The grandmother of a baby, who went missing more than four decades following the gruesome murder of her parents, said the child, now a mother in her 40s, reminds her of her late daughter-in-law.
“She looks a lot like her mother… got her mother’s soft voice … she’s got her mother’s voice to the tee,” Baby Holly’s overjoyed grandmother, Donna Casasanta, told The Independent. “She also has a lot of Clouse in her; she looks a lot like some of my sons and … her great-aunt.”
More than four decades ago, a pair of newlyweds were discovered murdered and dumped in a Texas forest near Houston — while their newborn daughter was nowhere to be found.
Now, thanks to the latest DNA technology and ancestry records, baby Holly Marie Clouse — now a 42-year-old woman and mother of five — has been located in Oklahoma, the Houston Chronicle reported on Thursday.
The remains of slain parents Harold Dean Clouse and Tina Gail Clouse, who disappeared in late 1980, were identified just last year by online sleuths using up-to-date genealogical records — though Holly’s whereabouts were yet still unknown.
When Casasanta, Harold’s mother, learned that the body of her late son had finally been identified, she told The Independent that she “fell to pieces.”
So when her daughter, Debbie, called to share that Holly had been found alive, Casasanta couldn’t help but expect the worst: “Please, Debbie, I can’t. No bad news, honey. I just can’t. No more. No more.”
Just this week, the grieving great-grandmother finally received the long-awaited phone call about baby Holly: she was alive.
“I was overwhelmed,” Casasanta told The Independent. “I was crying for joy, because we’ve all been praying that we would find her and she would be okay – and she’d had a family that took care of her and raised her proper … we were very glad for that.”
Casasanta learned that Holly had been adopted by a gracious family all those years ago, after being left on the steps of an Arizona church.
On Tuesday, June 7, the police informed Holly of her own identity, and she was reunited with her estranged family via Zoom on the day her deceased father would have been 63 years old.
“Finding Holly is a birthday present from heaven since we found her on Junior’s birthday,” Casasanta said, referring to son Harold as “Junior,” in a statement to the Houston Chronicle. “I prayed for more than 40 years for answers and the Lord has revealed some of it.”
Casasanta told The Independent, “For the first time in 42 years, I was able to come home and go to bed that night and actually slept all night. I hadn’t slept the whole night in 42 years, and that’s the truth.”
According to Harold’s family, he was always a troublemaker. Whether it was running away to join a cult, disappearing for weeks at a time or picking up random hitchhikers, adventure and spontaneity seemed to run in his blood.
After marrying Tina and having Holly, Harold told his mom he was leaving for Texas with the hopes of more money to provide for his family. She received letters from her son throughout the family’s travels, until October of 1980 when they abruptly stopped.
At the time, she didn’t know why they halted so suddenly, but one day, she received an odd anonymous call a few months later. On the other end of the line, a man in California claimed to have found the couple’s car.
Then, late at night at the Daytona Speedtrack, three women in all-white robes met Casasanta and one, dubbed “Sister Susan,” informed her Harold was a member of a cult and had ditched his “worldly possessions,” claiming he wanted a clean slate away from his family and other life.
“That was weird,” Casasanta told the Chronicle. “We really got frightened, and we started searching and searching.”
In January 1981, a dog stumbled upon unidentifiable human remains in a Houston forest. Harold had been beaten to death, while Tina had been strangled. Yet, the homicide was a strange mystery until they were identified by the team in 2021.
With the help of the two genetic genealogists, a key piece to the DNA puzzle was discovered via a clue on GEDmatch.com: a genetic match. They contacted Debbie Brooks, Harold’s sister in Kentucky, and unearthed the couple’s long-unknown identities.
But it was Brooks who reignited the hunt for Holly, asking the case’s team if they had found the missing infant whom scientists were previously unaware of.
Unfortunately, the family never got any answers – until now.
“After finally being able to reunite with Holly, I dreamed about her and my sister, Tina, last night,” Sherry Linn Green, Holly’s aunt, told the Chronicle. “In my dream, Tina was laying on the floor rolling around and laughing and playing with Holly like I saw them do many times before when they lived with me prior to moving to Texas.”
“I believe Tina’s finally resting in peace knowing Holly is reuniting with her family,” she continued. “I personally am so relieved to know Holly is alive and well and was well cared for, but also torn up by it all. That baby was her life.”
Les Linn, Holly’s uncle, told the outlet that the first thing he thought of when he heard the news was the information he got about his sister’s death just 8 months prior.
“The juxtaposition of that call with Holly’s sudden discovery just popped into my head. To go from hoping to find her to suddenly meeting her less than 8 months later — how miraculous is that?” he said.
“It is such a blessing to be reassured that [Holly] is alright and has had a good life. The whole family slept well last night,” said Cheryl Clouse, Holly’s aunt, in a statement to the Chronicle.
Misty Gillis, an Identifinders International contractor and one of the genetic genealogists who worked the case, said she cried, not believing how much Holly resembled her late mother.
“It was extremely surreal,” said Allison Peacock, of FHD Forensics and who served as the other genetic genealogist on the case. “To see her, to see what she looks like, to see her mother reflected in her face.”
But even with the discovery of Holly, the case still isn’t cracked. Because the baby was given up for adoption, the question remains of who exactly gave her up and if the couple really joined a cult. To this day, investigators don’t have a suspect.
People with information about the case are asked to contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at [email protected].