Longform

Cold Case

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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."

But either Stuart was mistaken about one detail or he lied: He was not in prison in 1989 or 1990. He was a free man.

Three hundred people is a lot to track down.

In the 17 years since Princess Blue's body was found, graduates of the 1975 class of Robert E. Lee High have moved, gotten divorced, remarried, fallen off the map.

Working from the sleuths' spreadsheet, the Press tried calling as many graduates as possible. Out of a handful reached, three said they lost blue-stoned class rings prior to 1990, in Harris and Galveston counties. But memories are hazy; the women can't recall exactly when they first realized the rings were gone, or where exactly they might have lost them.

Did Princess Blue find the ring somewhere? Did she see it in a pawn shop? Was it given to her by a relative who never saw the media coverage of the ring? Did she steal it?

"My theory is the [ring belongs] to possibly her mother, an aunt, you know, some relative," Coffman says. "It's impossible to know who it could have belonged to. But obviously the closest tie would be her mother."

Rosser was struck by the overlaid images of Princess Blue and Kimberly Cheatham, but until DNA or dental records are compared, there's no way of knowing.

"The problem with these cases — you can theorize forever and until you find out, you just don't know," he says "Anybody's theory is as good as anybody else's. Believe me, we've spent hours and hours...just talking it over, trying to think of something that makes sense. What really bothers me is, you know, we had all this publicity about the ring and Jay [Coffman] got some phone calls, I got a few...and none of them were really even slightly promising."

In July, one sleuth went on Goddard's Web site and proposed paying to have the remains buried, if authorities permitted.

"We could put 'Princess Blue' on her headstone and then later on down the road, if she is identified and no family claims her, then we could have the headstone changed to display her real name...She needs to be laid to rest."

For Goddard, it's the perfect idea.

"My dad told me a long, long time ago, the only thing that's ever truly yours is your name," she says. "And Princess Blue doesn't have one right now. And I'd like to see her get her name back."

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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