A ring with a big blue sapphire has earned a teenaged murder victim the nickname of “Princess Blue” and, along with other jewelry, comprises the only strong identifying clues investigators have in trying to solve a nearly 30-year-old mystery.
On September 10, 1990, in Manvel Texas, a man was making his way home from work on County Road 101, then just a two-lane road. Needing to relieve himself, he pulled over to the side of the road.
When he got out of his vehicle, the man stumbled into a pile of bones. Upon the discovery, he went and called his wife, who then called the police.
The first person to arrive on the scene was now retired Matt Wingo, who then was then a deputy with the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, who now describes first discovering the bones of the teenage girl.
“I remember her skull being under a tire,” Wingo says. “I remember her being disarticulated and everywhere, which is what it’s going to be when you’re out in the country.”
What Wingo and other detectives ended up collecting were bones and jewelry. They found no clothing, no ID, no purse, and even no hair around the skeleton.
An autopsy performed at the time didn’t reveal much. The medical examiner determined that the victim was likely between the ages of 15 and 19. No evidence of drugs was found in the young woman’s system.
The examiner noted a couple of fractured ribs. In the end, the medical examiner was unable to determine with any certainty how the woman may have died.
Investigators put the word out for information. They made note of a turquoise unicorn ring and Pearl bracelet that was found. The media gave the case little attention and it went cold fast.
Sixteen years after the case was initiated, acting out of curiosity, a detective literally reopened the evidence envelope. Peering inside, he made a startling discovery – a clue that previous detectives had overlooked.
The clue came from the jewelry that had been collected at the crime scene. In particular, it was a class ring with the year “1975” carved on the side. The ring was from Robert E. Lee high school in Houston.
One of the most prominent features was, naturally, the stone it contained which was a large blue sapphire. It was this blue sapphire that prompted investigators to bestow the unidentified victim with the moniker of “Princess Blue.”
A year after detectives reopened the case of “Princess Blue” they brought in a sketch artist who studied the victim’s bones and drew a couple of forensic sketches. They had the artist draw the victim with two possible hairstyles, one short and one long.
It was now 2006 and DNA technology had greatly advanced. Through DNA research, police were able to determine that “Princess Blue” was most likely white with some black ancestry.
The African-American heritage most likely coming from a mother or grandmother. Investigators also had a better idea of the victim’s age, which now could possibly have been as old as 21.
The first place investigators started looking for clues was by researching the records of who purchased class rings from Robert E. Lee High School in 1975. They immediately hit a snag – the records were long gone.
However, undeterred, detectives tracked down over half of the 650 students who graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in that year. Ultimately, none of the former students were able to recognize the face that the forensic artist had sketched.
Investigators now admit that, even though the ring attracted attention from all over the country, there is no way they can prove that the class ring had anything to do with the decedent.
DNA has advanced significantly in the time that investigators first examined DNA back in 2006. They are once again putting their focus on DNA by sending Princess Blue’s bones back to a lab in Austin.
They’re hoping that there is enough DNA for phenotyping, which could tell investigators a lot more about her genetic ancestry, in particular, features such as eye, hair and skin color, and even whether she had freckles.
Authorities are asking anyone who may have information about the “Princess Blue” cold case to submit a tip to Brazoria County Crime Stoppers here or call Manvel police at 281-489-1212.