13 Unsolved: Kristen Wilson's Thanksgiving 1996 murder remains a mystery

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On November 27, 1996, families across Houston gathered at the dinner table for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Kristen Wilson's family was one of them.

But as the turkey neared done and the sweet potatoes were ready to serve, Kristen still hadn't arrived. It wasn't like her to be late. No one could get ahold of her. So, Kristen's mother and father decided to drive from Katy to Kristen's apartment complex in southwest Houston to check on her.

When Barbara Wilson and her husband arrived at their daughter's place, Kristen's door was unlocked. Barb says they walked in, down the hallway, calling Kristen's name, then Bob went into Kristen's room and started screaming.

"He [Kristen's father] was just hysterical," said Barb. "She's lying down on the floor, on her back, not fully nude but partially nude from the waist down and her clothes were pulled up from her top."

Kristen Wilson, 29, had been strangled and possibly sexually assaulted, according to police. Investigators say she fought her attacker, breaking several fingernails, who had either ripped or cut off Kristen's top.

To police, it became clear: someone had been waiting for Kristen.

Twenty-five years after Kristen's murder, HPD has given us exclusive photos of the crime scene, revealing details never discussed publicly until now. Detectives say the killer had likely arrived before Kristen had gotten home from grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, let himself or herself into her first floor apartment by reaching through a cat door in Kristen's screen window, and removing the window frame. Police say the person cut her phone cord and unscrewed lightbulbs, making sure the apartment stayed dark had Kristen flipped the switch.

There was something else eerie: the way the killer left Kristen's body. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, her hands laid in her lap, like she had been positioned.

"All the murders that I've had where the victim was sexually assaulted, the legs were apart," HPD Detective Richard Rodriguez noted. "This particular case, they weren't.

No witnesses heard anything, no cameras caught the killer leaving, and 25 years later, Kristen's case is still Unsolved.

In this in-depth episode of our Unsolved series, we introduce you to the people who knew Kristen best -- the three men in her life who each submitted their DNA weeks after Kristen's murder. Back then, that testing cleared them as suspects. But, since then, DNA technology has improved quite a bit.

Detectives have also discovered not all the evidence collected from Kristen's crime scene was tested. Decades later, there's promising work to be done -- and persons of interest to revisit.

But perhaps one of the most invaluable parts to this investigation is Kristen's own voice: her diary. Her journal, found packed away with old photographs and memories, revealing what was going on during the months and years before her life was taken. Revealing secrets her own family didn't even know.

"I think we owe it to Kristen to keep pushing for answers," Kristen's cousin Tyler Rosen told us. "At the end of the day, no one else is going to do it for us. No one else has the motivation. There are dozens, hundreds of cold case files [sitting around]. In some way, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?"

If you know anything about Kristen Wilson's case, call Houston police at 713.884.3131 or Crime Stoppers at 713.222.TIPS, where your tips are always anonymous.
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