Unsolved Murder of Odessa Child not on list?
Maybe I'm not looking in the right places or maybe there's another reason altogether for the case of a murdered 11 year old girl to not be listed as an unsolved murder. I haven't found it on the Crime Stoppers website and there's nothing regarding an arrest that I can find in the news coverage following the murder. If you happen to have information to the contrary please let me know.
Today’s case is has a rare piece of archival news footage to go along with it so make sure you check it out. It’s got all the 70’s Texas lawmen vibes and then some.
The area where Johnnye Janell Henderson lived in Odessa looked a lot different in 1971 than it does now. Hell, the whole damn town looked a lot different than it does now.
Just days before the start of a new school year 11 year old Johnnye Henderson went missing from her home in the early hours of the morning. It was a Monday, August 23rd, 1971. At around 7 a.m. Johnnye’s mom, Doris Lucille Henderson, left to go to the store. Johnnye shared a room with her 10 year old brother, also in the house at the time, were two of her other brothers, ages 15 and 32. When she left her kids were all still asleep in the tiny home they shared at 906 Snyder St. When Lucille got back home Johnnye was gone. Family members and Lucille had to have assumed they could find her on their own and I can only surmise that she was searched for in the area until they had to call police. I say this because she wasn’t reported missing, according to the reports in the paper, until around midnight that day.
Mrs. Henderson had her hands full in 1971. She had, in the home, four boys, Joe, Thomas, Jack Jr. and Bobby and then there was little Johnnye. She was providing for her family all by herself. Her husband, Jack Johnson Henderson, was shot and killed as a result of fight that happened after a dice game in 1969 in the back room of the Elk's Lodge there in Odessa.
Authorities showed up in force to search for the little girl. Texas rangers, off-duty law enforcement personnel, sheriff’s deputies, investigators, there was truly a good amount of good ole boys out searching and knocking on doors in the neighborhood where Johnnye went missing. Two small boys that live in the neighborhood told officers that they had seen Johynne walking in the neighborhood as late as six o’clock in the evening on the day she went missing. That account was never substantiated however and three days after Lucille finds her bed empty, Johnnye Janell Henderson’s body is found. The day she's found was supposed to be her first day back to school after the summer break. She was going to be a 6th grader at Hayes Elementary School.
She’s found less than 200 yards from the back gate of the home she went missing from, in a caliche pit behind her house at 906 Snyder street.
If you look closely you'll see an arrow that's pointing to exactly where authorities say the body was located.
She’s nude, laying face up, in knee deep brush. Found tossed in some bushes about 60 feet from her body, was a beaded necklace that her family identified as one she had been wearing.
It was broke on one end. Authorities said there didn’t seem to be any attempt to hide the body. They noted that the grass around her body was trampled down, indicating that there may have been a struggle. In the dirt around the body they could see the dog prints. Johnnye’s small dog was often known to trail the little girl wherever she went and it was thought that it might have stayed near the body after her death. It was August and in west Texas, as you know, it’s insanely hot, and Johnnye had been missing three days so her body was severely decomposed by the time they found it. It was a difficult task to make an on-site identification but as fate would have it, Johnnye had almost lost one of her middle fingers that had to be sutured back on and that unmistakable detail specific to the little girl gave officers no reason to believe it could be anyone but her.
Her mother told authorities that Johnnye had been wearing a red robe when she went missing. In the days and weeks after she was found there were several searches for the robe but it was never found (as far as I know). Sheriff Slim Gabriel combined the search in the area for the robe at one point for a missing woman, Juanita Green. As a result there was some pretty good television coverage of the search.
Polygraph tests are given to a 17 year old neighborhood boy, a 32 year old man and an elderly man who lives in the neighborhood but the results are inconclusive and no arrests, as far as I know, have ever been made.
An 11 year old girl is last seen sleeping in her home by her mother and then found naked and murdered in the caliche pit behind her home and to this day (as far as I know) there has never been so much as a single suspect in her case. There were only a handful of articles written regarding the case and it's not even listed as an unsolved murder for the area. Could there be some other factor that would prevent public outcry on this little girls behalf?
You tell me.