Missing teen identified 21 years after being shot, killed near Spring Creek Bridge, officials say

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- New DNA data helped investigators solve a cold case more than two decades after a teenager was murdered near Houston's Spring Creek Bridge.

The video above is ABC13's 24/7 livestream.

Authorities identified 16-year-old Hector Jose Garcia as the body found in 2002 at the bridge off Kickapoo Road.

Investigators initially believed the body belonged to someone between the ages of 17 to 32.

The cause of death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy showed the teenager died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Deputies said the only clues investigators had in identifying his body at the time were three Gothic-style letters tattooed vertically on his left calf.

With few leads to pursue, the victim's identity could not be determined, and the case eventually went cold.

Nineteen years later, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas.

ABC13 previously reported about Othram back in 2022, when the company said its technology might change forensics forever and lead to the end of cold cases.

RELATED: Houston-area lab using new DNA technology in hopes to help solve cold cases

Kristen Mittelman with Othram told ABC13 in a previous report that the company uses DNA sequencing and genomic technology to help identify victims and perpetrators for law enforcement.

In Garcia's case, his DNA profile provided new investigative leads to The Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation Program, working with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

In November 2023, investigators said they were able to track down a potential family member and identified Garcia as the victim in the deadly shooting.

Authorities said he was reported missing in February 2002 when he did not come back to his Hildago home after celebrating Mardi Gras with some friends in Galveston.