Dressed in what looked like SWAT gear and armed with a hammer, the killer came upon fitness instructor Terri "Missy" Bevers in the early morning hours of April 18, 2016. The 45-year-old Red Oak mother of three was setting up a Camp Gladiator exercise class at the Creekside Church of Christ in Midlothian. Her body was later found with multiple puncture wounds to her head and chest.
Midlothian police immediately released surveillance footage of the killer who walked with a distinctive gait through the church, opening and closing doors rather nonchalantly. Standing somewhere between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, the killer wore a black helmet with the lower half face of his face covered. He may have been a she, as Bevers' husband pointed out to People magazine a month after his wife's murder.
"I think it was a woman," Brandon Bevers, then 42, told the magazine. "There's no reason why an individual would break into a church, dressed in that type of clothing and stage a robbery, or what would appear to be a robbery — going through the building, breaking glass and opening doors. If that person was really there to commit a robbery, why did they kill my wife and leave her wedding ring on her finger?"
Midlothian police still don’t know who killed Bevers nearly two years later. They had experienced homicide detectives from Fort Worth and Dallas help out with the case. They spoke with a cold case group hosted by the Texas Sheriff’s Association as well as investigators from the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association.
Now a new police investigator has taken over the case after the original investigator, Cody Moon, transferred back to the patrol division. Midlothian police Sgt. Andy Vaughan said that they plan to form a group of officers "to come in and start back from scratch," according to a Jan. 26 Daily Light report.
Vaughan didn’t have anything else to add when the Dallas Observer reached out. "As you can imagine, I am extremely busy with the investigation at this time," he wrote in a Feb. 12 email.
He told the Daily Light they were still averaging about 10 tips a week from email, phone calls and Crime Stoppers. Some are coming from out of state and others as far away as Australia. In early January 2017 when the Observer last covered Bevers' story, they had received between 1,300 to 1,400 tips at the time.
Midlothian police already had one group of people online trying to help identify the killer with the distinctive gate and possibly snag the $50,000 reward. Shortly after Bevers' murder, amateur internet investigators began analyzing search warrants and still images of the killer in makeshift tactical gear, as the Observer wrote about in this Jan. 31, 2017, feature.
They began running background checks, trolling social media sites of family and friends and using acronyms to discuss and debate the guilt or innocence of the person. Assistant Police Chief Kevin Johnson claimed his department had to follow every lead and false leads were wasting man hours and wreaking havoc on people’s lives. "They need to remember that these are people with families," he said. "Just because we’re following up on a tip and talking with someone doesn’t mean they’re guilty."
At first, online sleuths seemed to focus on Bevers' father-in-law, Randy Bevers, who walked with a distinctive gait, but police claimed that neither Brandon nor Randy Bevers was suspected of killing Missy. Randy Bevers had been traveling in California at the time, and Brandon Bevers was fishing in Mississippi.
The internet sleuths focused on a few other people before settling on April Sandoval, a 36-year-old gas station attendant. She stood about the same height and build as the killer and walked with a distinctive gait at the time from a work injury. She also worked down the road from the Creekside Church of Christ and attended four sessions of Bevers' five-week Camp Gladiator fitness course.
Online sleuths found her on Bevers’ Facebook friends list and a picture of her posing with Bevers and other Camp Gladiator students. They also pointed out that she got insurance on a Nissan Altima similar in make and model to one that appeared in an outdoor store’s surveillance footage not far from the church a couple of hours before Bevers' murder.
A detective even came to speak with her, asked her to walk back and forth and measured her height. She was supposed to meet with the original investigator when the Observer last spoke with her January 2017 but hadn’t done so when the story was published. She claimed that she didn’t have time to meet with him. "I think I need an attorney," she said then.
Sandoval told the Observer in early June that she was no longer working at the gas station but was still dealing with online sleuths. “Nothing else has changed since the last story,” she wrote in a text message.
Johnson appeared in a couple of recent news stories that announced a new detective had been assigned to handle the Missy Bevers' case and claimed they were still dealing with misinformation as "one of the most significant hurdles in the case."
"Over all has social media hurt or helped this investigation?" he told the Observer. "I don't know how to answer that. Has the information been a distraction? Yes. Do we want to dig into every piece of information? Yes, and we will continue to."
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