Longform

Cold Case

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Tolson didn't have much to tell them. Besides, he had another life now, and he had more important things to deal with than a bunch of bones dumped on a dead-end road nearly two decades earlier.

"He said he's not interested in saying nothing," his wife, Susan, told the Press. And even if he wanted to talk, what could he say about an unidentified body?

"Nothing came of it," Susan Tolson says of the original investigation. She laughs when she says it, just like she laughs when she adds, "They did what they could."

The bottom line: Tommie Tolson cannot be bothered with this stuff. He's out in his rig, trying to keep a schedule.

"He has to keep his mind on the road," she says.

So the reason he sat on the single most important clue in the case remains a ­mystery.

"I can't think of a reasonable explanation why the high school ring would not be put out there [to the public]," says Vernon Geberth, a consultant in homicide and forensic case investigations for authorities in the U.S. and Canada. Geberth was a member of the New York Police Department from 1965 to 1987, retiring as the commanding officer for the Bronx Homicide Task Force.

"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.

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.

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow