Please welcome guest blogger Barney Doyle. He worked as a newspaper reporter before turning to law enforcement. Doyle blogged for PoliceOne and the now defunct blog Working Police before turning his attention to writing books. ‘Reckless Speculation About Murder’ is coming out in May 2020. It will be released by Genius Book Publishing.
Before this book appeared on the market, Barney and I were brainstorming about cold cases. It let to a guest post about Veronica, Cynthia, Linda, and Bobbie. All were brutally murdered. What connects them?
Veronica Taylor, Cynthia Palacio, Linda Carbajal, and Bobbie Fields
by Barney Doyle
Particularly in the state where Henry Lee Lucas duped law enforcement into closing the book on two hundred murders, he had nothing to do with, it’s hard to know what to make of Samuel Little.
He’s a serial killer, no doubt. He was convicted in 2012 of three murders that occurred in California in the late 1980s. Then in 2018, he was convicted of another murder that happened in Odessa, Texas in 1994. With no real reason to doubt the integrity of those convictions, at a minimum we can be certain that Little was an interstate serial killer who was active for years. But as of this writing the FBI and the Texas Rangers are saying that Little has confessed to a Lucas-esque 93 murders over 35 years. The FBI has “verified” 50 of those confessions, but what does that mean exactly? He’s been charged, tried and convicted of only four murders, and that’s the standard society typically uses to “verify” a confession. So, what should we make of the rest of them?
That question isn’t exactly what we are trying to answer here, but it may be a part of it. This story isn’t about Samuel Little. There is a distinct possibility that the story might not involve him at all. This story is about the deaths of two young women and a child in a place called Lubbock, Texas, at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one. Police have identified the deaths of the two women as the work of a yet-unidentified serial killer. And the circumstances surrounding the child’s death share a lot of the same characteristics. The Texas Department of Public Safety has sizable rewards for information on any of the three murders, and the families of the victims deserve justice and closure.
Lubbock is a midsize Texas city that straddles the panhandle and the Permian Basin oil fields. It is known nationally as the home of Texas Tech University. It is a city of around a quarter-of-a-million people in an otherwise rural area of Texas, and thus something of a cultural, educational, medical and economic nucleus for the region.
Veronica Taylor was 13 years old in 1987 and a sixth-grade student at Murfee Elementary School. She was an African American girl who lived in what was then called the Phoenix Apartments, in Lubbock. Veronica left a relative’s apartment (also in the Phoenix Apartments) on the evening of March 25, but never made it home. The following morning, she was found dead in a field on the other side of Lubbock. Her body was a 10-to-15-mile drive from her home, depending on the route. “They took a child in her tender years and just treated her like a piece of trash to be used and discarded,” Lubbock County Justice of the Peace Jim Hansen told Lubbock KCBD Newschannel 11 in 2012.
Taylor died from blunt force trauma to the back of the head caused by an unidentified weapon. She also suffered a severe beating that investigators attributed to punches. Taylor was strangled and sexually assaulted, and investigators found her with her underwear tied around her neck. Police pursued the theory that somebody from the Phoenix Apartments killed Taylor, but as of now the killer has not been identified.
Cynthia Palacio and Linda Trevino Carbajal
On July 15, 2003, Cynthia Palacio was found dead on a rural road in southeast Lubbock County.
She was only 21 years old at the time of her death and left behind a two-year-old daughter.
She was found partially nude (from the waste down) and had been strangled. Her body was dumped and tire tracks were found.
On April 19, 2004, Linda Carbajal was found dead on a rural road in northern Lubbock County. She too was also just 21 years old at the time of her death.
Carbajal died of blunt force injuries to the head but had been strangled as well.
Investigators have said publicly that the deaths of Palacio and Carbajal are related and the work of a serial killer. In 2005, the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that the suspect was a Hispanic male, but the Texas Rangers have not confirmed the suspect description in subsequent media releases.
Carbajal and Palacio were both what might be best described as reluctant sex workers. Not only is Lubbock the metropolitan center of that region of Texas, but it is also a short drive from the Permian Basin oil fields. Because of that, Lubbock has a larger prostitution economy than you might expect from a town of that size. Carbajal told KCBD about a year before her murder that she was trying to get out of sex work, “I really want to better myself not only for me, but for my daughter and my grandmother cause uh, life is too short, you know.”
The Daily Toreador, Texas Tech’s student newspaper, did a story in 2006 about prostitution in Lubbock. For that story, reporter Ruth Bradley spoke to a sex worker who knew Carbajal and Palacio before their deaths. She talked about how terrifying the murders were to the relatively small group of sex workers who were trying to look out for each other in an occupation that was fraught with violence.
If you’ve read Ann Rule’s book about Gary Ridgway, Green River, Running Red, then you understand how much devastation a single killer can cause when they are targeting sex workers. By the nature of their trade, sex workers try to operate outside the view of the criminal justice system. And because of the stigma of prostitution, many sex workers are estranged from their families, living transient lifestyles and/or addicted to drugs. That’s a combination that prevents a lot of disappearances from going noticed or being reported in a timely fashion.
But being vulnerable to violence does not make sex workers culpable in the violence against them. Victims are victims and murderers are murderers and we should never lose track of who is to blame in these crimes. And on that note, let’s get back to Samuel Little. If his confessions are to be believed, Little targeted vulnerable females such as drug addicts, the homeless and sex workers. He was a large and powerful man with a boxing background who was good with his fists. And a Grand Jury found probable cause to charge Little with a 1993 Lubbock homicide that bears a striking resemblance to the murders of Carbajal and Palacio.
Bobbie Ann Fields
Bobbie Fields was found dead in a field on the outskirts of Lubbock on August 8, 1993. She had been beaten to death and the murder went unsolved for more than two decades.
In 2018, while in the midst of his confession spree, Little told the Texas Rangers that he had strangled a woman to death in about 1976 or 1977 and left her in a field near the side of the road about 20 miles south of Wichita Falls, Texas. Investigators believed he was describing the murder of Fields and convinced a Grand Jury to indict Little for the murder. Since he is already in custody for the rest of his life, and his health seems to be failing fast, he probably won’t ever get a trial in the Fields murder. Plus, he’d probably just waive the trial and plead guilty anyway. Which is kind of a shame, because it would be nice to have some questions answered in this case.
I have not seen anything on these murders other than what has been reported in the media, so I will defer to those who have seen the actual case files on the specifics of Fields’ murder. But a few things really stand out to me. First, she was killed in 1993 not 1977. Second, she was beaten to death not strangled. And lastly, Lubbock is 200 miles west of Wichita Falls, not 20 miles south.
The Texas Rangers explained that Little had a very difficult time remembering specific years and that he did not seem to have a clear recollection of the geography of Texas. Through other details in his confession (such as the car he was driving at the time and his description of the victim) they were able to determine that he was describing the murder of Fields.
I’m not saying that Little did not kill Fields. In fact, if I had to say one way or the other, I believe he did kill her. But we are straying dangerously close to Henry Lee Lucas territory with some of these confessions. If you put a tape recorder in front of any serial killer and let him talk for a few days, he could probably fabricate stories that would match the general details of many unsolved murders around the country. We have a lot of unsolved murders in the United States and there are only so many ways to kill a person.
I trust that the investigators in this case are smarter than I am (most people are) and since they know way more about the case than I do, I am going to believe them. Plus, Little was released from a Travis County jail (380 miles from Lubbock) a week before Fields’ body was found, so he was in Texas at the time. And Lubbock police in 1993 were looking for the same model and color of Cadillac that Fields was known to drive at that time. Plus, if you make allowances for how hard it is to sketch a face from memory, Little’s description of the victim resembled Fields.
Connecting Veronica, Cynthia, Linda, and Bobbie?
So, we know that Little is a serial killer and there is a strong possibility that at least one victim was in Lubbock. Could he also be responsible for the deaths of Carbajal and Palacio? He was arrested for shoplifting in Lubbock in 2006, so we know he spent time in Lubbock during that era. Both were strangled and beaten, and Little was known to do both to his victims.
Little isn’t Hispanic, as the suspect was described in earlier newspaper reports about the crimes, but who knows how accurate that information really was? Police also claimed in 2019 that they had DNA evidence in the Carbajal and Palacio murders. If they have the killer’s DNA, then Little clearly isn’t the killer, or he’d be charged already. But since investigators aren’t releasing any information about the DNA (and to be clear, they shouldn’t at this stage of the investigation), we don’t know the significance of what they found and can’t know if it exonerates Little or not.
But Veronica Taylor was not a sex worker, a drug addict, a transient or an otherwise vulnerable victim. She was a little girl. Her murder was horrific, even by murder standards. For her and her family’s sake, I really hope this one gets solved.
Taylor was killed only six years before Fields. However, Taylor’s body was discarded in a very similar fashion. She was strangled and beaten, including with what investigators at the time said appeared to be fists. Her murder shares a lot of similarities with crimes that Little has confessed to. She didn’t fit the profile of Little’s typical victim, and he didn’t confess to Taylor’s murder specifically, but that doesn’t rule Little out completely. Confessing to the murders of adults is one thing, but maybe Little wasn’t willing to admit he was a child killer. Sometimes even evil people are ashamed.
If Little was in Lubbock in March of 1987, there is an outside chance that somebody remembers him there. If you have any information about the murders of Veronica, Cynthia, Linda, and Bobbie please contact the Texas Department of Public safety’s cold case unit.
Texas Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $3,000 to any person who provides information that leads to the arrest of the person/persons responsible for these murders. To be eligible for the cash rewards, tipsters MUST call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477). All tips are anonymous. Tipsters will be provided a tip number instead of using a name.
Rest in peace, Veronica, Cynthia, Linda, and Bobbie.