Her parents, Tina and Dean Clouse, were murdered in 1980 in Texas. The investigation into their murders is still ongoing.
In 1979 in New Smyrna, Florida, a young couple, seventeen-year-old Tina Gail Linn and twenty-one-year-old Dean Clouse got married. High school sweethearts, the couple soon welcomed their daughter they named Holly.
After Holly was born, the couple decided to relocate to Texas, where Dean had lined up a construction job and left behind their families. They packed up their car and set out to start their new lives as a family.
Initially, the couple kept in frequent contact with their family, but the calls and letters suddenly stopped. The last communication was in October 1980. It wasn’t initially thought of as a cause for concern, but Dean’s family received a strange call. A woman who called herself “Sister Susan” said she was calling from Los Angeles, California.
She told Donna Dean’s mother that she had information about Tina and Dean, that she was in possession of Dean’s car, and offered to bring the vehicle to Florida in exchange for thousand dollars. The car had been purchased by Donna and gifted to Dean for the move. Donna agreed to meet the woman but also alerted authorities.
They agreed to meet at the Daytona Race Track. The Clouse family was confused when three women in white robes, possibly one male, stepped out of the vehicle. “Sister Susan,” she told Donna that Dean and Tina had joined a religious group and did not want to be contacted by family members. She further stated that the couple was giving up all of their possessions.
“Sister Susan” and the other women were reportedly taken into custody, but no police report of the incident was ever found. And because the couple was of age, no investigation was taken at that time.
Donna stated that she hadn’t been surprised that Dean had joined a cult. He had expressed interest and had been involved in a different cult in Florida, but she thought he had put it past him when he had married Tina.
After this encounter, no one heard from Tina or Dean ever again.
It was in 1981 in Houston, Texas, when two bodies were discovered in a wooded area. It was a man and woman found in a shallow grave buried together. The cause of death was deemed to be a homicide. The man appeared to have been beaten to death, while the woman had injuries consistent with strangulation. Also in the grave was a bloody towel and green gym shorts. They estimated that the couple had been killed two months before the discovery.
They had no identification, and there weren’t any missing person reports that matched. Composite sketches were done and released to the media, but no one came forward. The bodies remained unidentified for decades. They were buried in Harris County and were given the names “Harris County Jane and John Doe.”
In 2021 Texas established a dedicated state-wide cold case unit for the first time to start going through the twenty thousand unsolved murders in the state. The Cold Case Team began accepting cases in the fall of 2021, and one of the first cases they decided to open up was that of Harris County Jane and John Doe.
They first decided to have the bodies exhumed to get DNA samples from the two of them. Genetic genealogy was done, and soon the bodies were identified as Tina and Dean Clouse, who had been missing since 1981.
Law enforcement started their investigation, which led them to speak to the families of the deceased. Very quickly, they learned that the couple had a young daughter. A search began to find “Baby Holly.”
Dean’s mother said she was devastated to learn Dean and Tina had been murdered so soon after they stopped communication. Though she missed her son, she had hoped the family had been living out their lives but had always feared the worst. Tina’s and Dean’s families had never given up hope that one day they might have answers.
Law enforcement from multiple agencies set to work trying to find Holly, and in June 2022, they made the discovery that no one had thought possible. Holly Clouse, now forty-two, was found in Oklahoma.
Some details have not been revealed to protect the ongoing investigation, but it was revealed that shortly after the murder of Tina and Dean, Holly had been left at a church in Arizona and adopted by the pastor and his wife of the church. They renamed the infant, and she never knew her birth name, her birth family, or her parents.
Holly’s adoptive parents are not suspects; they revealed details about the woman who had brought Holly in. Two women dressed in white robes and barefoot. They identified themselves as members of a nomadic religious group.
The women spoke about their beliefs, saying their religion included separating male and female members and practicing vegetarian habits. They also stated that their faith prevented them from wearing leather goods. These group members also indicated that they had previously given up a baby at a laundromat.
Experts have identified the group as likely being the nomadic cult called Christ’s Family, which Charles McHugh had led. The group had been known to wander the Southern United States for years and had been active in Texas in 1981.
The Texas General Attorney’s office went on to state that members of the group are believed to have traveled to Arizona, California, and possibly Texas. The members of this nomadic group had been spotted in Yuma, Arizona, during the 1980s. The female members were asking for food.
Charles McHugh, who called himself “Lightning Amen,” believed himself to be Jesus reincarnated and, at the group’s highest, had two thousand members. McHugh encouraged excessive drug use and demanded that members give up their former lives and earthly possessions. Children within the cult were viewed as “excessive baggage,” and all children were required to be given up.
If Tina and Dean had been involved with or recruited into this cult, they would have been required to give up Holly, and it is still unknown what led to their deaths. The FBI had noted this particular group as nonviolent; however, the leader was seen as dangerous.
Charles McHugh had been arrested in 1985. For possession and transporting methamphetamines for the purpose of sale, as well as a weapons charge. At his arrest, he was also found to be in possession of several weapons, various other drugs, and over four thousand in cash.
He was convicted, along with four other followers, and went to prison for a bit. Another incident in 1985 was when ten cult members were arrested for growing over nine hundred thousand dollars worth of cannabis at a compound in California. The cult broke up when McHugh was in prison; when he was released, he had a small following until he died in 2010. There are still active members of Christ’s Family.
Holly, whose adopted name has been held to protect her family’s privacy, has five children of her own and is even a grandmother. She has been reunited with her birth family, who has welcomed her return, and experts are facilitating their reunification. Family members are relieved that Holly had a good life and was well cared for all these years.
The investigation into the murders of Tina and Dean Clouse is still ongoing. Little is known about what may have happened to the couple. Had they refused to give up Holly and was killed by McHugh or other members? The timeline puts the murder around the same time the car was returned to Florida.
If anyone has information about their deaths, please contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at email@example.com