Helen Ruth Conwright Young (Aug 31, 1936 – July 31, 1976) was born in Ore City, Texas, to the Rev. Freddie D. Conwright and Mrs. Luella Jane Walker Conwright. She left behind husband Roy Young , eight sons, and one daughter. She had five brothers and nine sisters. Her case is unsolved.
Helen Ruth Conwright Young (39) was last seen on Friday July 30, 1976 around 1130pm. Let us start right there with questions. Who saw her?
According to the Paris News of Aug 3, 1976 her husband Roy only told police that ‘his wife was last seen at 1130pm Friday.’ So, did he see her last, or was he told that Helen was seen last at that time and by whom, or is this just what he wanted us to believe?
- Can we establish the exact time of death to determine how long Helen was dead before she was found?
- Who benefits from Helen’s death?
- Was anything stolen in the house?
- Who owned the farm?
Roy reported Helen missing the next day, Saturday, July 31 around 8am. Did he call the authorities or did he drive over to the department?
From the time that he reported his wife missing, I gather that they did not share the same bedroom. If they did, he could have noticed or heard something throughout the night or, in the early morning hours. This is crucial as you will see later as abduction is considered. If he were in the same bedroom, he would have noticed people coming in to grab his wife who was in bed next to him, right?
What we know from the papers is that of the eight children, seven were asleep in the house at the time that their mother vanished. Where was child #8? Were the children young at the time, did they hear anything, could they have understood muffled sounds or, did they just not say anything to the authorities to protect someone? Did they ever, later in life, spoke about their mother’s murder?
On July 31, the authorities searched the area where the Young family lived on Rt. 6 in Novice and the entire Young property. No remains were found. Then suddenly, on Monday, so after the official police search, Helen’s remains were found by one of her brothers around 730am on Aug 2, 1976, in a place that had been searched.
Both provide drinking water for animals such as cattle or horses. Stock tanks range in size from 100 L to over 5500 L. They are typically made of galvanized steel. These tanks are filled either by a pump, windpump, creek, spring, or even with runoff rainwater or melting snow.
The definition of a stock pond is a pond with the capacity of max. 15-acre feet. It is smaller and less deep than a lake. All the water in a pond is in the photic zone, meaning ponds are shallow enough to allow sunlight to reach the bottom. And that means that something thrown in the pond, can get stuck/entangled and harder to remove than from a tank bottom. I wish that we knew more about that stock tank or stock pond.
Interesting find: the depth of the stock pond where Helen Ruth Conwright Young was suddenly found, was searched again by a diver on Nov 27, 1977. So, one year later a diver is checking the bottom. Unfortunately, I have not read anything about results or found more details about this crime scene. More about crime scenes below.
Note that the papers only reported that Helen died by suffocation. Suffocation can be caused by an object such as a pillow, a chemical, or manually.
To summarize, we have a diver checking the bottom of the pond/tank in a case where the body surfaced after the area had been cleared by police. What accompanied Helen when she was thrown in the pond, could still be there hence the diver search. As I said before, I found nothing about the results but the fact that the authorities checked a year later seems to suggest that they were still investigating the case and wanted to make sure that they had not missed anything.
Cause of Death
The exact cause of death was withheld pending the results of the autopsy that was ordered by Lamar County Sheriff Louie Noles. Investigating Deputy Carl Wolfe reported that the evidence indicated foul play.
The Sheriff’s Office questioned two suspects and investigated a third, according to Wolfe. In general, when a person dies an unnatural death their partners are the first to be investigated. They have the opportunity, the access to the victim, know the area, know their routines and weaknesses, etc. So, I gather that the husband and the brother who found his sister murdered were part of this trio. Unfortunately, I have not found anything in the newspaper archives about possible arrests or charges against them.
The brother, who found Helen, is not identified in the papers. I wonder why. Who was he? Was it routine for him to be at his sister’s farm? Did her work there? Did he get along with his sister and/or his brother-in-law, Roy?
Wolfe gave an interesting statement referencing how the stock tank was searched, that nothing was found, and then Helen’s remains popped up. Wolfe believed that Helen’s remains were kept elsewhere while the search on the Young property was ongoing and, that her body was only returned to the farm after the search was over. Whoever did that decided to place her remains in the water. Why? To mask how she died? Wash away traces? I am curious about autopsy results, lividity, and what her lungs told the medical examiner.
Several Crime Scenes
Wolfe also reported that blood trails were found inside the Young house. Blood was found on a bed. As per the Paris News of Aug 10, 1976 it was Helen Ruth Conwright Young’s room. This answers my earlier question about a shared bedroom. How far was Helen’s bedroom from Roy’s and the children’s rooms? Was Helen’s bed slept in or not? If we combine that with her normal bedtime, we can try to establish from approx. what time she went missing.
A blood trail ran through the hall to the back door of the house. Did that trail start at the bed? Was there blood in the bed? Does the amount of blood indicate maybe a knife attack, was it merely drops, and do we know if an object was used to inflict the trauma that caused the bleeding prior to the suffocation?
From the ‘blood trial’ going through the hall to the back door of the house, it sounds like the house had a one floor plan. The papers do not mention any stairs. It would be interesting to check on the floor plan if they had to pass the bedrooms were the children and/or Roy slept to reach the hall and then the back door of the house.
Was Helen hit (any blunt force trauma on her head?), abducted from the house, killed, and kept elsewhere? It certainly sounds like it. This also means that we have more than one crime scene in this case:
- where she was hit/killed and lost blood,
- where she was kept/killed until the search was over, and then,
- the location where she was ultimately found.
Some parts of Helen’s clothes were found in a pasture, located northwest of the house, according to Wolfe. What kind of clothing? And what about blood? Was the piece of clothing preserved so can we test it with modern technology for DNA, the M-Vac, and run it through the national databases?
On Aug 8, the Paris News reported that Helen’s death was officially ruled a homicide. Justice of the Peace Chester Oakes made that ruling after reading the autopsy reports that revealed Helen died from suffocation.
Lamar County Chief Deputy Carl Wolfe said that charges were pending on the results of a blood and clothing analysis from the Texas Department of Public Safety. So, evidence pieces were sent to a lab for forensic testing but, I have not read anything about the results.
Anything that was missed then because of the state of the technology does not absolve suspects. So, if possible, we should be searching for the old evidence pieces and lab notes, and test everything again.
Lamar County officers escorted two suspects (no word on the third one) to the Department of Public Safety offices in Garland for polygraph tests. Wolfe said that the Sheriff’s Office was still checking leads and that the polygraph test results would ‘help take the guesswork out of it.’ And about the two suspects he said, ‘One of them is going to flunk it.’ I cannot help feeling that Wolfe was talking about the husband and the brother. Alas, I did not find anything in the papers about those tests. No charges were ever filed in Helen’s murder.
Helen’s community and the Paris Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) offered a $1,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of Helen’s murderer(s). I am not sure if the reward is still offered in this case and through which organization.
Rest in peace, Helen Ruth Conwright Young.