ST. ANN, Mo. (KSDK) - Her gentle curls and gigantic smile are forever imprinted in the minds of some of this area's most seasoned investigators. But what haunts them most is how the killer left 9-year-old Angie Housman to die. Hunters found her bound to a tree, hardly clothed, and encased in ice. It is an image that detectives will never forget. Two decades later, we have learned of renewed hope of finally catching her killer.
On November 18, 1993, the trusting fourth grader disappeared without a trace. In the days that followed, you could feel the heartbreak and fear that enveloped the St. Louis suburb of St. Ann.
Bob was the chief of police.
"This animal cut short a life of an angel," he said.
Jim Nelson was the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in St. Louis. He was one of the first on the scene.
"Angie got off the bus around 4pm, a half of a block from her house," Nelson said.
There is a Catholic school across the street and neighbors that typically watch the bus stop. But on that day, nobody saw a thing.
Angie would be 29-years-old today, perhaps with a family of her own. The grief and pain is as real today for Diane Bone, as it was the day her daughter was kidnapped. Through tears she said, "It's hard every day. I love her so much."
The FBI and Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis worked endless hours. Tip lines rang nonstop. Detectives scoured the neighborhood, searching homes, and stopping cars. Volunteers from bikers to Boy Scouts searched as well.
"Nobody saw anything," Schrader said. "Anything."
Angie's parents learned that in any kidnapping, the family becomes suspects. But authorities cleared them of any connection. Every lead, every suspect fizzled. Nine days into the investigation, and two days after Thanksgiving, hunters in Busch Wildlife found Angie.
"They found her tied to a tree," said Ron Bone, Angie's stepfather. "She still had the duct tape across her eyes and her mouth. Her clothes and her book bag were 20-25 feet away from her body."
Investigators inside the St. Charles County Crime Lab processed 150 pieces of evidence; painstaking work. They even had the gaffer's tape that bound Angie's body. Parts of the puzzle became clearer.
"She was tortured, sexually molested; she was held somewhere," Nelson said.
On Thanksgiving Day, when most everyone else was home with family, the killer brought Angie to that tree.
"She was taken in there alive and tied to a tree, and mostly naked. Then she expired," said Nelson.
Twenty years later, evidence remains fresh in these retired lawmen's minds.
"School books were in the bag; so was her coat that was missing a button. It's a little teddy bear button, white," Schrader said.
Maybe the killer took the button and someone remembers seeing it? Maybe someone has a crucial missing link?
That is the hope of the retired and current investigators still on the case. They know the type of person who would tie a child to a tree and why they would do it.
The FBI profilers and experts know that all too well.
"Somebody who did not want to do the killing himself," Nelson said. "Someone who did not want to see the results of what was going to happen and wash his hands of it and consider he wasn't totally to blame for this."
"Somebody evil," said Diane Bone.
In 1993 there wasn't an AMBER Alert system, smart phones or even DNA testing. Advancements in DNA techniques are raising new hopes for this cold case.
The evidence is being sent to a specialized, high tech forensics lab in Texas and will focus specifically on DNA evidence. The Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas is one of only two forensic DNA labs in the nation, doing this type of analysis. In other cases, they have been able to link small amounts of DNA evidence that was more than 30 years old.
There is a great deal of excitement about this specific lab's capabilities and what can be gathered from the preserved evidence. Results are expected back in five weeks meaning there could be a break in this case by December or January.
While detectives still search for clues, the message to Angie's killer from current and former investigators is that they haven't forgotten.
They say the killer hasn't gotten away with anything. And in the end, there will be justice for Angie.
"If we can't get him here, he'll get his in the hereafter," Schrader said.
If you remember anything and haven't spoken before, detectives hope you will come forward now. The number to call is 314-427-8000.