Real Name: Jesse Howell
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Ocala, Florida
Date: March 23, 1997
Details: In 1996, nineteen-year-old Jesse Howell moved into his own home and began dating sixteen-year-old Wendy Von Huben. She had previously moved to Woodstock, Illinois, with her family. However, she did not adjust well in her new town or her new school. On February 22, 1997, Wendy told her parents that she was staying over at a friend's house. In reality, however, the two ran away, after Jesse promised to take her around the world. Wendy's parents reported her missing the next day. They later learned from her school that she had skipped classes up to a week prior to her disappearance.
Wendy and Jesse went on a whirlwind journey, along with another couple. During the trip, they slept in their friend's car and stopped in different states. They ended up in Bradenton, Florida where they parted ways with the other couple. They ran out of money there and began living under a bridge near Dade City. Finally, on March 19, Wendy called her parents from a Bradenton homeless shelter. She asked for $200 for a bus ticket back home for her and Jesse. A few days later, Jesse called his parents from a nearby truck stop. He said that they were on their way home.
However, two days later, on March 23, Jesse was discovered bludgeoned to death near the railroad tracks in Marion County, Florida. There was still money in his pocket and a half-smoked cigarette on the ground. He had been struck from behind and there was no evidence of a struggle. A small drop of blood on his jacket was believed to belong to Wendy. Police suspected that Wendy witnessed Jesse's murder and also met with foul play, although they could not find her.
Several weeks later, on June 4, the Von Hubens received a call from Wendy in which she said, "It's me, Wendy!" and then hung up. She then called again and told her father that she was at a gas station in Kankakee, Illinois. This was the town where Wendy and her family lived before they moved. In the conversation, she also said that the pay phone did not have a phone number on its receiver. However, the conversation was so short, her father was not sure that it was actually her. Police were able to track the phone to a Phillips 66 gas station. They reviewed the station's surveillance videotape and spotted a teenage girl that matched Wendy's description. Her parents watched the tape and agreed that the girl was Wendy. Police estimated that the tape was filmed within minutes of the phone calls.
However, the possibility that this was Wendy began to lose credibility when police subpoenaed phone records. They discovered that the phone calls were made from a different gas station two miles away. At that gas station, there was a missing flier posted with the Von Huben's home phone number. This led police to suspect that the calls may have been a cruel joke. However, her family still hopes that she is alive.
Some local drifters told police that Wendy was travelling with a one-legged railroad car rider known as "Bob," who has since been identified as Bobby Ray Taylor. Authorities cannot confirm that Bobby and Wendy are together, or if the witnesses are mistaken, as some believe that Wendy is dead and was killed by the same person who killed Jesse.
Suspects: None known
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the April 17, 1998 episode. This case was also profiled on Motives & Murders: Cracking the Case.
Results: Solved. In April of 1998, the drifter named Bobby Ray Taylor was located. He denied ever being with Wendy and it was determined that he was not involved in the case. In July of 2000, Angel Resendiz, also known as "The Railroad Killer", confessed to killing Wendy and Jesse. He claimed that he struck Jesse over the head with a rail-car coupling and strangled Wendy eight hours later. The identity of the murder weapon had never been released to the public. Resendiz led police to Wendy's remains, which were found fifteen miles from the spot where Jesse was found. DNA and jewelry found on the remains confirmed her identity.
Resendiz confessed to at least nine murders and was convicted of the murder of Houston doctor Claudia Benton. Police believe he was responsible for at least fifteen murders dating back to 1986. He was executed in June of 2006. Resendiz was profiled on shows such as The FBI Files.
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- The end of the line