Unsolved murders remain in police files

Several cold cases extend back decades in Ellis County

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
This house on South Church Street in Ferris was the scene of a gruesome double murder in March 2009. To date, this case remains unsolved, one of several unsolved murders that have taken place in Ellis County.

The murder of Terri “Missy” Bevers in Midlothian in April 2016 is one of the more recent unsolved cases that Ellis County law enforcement has in its files. But many more files remain, a backlog that goes back for more than a century.

Information on many of these cases are still being sought and all tips will remain anonymous. If the information provided leads to an arrest and conviction, persons that submit tips may be eligible for a cash reward. Tips can be delivered by calling Crime Stoppers of Ellis County at 972-937- 7297.

Here are some of those cases in reverse chronological order: (Note: This is not a complete list and only highlights some of the more notorious cases in the past in which some suspects never went to trial.)

Mills case

Hikers found the remains of James O’Neal Mills in a dry creek bed on Nov. 2, 2015, some two months after he was first reported missing. Mills’ aunt, Lisa Lynch, filed the initial missing person report with the Palmer Police Department.

Palmer Police Chief John Zaidle stated officers did take an information report from Lynch, but Mills was known to police to regularly go missing for days at a time.

When Ellis County Sheriff’s investigators found the human remains, Palmer Police notified the department of the two missing persons from their city. Sheriff office’s Lt. Shane Thompson stated investigators were still working on the case and going through new information as it came to their attention.

“We have interviewed a number of potential witnesses that has not resulted in any positive leads,” Thompson said in November 2018. “It is a questionable death, but the cause of death and the manner of death I am not ready to release.”

Thompson stated the case had not been officially classified as a homicide, but it is being investigated as one.

Kinder-Smiles case

In the early morning hours of June 17, 2009, Waxahachie police officers were dispatched to a medical call in the 100 block of Cumberland Road after a distress call was received at about 3:45 a.m. Upon arrival, officers were directed to a bedroom where they found the body of Jennifer Kinder-Smiles, a mother of three.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner Office later determined Kinder-Smiles’ death was a homicide and she died of a gunshot wound. She had been found by her 18-year-old daughter when she returned home early that morning from a friend’s house. There was no indication that entry was forced into the residence, and there was no indication of robbery or struggle.

Waxahachie Police Lt. Todd Woodruff said in 2016 that Kinder-Smiles had divorced in February 2007 and had just started to date again. Police interviewed people that she had become friends with and dated some but nothing came out of those interviews. The weapon has also not been recovered by police.

The family offered up to an $11,000 reward in 2009 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Kinder-Smiles’ death. Woodruff said in 2014 the case is still an open investigation but remains unsolved.

Taylor-Johnson case

In Ferris in March 2009, Stephen Taylor and his girlfriend, Janine Johnson, were violently murdered in their bedroom in a house on South Church Street.

A family member alerted authorities, who found the slain couple with dozens of stab wounds from what the Dallas Medical Examiner’s Office later determined to be a knife or dagger with a blade of about five inches.

Ferris police said in 2017 that evidence was being retested in the case because of advances in technology. In 2018, an untested piece of clothing came to light following a presentation to a cold case review team in Austin. However, it was not known whether the evidence contained any useable DNA following analysis.

Biggar case

In March 1994, the body of 53-year-old Robbie Biggar was found on the side of a road near the old Superconducting Super Collider site near Maypearl, her face beaten so badly that it took dental records to identify her.

Her 23-month-old grandson, Kasey Roberts, was found dead while strapped in a car seat in her grandmother’s vehicle at an apartment complex in Red Oak. An autopsy showed that the toddler died of hyperthermia and dehydration.

In August 2009, two men, Larry W. Samples of Arlington and Galen M. Boyd of Katy, were taken into custody in connection with the then-15-year-old case. Samples was the boyfriend of Biggar, who was divorced.

However, when the Ellis County District Attorney at the time ruled in 2010 there wasn’t enough concrete evidence to indict the two men, they were released.

Reagor case

Josh Reagor was a prosperous young landowner who was beaten to death on Dec. 16, 1903 after being pulled from his buggy by four men, according to a Daily Light article. Reagor was able to drive a short distance back to his home and told his wife what happened before succumbing to his injuries. Reagor’s widow survived him by 57 years.

Two men, Fred Morris and Will Birt, were charged with complicity in Reagor’s murder and convicted a year later. But the other two attackers presumably escaped justice.

In 2018, a South Carolina distant relative who was working on genealogy researched the case and concluded that a recent $10,000 real estate deal by Reagor had been the motivation behind the attack, which was an apparent robbery attempt.