LAKE GRANBURY (CBS 11 NEWS) – It’s a mystery nearly 35 years in the making.  Now investigators in Granbury think they may have a break in the disappearance of Helen Holladay, who vanished September 29, 1979.

In a way, the ongoing drought played a part in the discovery.  Lake Granbury only reluctantly gave up its secret, because the water level is way down.  But Thursday a truck cab poked up through the water, and when authorities retrieved it they found not only inches of muck, but something else.

“We did come across the skeletal remains with some other identifying information in there to lead us to know this could be Helen Holladay,” Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds told CBS 11 News.  The ID information was found in a purse next to the skeleton, which was still partially clothed.

A photo of missing North Texas wife and mother Helen Holladay. (credit: Star-Telegram Archives)

A photo of missing North Texas wife and mother Helen Holladay. (credit: Star-Telegram Archives)

Holladay vanished after some explosive fights with her husband.  He was once a suspect in the disappearance but died in 1987.

The truck was found 15 feet off the original shoreline, in what would have been 15 feet of water back in 1979. The drought changed all that.

Deeds obtained DNA from Holladays’ daughters and used it to confirm the identification; he broke the news to the family.

“Being able to tell a family, ‘We know where your mom is,’ they felt good about that, happy knowing that, to have some closure. Because they’ve been going for 35 years wondering where my mom is, wondering where Ms. Holladay is.”

The missing woman was the talk of Granbury back in the 70s and 80s.

Melinda Ray owns the Nutt House Hotel on the town square.  “I can remember the remark being made that it was obviously either foul play or somebody who didn’t want to be found, one of the two,” she said adding, “It was the missing lady and everything, and the question of whether or not her husband was involved in her disappearance and all that.”

Ray is intrigued that something has seemingly developed after the passage of so many years.  “I think it’s tragic, but interesting that they finally have found remains after all this time.”

Sheriff Deeds says a forensic expert from the University of North Texas will join him Monday. Deeds also said that besides DNA, the teeth on the skeletal remains are intact, so dental records could help in establishing a positive ID.

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