Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk told a room of reporters Tuesday afternoon that he was about to "reveal the face of the killer" who strangled a 40-year-old real estate agent at a then-secluded home on College Station's Greens Prairie Road in 1981.
Virginia Freeman -- known to her friends as Ginger -- was a married mother of two who volunteered for the Girl Scouts and the American Red Cross and helped international students from Texas A&M University adjust to the life in the United States. She was killed on the afternoon of Dec. 1, 1981, after a man with a "country-sounding accent," according to stories in The Eagle's archives, had called the Real Estate Mart in Bryan, where she worked.
The man told the office he had $73,000 in cash to pay for a house in the then-secluded area, an offer Freeman couldn't pass up, since cash payments generally mean quicker pay.
Freeman's husband, with the help of one of her co-workers, found his wife's body behind the still-locked home. Freeman had been struck in the back of the head by a blunt object, possibly a slab of concrete, stabbed repeatedly in the neck and shoulders and had suffered a broken neck as a result of strangulation. Authorities later determined she also had been sexually assaulted.
An autopsy later revealed she had died as a result of strangulation around 3:30 p.m., a half-hour after the killer placed the call to the Real Estate Mart.
Her killer has never been found.
"That was a very traumatic day for the Freeman family, and it was traumatic for the whole community of Brazos County," Kirk said.
The Brazos County Sheriff's Office enlisted the help of Snapshot DNA Phenotyping, a cutting-edge DNA analysis tool that creates composite sketches of a person's facial structure. The sheriff's office entered into an agreement with National Geographic Explorers, who agreed to pay for the $3,600 analysis in exchange for permission to create a television show documentary about the sheriff's office's investigation. Using DNA found under Freeman's fingernails, the Snapshot results revealed a portrait of the possible killer's face.
The two sketches released Tuesday show a man at 25 and 70 years old. Kirk explained that the man's age was unknown at the time of the slaying, but the two sketches show him at different ages of his life, in the hopes it will lead to a break in the case and bring the killer to justice.
"We're doing everything possible to solve this crime," Kirk said, though he acknowledged it was possible the killer had died in the 35 years since Freeman's death.
Multiple sheriffs in the Brazos County Sheriff's Office have worked on this case, from Bobby Yeager in 1981 to Kirk. Investigators have traveled across the country to follow leads and question potential suspects about the crime, the most recent trip being to Kentucky in fall 2016. They've questioned serial killers such as Coral Eugene Watts, a 28-year-old who killed more than 10 women in the Houston-Galveston area, and Henry Lee Lucas, who claimed to have killed more than 100 women over eight years, but all have been ruled out as suspects. Officials have put potential witnesses under hypnosis and questioned them about their memories of that day, and they've sent the case to the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers.
The case has special resonance for Kirk; it was the first slaying he'd worked for the sheriff's office after joining the department in 1980.
"I am the only deputy that remains at the sheriff's office who was at the scene that day," he said. "I remember vividly the crime scene. I could tell she struggled and put up a fight."
"It would be a great pleasure to put handcuffs on the man who committed this crime," he said.
Anyone who can offer any helpful information about the suspect depicted in the composite sketches is asked to call 979-361-4986 or 979-775-TIPS. The Texas Crime Stoppers is offering up to $6,000 for tips that help break open the case.