of Midland. Two rings and a watch were found, one of the rings, a class ring, had Elizabeth Henrys name on it. While the bones were sent off for identification Elizabeth’s father was asked to look at the jewelry, and when he did he knew they belonged to his daughter.
On November 4th 1993 the remains that were found were positively identified as that of Elizabeth Henry and all hopes of finding her alive someday were gone. As far as what I can find there were never any arrests made but I think it's safe to guess at who was responsible.
I found one newspaper article that said the 911 call was released and Elizabeth can be heard screaming that her boyfriend tied her up... whether that's true or not I don't know. I have, however, sent in a FOIA records request to the Midland Police Department for the call and other information about the case. If and when I get that I'll be sure to update this post with the information.
As far as Elizabeth goes I haven't been able to find any of her relatives, at least not any living ones. Her father passed away in 2004 and her grandfather in 2006. I haven't even been able to figure out where her remains were buried, if they were at all. Chances are they were never released back to her family. If you know anyone who knew Elizabeth, went to school with her or is related to her please let me know.
You can donate to The Elizabeth Henry Memorial Scholarship Fund here.