Dental records have confirmed that the skeletal remains found last week in a pickup pulled from Lake Granbury are those of Helen Holladay, a 45-year-old Fort Worth woman who disappeared nearly 35 years ago, authorities said Thursday.
Investigators were prepared to take DNA from the skeleton to compare with samples submitted by Holladay’s two daughters. But that won’t be necessary, said Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds.
A forensic examiner from the University of North Texas Health Science Center confirmed late Wednesday that Holladay’s dental records matched the teeth of the remains.
Also, a purse found in the truck contained items with Holladay’s name, he said.
The truck was recovered on April 17 after the lake level dropped far enough to expose part of the vehicle. This week, Deeds said, investigators recovered the rusted truck’s vehicle identification number, which matched the VIN of the 1970s-model Chevy truck that was registered to Holladay.
“Everything went back to her,” Deeds said Thursday. “There’s no doubt in my mind it was her. I don’t have a problem with it, and her family doesn’t have a problem it with it.”
The case is not closed, the sheriff said. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of her death.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure,” Deeds said, “but that part we’re still investigating.”
Daughter Karen Boatwright Stuart of Fort Worth said she is planning a graveside service for her mother — something that has been denied the family since the woman disappeared in late September 1979.
“I had honestly about given up,” Stuart said Thursday evening. “It has been very hard that she has been missing all these years … We don’t really know exactly the ‘how’ yet, or if we ever will.
“But it helps us now not to wonder where she is, because we worried about it a lot.”
Stuart said her mother, a 45-year-old bank teller, had been living with her second husband, Herman Holladay in Fort Worth, and they also had a weekend home along the shores of Lake Granbury.
Neighbors reported seeing the couple in a violent struggle at the lakeside home on Sept. 29, 1979. They reported seeing the wife leave the home.
Investigators, however, never found enough evidence to charge the husband.
“I know the media has to call her by his last name,” Stuart said, “but we can’t tolerate it because he was so abusive.
“He was able to stay in my mom’s home all that time, which was hard, because we couldn’t get in there to go through her things.”
Herman Holladay died in 1987, a year after Stuart and her younger sister went to court to have their mother legally declared dead “so we could get on with things.”
Stuart said that she and her younger sister, Carlene Boerschig of Benbrook, prefer to think of their mother with the last name of their father, Oran Boatwright, an electrician who died of a heart attack in 1972 at age 44.
Stuart said her mother was from Purves, a small community in Erath County. She met their father, who was from Carlton in Hamilton County, shortly after he returned from serving in the Army during the Korean War. He also served in the tail end of World War II, she said.
The family lived in Fort Worth, but they also kept a farm near Purves, where their dad raised peanuts and a few cattle.
Stuart’s oldest daughter was her mother’s only granddaughter when she disappeared. Now there are four grandchildren and several great grandchildren.
“My younger daughter always wanted to know what my mother was like,” Stuart said. “And I have to say, she was very country. She had a country way of talking, and she was a little bit loud.
“But she had great big smile and a huge heart. That’s my mom.”