Cold Case

Woman found dead 17 years ago in Manvel remains unidentified

"It's been a traditional practice in law enforcement to withhold information about the case so only you and the actual killer know what has happened," Geberth says. "But if I have an unidentified body, my biggest quandary is the identification of the deceased. Because I don't have a base for my investigation unless I know who I'm investigating."

If he doesn't have a name, he doesn't have the victimology, which means he doesn't have an idea why she was chosen as a victim, which means there's nothing pointing to a suspect.

Or at least a new suspect. There was always an old standby.

Photos of the rings appeared years  after the body was found.
Sue Birdwell for the Texas Rangers
Photos of the rings appeared years after the body was found.
Photos of the rings appeared years  after the body was found.
Troy Fields
Photos of the rings appeared years after the body was found.

Roy Alan Stuart had a knack for turning up in towns where young women went ­missing.

His talent came to fruition in 1971, when the body of Linda Kay Simmons was discovered in a pasture outside Amarillo. When investigators there followed the leads, they wound up at Stuart's front door. He was arrested on July 13, charged, released for want of proof and arrested again three weeks later when the bludgeoned body of 40-year-old Kay Sands was found in a field. This time, there would be a trial.

While he was out on bond, two women accused him of assault in separate incidents. He was charged for those assaults, which were dropped when the women refused to testify. Ultimately, a jury found him not guilty of Sands's murder.

Four years later, police would arrest him again, this time for aggravated sexual assault. And this time, Stuart pled guilty. He would be remanded to the Darrington Unit in Rosharon, Brazoria County. His sentence was 15 years; he served seven.

Some months before Stuart's release, Brazoria County Sheriff's Deputy Matt Wingo got a call from a sheriff in north Texas, up near Amarillo.

"He told me of the man named Roy Alan Stuart," Wingo wrote in a memoir for The Police News. "The Sheriff understood Stuart was to be released soon from TDC and our caseload may go up."

When Stuart was released, he didn't leave Brazoria County. He got a job as an auto mechanic and moved into a trailer near Clute with the woman he married while in prison. Wingo writes that his office and the Houston Police Department began a surveillance on Stuart, who proved less than a faithful husband.

"He was found to have an affinity for Houston, Galveston and Bay City prostitutes," Wingo wrote. In Houston, his favorite haunt was the LaMonte Hotel.

In November 1985, the body of a prostitute who worked out of the LaMonte was found on Brazoria County Road 403, about five miles north of where Princess Blue would be discovered five years later. In March 1987, the body of another prostitute who worked out of the LaMonte turned up in Bastrop Bayou, still in Brazoria County, but considerably south of the Princess Blue site. In both cases, some LaMonte denizens said they saw the women step into Stuart's light-blue station wagon. (When the Press showed Mary Nava, a LaMonte desk clerk in the late 1980s, the sketches of Princess Blue, Nava said she didn't recognize her.)

Shortly after the second body was found, an officer working surveillance on Stuart saw him driving irregularly. Stuart was stopped and arrested for driving while intoxicated. When his car was towed and searched, investigators found fingerprints and hair from the second body. Stuart was charged in her murder, but the charges were later dropped. Reports differ on the reason behind the dropped charges; some say a judge ruled the search of Stuart's car invalid, thus eliminating the physical evidence; other reports say LaMonte regulars refused to testify. Either way, Stuart walked.

Stuart's career came to an end in May 1994, after he brought a Freeport woman to his trailer, bound her arms with rope and choked her. She managed to writhe free and escape. A jury found him guilty of aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to life.

In July 2007, Coffman and Rosser drove to the McConnell Unit in Beeville to have a talk with Stuart. They showed him the sketches; he showed them an "innocent" man.

"He denied any responsibility or any knowledge of anything — he didn't do any crimes, he never committed a crime ever," Coffman says. "And he doesn't know why he's locked up now...I told him, 'Just follow us, we're going to walk out in a minute; you just come out with us because you're innocent.'"

It wasn't the first time Stuart saw the renderings. About a week before Coffman and Rosser questioned him, Stuart opened an envelope from Ohio and found himself staring at Princess Blue. Accompanying the pictures was a note from online sleuth Alexandria Goddard. But if she was expecting a confession, she would be ­disappointed.

"I am going to tell you the same thing I told them," Stuart wrote to Goddard in early August. "I do not know who the person or persons are in the pictures. I have no idea why my name is brought up when something like this happens...The officers asked me where I was in 1990. I guess this is when this person was supposed to have been killed. I explained to them that I was in prison at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville in 1989 and 1990. I then asked them why they always come to me. They explained that it was because of my past troubles with the law. And they said that where [there] is so much smoke, there had to be some fire. I tried to explain to them that the only fire is the one started by them and other law enforcement agencies in Texas."

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