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FLASHBACK: We cannot forget - families deserve justice - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: We cannot forget - families deserve justice

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Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2014 7:30 am

When you work in the news business, you see quite a bit of carnage, and when it involves children, it is particularly disturbing.

And when children are murdered and the perpetrators are not arrested or charged, that leaves a hole in your heart that cannot be filled, especially for the families of the victims.

And when it involves children, you never forget, especially as a mother and reporter.

The unsolved murder of Colorado City teen Hailey Dunn is the most fresh on our minds. She went missing Dec. 27, 2010, and her remains were found March 16, 2013, near Lake Thomas in Scurry County. Tomorrow will mark a year since hundreds of mourners flocked to the junior high school gym in Colorado City to honor her memory.

There have been no arrests and now chatter on the Facebook page dubbed Hailey Dunn Updates & Discussion is calling for law enforcement to make an arrest. They have even presented a petition to the District Attorney in Scurry County — but so far, all is quiet.

Another unsolved case of a Brownwood teen found shot in the head on May 16, 1989, also remains unsolved and is always on my mind. Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the murder of Amanda “Sissy” Goodman, a 13-year-old 8th grader at Brownwood Middle School, who was found shot in the head on a country road in Brown County.

Crime scene photos show she had been "gingerly" laid out on the side of the road under a tree with her purse and a notebook placed beside her. Her head was resting on a paper cup.

Photos also show that at some point after she was shot, her head had rested on the opened notebook.

Investigators believe she was shot with a .38-caliber or .45-caliber bullet, which entered just in front of her left ear and exited above her right ear. When she was found, her head was turned so the wound was not visible. And there were further complications — when she was found, it was raining. Investigators told me at the time, this made collecting forensic evidence almost impossible. Plus, there was no bullet casing found anywhere near her body.

The question in both cases is why someone would kill a young teenage girl – they were both 8th graders. What could they have done?

I started reporting on Amanda’s case around the 15th anniversary of her death, in 2004. Her heartsick mother, Barbara Nejtek, contacted me and recalled the worst day of her life, when officers came to her door at 5 p.m. to inform her that her precious daughter had been found. She later said that “she died a little bit that day, too.”

Investigators hounded Barbara and even considered her a suspect.

“They even read me my rights,” she told me a few years ago. “I told them I did not kill my baby.”

In about 2005, the Cold Case Unit of the Texas Rangers announced that they were taking on Amanda’s case. The hope from former Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs, who was the Texas Ranger originally assigned to the case, was that with technological advances, new DNA evidence could point to Amanda’s killer. No such luck, so far.

Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary of her death, I retraced the events of that day with her mother and her friend Tere Collins. We took off from Brownwood Middle School at 3:30 p.m. Barbara always contended that the killer shot her daughter at another location and drove her to the place where she was found. Eerily, it was a stormy day that day.

There were several individuals questioned, and investigators used polygraph tests and even hypnosis to acquire information. Those questioned included a pastor, James Hampsey, who led the evangelical church the family belonged to.

Sheriff Grubbs has said this is one case that has haunted him for the past 25 years.

“This is one case I think about every day and I want to solve it, at least in my lifetime,” he told me.

But to date, no arrests have been made.

Family and friends gathered at a Brownwood park Saturday to light candles and to remember Amanda, who would now be 38 years old.

But hopefully, Hailey’s mother Billie Jean Dunn will see justice for her daughter soon. Barbara never did.

Unfortunately, Barbara died seven months ago — some say of a broken heart.

Light a candle for these girls – their families deserve justice.

Odessa, TX

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