Body in truck pulled from lake could be woman missing since 1979

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by LAUREN ZAKALIK

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaalauren

WFAA

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 19 at 9:08 AM

HOOD COUNTY -- Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds says they’ve searched Lake Granbury countless times since Helen Holladay went missing in 1979.

But it wasn’t until Thursday that somebody spotted a truck there, just feet from the shoreline. Inside it they found the skeletal remains of who investigators believe is Holladay.

For nearly 35 years, her whereabouts have been a mystery.

“She left home and was never seen again, heading towards Granbury,” Deeds says. “It’s always on our mind and has been on our mind. We felt she was around here somewhere, but we weren’t quite sure where.”

A community’s hunch became reality this week, when a city employee spotted the back end of a rotted pickup truck sticking out from the shallowing shoreline of Lake Granbury.

It was tucked yards away behind the old Brazos Motel. After hauling the truck to an impound lot, authorities discovered a skeleton and a purse inside. In that purse, Deeds says there was an ID with Helen Holladay’s name.

Neighbor Stan Hawthorne saw the truck retrieved from the water and never imagined the story behind it.

“That's amazing, that's just amazing,” he remarked.

“It’s a big surprise to a lot of people,” Deeds says, that the truck “could’ve been there this whole time.”

Deeds says it was never spotted in searches possibly because it was too deep or covered in sediment. Eventually, lower lake levels revealed what investigators couldn’t.

For Deeds, one thing is now clear because of how far the truck was from the road.

“It wasn’t an accident,” he says. “Where the vehicle was found, I find it to be an intentional act, whether it was from Mrs. Holladay or some other means.”

Holladay disappeared in 1979 after a fight with her husband. He was questioned but never formally named a suspect.

Now with so much time passed, both Holladay and her husband dead and no obvious signs of trauma to the skeletal remains, Deeds isn’t sure we’ll ever know what happened to Helen Holladay.

Authorities will now run her DNA to see if it matches samples taken from her daughters; that genetic confirmation could take some time.

A woman who says Holladay was her aunt was emotional Friday after learning of the discovery, calling Holladay a “sweetheart.” 

E-mail: lzakalik@wfaa.com

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