Police hope public can help solve 16-year-old cold case murder

March 16, 2012 4:07:20 AM PDT
A retired postal worker was murdered in cold blood and his killer got away. The case has baffled veteran homicide investigators for almost 16 years, and police are now showing us what could close this case after all these years.

It was a crime of passion so shocking and so brutal, it left even the most seasoned HPD homicide investigators stunned.

"He had been stabbed several times," retired Houston Police Department Sgt. Hub Mayer said. "The way he was beat up, you wouldn't think a female would have beat him like that."

Beaten and strangled, police found Elbert Lee Powell's lifeless body on the floor of his motel room floor next to the bed. The year was 1996. Powell, a retired postal carrier, had been staying there with his girlfriend. Officers had been out there the night before his murder to investigate a domestic disturbance dispute.

"A call from Mr. Powell stating his girlfriend was going to kill him, and the officer got out there, and they were kissing and making up and no one wanted to file charges," Mayer said.

The next day Powell was dead. His girlfriend was gone. She stole his Chevy Blazer, sold it to a crack dealer, went to great lengths to cover her tracks and ended up getting away with murder.

Mayer was one of the original investigators.

"We canvassed the little motel. Everybody we could -- we stopped drug dealers on the street; some of them said, 'Yeah I heard about it, we heard his girlfriend did it.' 'Do you know who the girlfriend is?' 'No, we don't know," Mayer said.

It's been 16 years since Powell was found murdered. The motel where he was killed is still here. While the trail went cold all those years ago, investigators working the case today are confident someone out there knows the identity of the woman who killed him.

"In most murder cases cleared by information, you don't always find a fingerprint, you don't always find a gun but you are going to find people who have knowledge of the event," HPD Cold Case Squad Sgt. Mike Peters said.

Peters began working on the case two years ago after developing a DNA profile on an unknown female from evidence collected at the scene of the crime. All he's missing now is a match.

"Processing the DNA evidence, which is what we are hanging our hat on, we hope we can develop something more with that -- if we get a name, if we can find out who this person is," Peters said.

Sgt. Mayer, who's now retired, would love nothing more than to see this case closed.

"It's always enjoyable to finally see an end to it," Mayer said. "She's still out there. Unless she died, she's out there."

If you know anything about Powell's murder, call HPD's Cold Case Squad at 713-308-3600.