TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Holly Marie Clouse, who as a baby went missing after her parents were killed in Texas, has been found alive more than 40 years later, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in a news release.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Holly Marie and her parents, Harold Dean Clouse, 21, and Tina Gail Clouse, 17, vanished abruptly in 1980. The couple had just moved to Lewisville, Texas, from Volusia County, Florida, so Harold Clouse could pursue carpentry work. Their daughter was born in Texas, according to KHOU.
In 1981, a dog discovered the couple’s remains in a wooded area of Harris County. Investigators now believe they were killed sometime in December 1980 or early January 1981.
The couple died violently, according to the newspaper. Authorities said Harold Clouse had been beaten, bound and gagged. Tina Clouse had been strangled. There was no sign of a baby.
No arrests have been made in their deaths.
This week, authorities announced they found the couple’s daughter. They said Holly Marie, now 42, is alive and well, and living in Oklahoma. Investigators visited her at her workplace Tuesday, her father’s birthday, and informed her of the case. Hours later, she met her family on a Zoom call, the Chronicle reported. Authorities said she’ll be meeting with her biological family soon.
Cheryl Clouse, Holly’s biological aunt, said the family is praying an in-person meeting with their long-lost family member will happen sometime in the future.
“It was amazing,” Cheryl said of the Zoom meeting with Holly. “Just meeting her for the first time and seeing her, she looks a lot like her mother Tina and she sounds like her mother Tina, very sweet, very soft-spoken. It was just amazing and we wanted to pour out our love on her.”
Cheryl Clouse said the loss of her brother Harold and his wife Tina is still something she has not gotten over. She was visibly emotional during an interview on “NewsNation Prime.”
“I was at work when I got the phone call from my older sister that these remains were identified as him,” she said. “We always had hope out there that all this time he was just out there, they were together, him, Tina and the baby.”
Paxton said he has not spoken to Holly personally, but knows how complicated these reunions can be. His wife was adopted and met her biological parents as an adult.
“It’s a very emotional, almost startling revelation when it comes on this quickly. She’s adjusting psychologically, but there’s also a lot of joy involved in this,” he said Friday on “NewsNation Prime.”
During a Thursday news conference, Texas First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster outlined what investigators had determined so far in the case.
Webster said Baby Holly was dropped off at an Arizona church by two women, but he didn’t say when. The women were described as barefoot and wearing white robes. They claimed to be a part of a nomadic religious group that believed in separating male and female members, practicing vegetarian habits and not using or wearing leather goods.
These women indicated they had given up a baby before at a laundromat. Investigators believe this nomadic religious group traveled around the southwestern U.S., including California, Arizona, and possibly Texas. Sightings of this unidentified group were reported around Yuma, Arizona, in the early 1980s, and some of its women would be seen around town asking for food.
In December 1980 or early January 1981, a woman who called herself “Sister Susan” contacted the families of Tina and Harold Clouse. She told them she was calling from Los Angeles and wanted to return the couple’s car to the family.
According to Webster, Sister Susan explained Tina and Harold had joined the religious group and no longer wanted to be in contact with their families. They wanted to give up their possessions, and Sister Susan asked for money in return for the couple’s car, which she would bring to Florida.
The family agreed to the meeting and notified local law enforcement. When they arrived at the meeting spot — the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach — the family said they encountered two to three women, and possibly a man, again in robes.
“The police reportedly took the women into custody, but there is no record of a police report on file that has been found as of yet,” authorities said Thursday. “Given the age of this case, that is common. We’re still on the hunt for that police report.”
The car the women brought to Florida did belong to Harold’s mother and is described as a 1978 two-door red burgundy AMC Concord.
The family that raised Holly are not suspects in this case, officials confirmed.
“Finding Holly is a birthday present from heaven since we found her on Junior’s birthday,” her grandmother, Donna Casasanta, said in a statement released by a family spokeswoman. “I prayed for more than 40 years for answers and the Lord has revealed some of it.”
“I believe Tina is finally resting in peace knowing Holly is reuniting with her family,” said Sherry Green, Holly’s aunt, according to KHOU.
Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic geologist for Identifinders International, was part of the group that identified the bodies of Harold Dean and Tina Clouse in October of 2021.
“We noticed the case on the internet and figured it would be a good case for us to try,” said Fitzpatrick. “We worked with the Harris County Forensic Science Institute to get DNA extracted from the remains, and that gave us genealogical data to try and identify the two people.”
After identifying the parents, Fitzpatrick said the family was able to point her team in the direction of Holly’s case. The search was widespread, according to Fitzpatrick, with the attorney general of Arizona, Lewisville Police Department, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children all joining the case.
When asked if she thinks finding Holly will lead to the identification of who murdered her parents and put her up for adoption, Fitzpatrick said it will certainly help the cause.
“I think based on my experience tracking people worldwide, there’s enough that somebody is going to know something about that cult, and within the cult somebody is going to know who those people are,” Fitzpatrick said.
Holly has five children and two infant grandchildren, according to the Chronicle.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida worked with Texas authorities and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help reunite the family.
“It’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever been a part of,” said Detective Steve Wheeler of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to play even a small part in reuniting a family after 40 years.”
Because the investigation into the murders of Tina and Dean Clouse is ongoing, few additional details were released Thursday. Authorities are asking those with more information about the case to contact Sgt. Rachel Kading at the Texas office of the Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at email@example.com or 512-936-0742.
The cold case and missing persons investigation was done in collaboration with the Texas attorney general’s office Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit, the Lewisville Police Department, the Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona attorney general’s office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the release said.