Longform

Clueless

Page 10 of 10

Unwilling to compromise the evidence in case there was a break, Bennie rejected out of hand their request to review his investigative file. The meeting ended with the Gutheinzes hearing once again that Bennie had been unable to eliminate anyone as a suspect.


From December 2000 to August 2003, Jerry says, neither Bennie nor anyone involved in the investigation initiated contact with them.

Keith and others counseled Jerry to back away. The investigation was taking a toll on the Gutheinzes' marriage.

But he couldn't. Jerry contacted the FBI, the Texas Attorney General's Office and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District; he even looked into filing a lawsuit for dereliction of duty against Bennie. The Rangers told him he needed to have an attorney to contact them from now on.

"Now the Rangers have lawyered up," Jerry says with a bitter laugh.

As the seventh anniversary of Brent's murder nears, Ranger Bennie is on the list for promotion to lieutenant. The Gutheinzes' lives have changed. Emily is out of therapy and engaged to be married. Two years ago, Diana returned to teaching. Stephen recently had a composition commissioned and premiered by a major orchestra. Jerry and Diana have bought a new house in Richardson and have tried to put the investigation out of their daily lives. But the family is still haunted by Brent's murder.

"Ranger Bennie didn't do this to Brent," Jerry says. "But I think there was a career-killing series of events that happened in the first few weeks of this murder that nobody wants to come out. They have no incentive to solve this case. It puts their pride and competence out in public.

"If someone at the Dallas Police Department does something wrong, they send in the Rangers. But no one investigates the Rangers. All of them are doing their jobs, but when someone screws up, there's no review of their procedures and tactics."

Maybe it takes an obsessed father who won't take no for an answer. The murder of Brent Gutheinz recently was accepted by the Texas Rangers' 2-year-old Unsolved Crimes Investigation Team, as Jerry has long demanded.

So far, the eight-detective squad has taken on 58 cold cases, says Ranger Lieutenant Tony Leal; eight have been solved. "None of these cases are slam dunks," Leal says. The Ranger assigned to the Gutheinz case may not start working it for up to six months, based on his case load. But it's a start.

Says Davis, "Jerry is obsessed, but if my son was killed like that, I'd be in front of Congress right now. I'd be in the colonel's lap at the Rangers in Austin. Now it's pretty cold. The only way it will be solved is if they really work it."

Maybe he and the public expect too much, Jerry says. "These TV shows make us believe it's like CSI. They go out and handle the evidence beautifully and six weeks later get an indictment. This case and a lot of cases don't get that treatment."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Glenna Whitley