True-Crime Fans are Still Fascinated with Missy Bevers' Murder | Dallas Observer

Keeping a Cold Case Warm: True-Crime Fans are Still Fascinated with Missy Bevers' Murder

A widower and a group of podcasters haven't stopped searching for answers into a perplexing crime, although they' don't share the same approach.
In Midlothian, True Crime Broads podcast listeners and internet sleuths commemorate Missy Bevers.
In Midlothian, True Crime Broads podcast listeners and internet sleuths commemorate Missy Bevers. Alicia Claytor
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Several townsfolk murmured softly as they stood before the young red oak tree on Tuesday, April 18. Nearly as many members of the media planted themselves on the sidelines, cameras aimed and ready. A reddish-brown stone bore the inscription “In Loving Memory of Missy Bevers.” It was signed “Friends of TCB.”

The podcasters from True Crime Broads had invited their listeners to the tree-planting ceremony at a park in Midlothian, a city of around 40,000 located roughly a half-hour’s drive southwest from Dallas. Some wore custom black T-shirts to the event, the words “Justice for Missy, 4/18/2016” scrawled onto a large red heart.

That Tuesday marked seven years since 45-year-old Terri “Missy” Bevers, who had lived in nearby Red Oak, was murdered in a Midlothian church. Many residents were certain that her case would be solved in the days after. That confidence has gradually waned in the weeks, months and years since.

Attendees bowed their heads in prayer during opening remarks. Then, dressed in one of the custom shirts, True Crime Broads’ Renae Rodden thanked the modest crowd for showing up and lending support.

“Missy was a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter — and, you know, it could have been any of us,” Rodden said, her speech punctuated by the sound of kids horsing around on the park’s playground.

“Together, I think that we are able to just come together, make sure that tips keep coming in, people keep talking about this case,” she continued. “Because when people quit talking, when tips quit coming in, the case goes cold.”

The ceremony was brief. A former Midlothian police officer offered reassurance that investigators are still sorting through pieces of the jigsaw puzzle behind the scenes.

But many in Midlothian are vexed by what they view as a relative lack of momentum in solving a murder that, for a time, was heavily featured by the national and international news media, including by true crime titans like Nancy Grace. Stories about the case have since largely dwindled to local news briefs on anniversaries of Bevers’ killing.

Bevers’ widower and three daughters desperately want justice. So do true-crime lovers who’d never met the fitness instructor in real life before becoming transfixed by her bizarre death.

When the speakers had wrapped up, Midlothian residents bantered about Bevers’ murder and other cases covered by True Crime Broads. They marveled at a lack of developments. They floated their own theories.

Attendee Pepper Kuykendall gestured to the overcast sky and wondered aloud whether it would rain. The recently planted red oak could probably use it, after all.

“It’s that time of year, you know,” Kuykendall said. “April showers bring May flowers.”

But the rain never came.

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A wildflower field sits adjacent to Creekside Church.
Alicia Claytor
Blue and orange wildflowers painted the field adjacent to the Creekside Church the afternoon of the tree-planting ceremony. A woman exited the imposing taupe building and beelined for her car. The church’s exterior doors shut and locked behind her.

On April 18 seven years earlier, Bevers entered the church at around 4:20 a.m., according to police. She was there to teach a class for Camp Gladiator, an outdoor fitness program. She posted on Facebook the night before that they would still be training, despite an April shower that forced the session indoors.

By the time Bevers arrived, the killer had already been plodding up and down the church halls for some 30 minutes.

Video later released by police shows the suspect in SWAT-like tactical gear, clutching what looks to be a hammer, the Observer reported in 2017. The perpetrator vandalized the church. They opened and closed doors. They walked with a peculiar gait. And, before long, they encountered Bevers, whose body was discovered by students around 5 a.m. She died of puncture wounds to her chest and head.

Reports of the suspect’s height varied: anywhere from 5-foot-2 to 5-foot-8. The person’s strange walk could have been from some sort of temporary injury or condition, police have said.

It’s possible the killer was a woman.

Some articles about the case claim that there was a gun discovered next to Bevers’ body. But police assert that a firearm found at the scene had actually belonged to Bevers, and that it was recovered from inside her vehicle. It wasn’t used in her murder.

The church’s outdoor surveillance cameras weren’t in working order at the time of Bevers’ murder. Law enforcement officials sent out notice that they wanted to talk with the driver of what appeared to be a 2010 to 2012 Nissan Altima, or a 2010 to 2012 Infiniti G37. Earlier that morning, the car had slowly snaked around the parking lot of a nearby business, its headlights turning off and on.

Bevers’ husband, Brandon Bevers, was out of state on the day of the murder. Brandon’s father, Randy Bevers — whose right leg purportedly had an outward pronation similar to the culprit’s — was traveling in California, the Observer reported in 2017. With ironclad alibis, the Bevers men were dismissed as suspects by law enforcement.

“Because when people quit talking, when tips quit coming in, the case goes cold.” – Renae Rodden, True Crime Broads podcast

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Still, speculation has flourished amidst a dearth of publicly available information. Web sleuths ask: Could the husband have hired a hitman to do the deed while he was conveniently out of town? Could it have been a robbery gone wrong? Could the perpetrator have killed Missy in a jealous fit of rage?

Police’s stance on the Bevers men didn’t stop social media users from pointing the finger at them — nor did it discourage amateur detectives from accusing other innocents in the broader Midlothian community. “They could gather everyone on Facebook groups into an auditorium and tell them the truth, but they don’t want the truth,” one former person of interest previously told the Observer. “They just want to crucify somebody.”

If anyone gets that, it’s Brandon. Speaking with the Observer in early April, he said that, for whatever reason, some folks flat-out refuse to accept the truth.

It took a couple of years to begin the process of grieving the loss of Missy, whom Brandon had known for more than two decades. After the murder, he was angry. He went into defensive mode. He knew that even though he wasn’t involved, others viewed him as a likely culprit.

“I've always walked a fairly straight line in my whole life. You know, I was a Boy Scout,” Brandon said. “I've never really strayed outside of what was expected of me socially — or as a son, or as a father or husband — so, to be considered a suspect in your wife's murder, through the interrogation and questioning process, it really, really put me in a dark place.”

Murder certainly isn’t common in Midlothian. The most prevalent crimes are assault and theft, said Assistant Police Chief Scott Brown of the Midlothian Police Department. Local law enforcement wants the community to know that the case hasn’t gone cold, and Brown cited several ways in which investigators are still hard at work.

Thousands of tips flooded in after Missy died. Even in the past year the department has received more than 50 new ones, Brown said via email. But misinformation abounds online, and there are plenty of “outlandish theories” that harm the investigation.

“We will continue to rely on help from the tips we receive with the hope that someone with true knowledge of the crime — not theory or speculation — decides to come forward,” he continued.

“I hope this helps you — and helps us.”

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A commemorative stone sits next to the tree planted in Missy Bevers' name.
Alicia Claytor
Some of the True Crime Broads’ listeners at the tree-planting ceremony resemble fictional podcast fans in Only Murders In the Building, Hulu’s murder mystery series starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. In the show, the three protagonists launch a podcast chronicling their efforts to solve a New York City murder. They sometimes interact with a cadre of concerned fellow citizens-cum-eager armchair detectives who want to help out in any way they can.

True Crime Broads supporters share that sincerity, that genuine interest in justice.

Pepper Kuykendall has kind eyes and a bushy white mustache and wore a trucker hat on the day of the ceremony. His wife, Dianna, has equally kind eyes and donned one of the custom black “Justice for Missy” T-shirts. The Kuykendalls have lived in Midlothian for some 30 years. They remember when there was just one red light in town; it’s grown a lot since then.

Learning of Missy’s murder unsettled the couple.

“It was very shocking, especially being in a church,” Dianna said.

“That's just wrong,” Pepper replied.

“That’s just evil,” Dianna concurred. “That is just evil.”

Before long, Midlothian resident Christi Bina joined in conversation with the Kuykendalls. The three chatted about another North Texas-area case, this one concerning a man who’d gone missing several years ago under suspicious circumstances.

Dianna mentioned that her kids had lived in the city where the man disappeared.

“So,” Bina quipped, “they know his wife did it?”

That question got them talking excitedly, sometimes all at once. Pepper inquired: How did the missing man’s wife get a death certificate so fast with no body? Dianna asked: If your spouse went missing, would you have their cellphone turned off immediately after?

It’s another curious case where part of the intrigue seems to stem from the victim’s close geographical proximity. True crime buffs really hate it when things don’t add up.

If something so terrible could happen to someone in their community, who’s to say that it couldn’t happen to them?

It appeared that many of the attendees at the tree planting ceremony didn’t know Bevers personally. Her grisly murder has kept them on edge all the same. Midlothian residents are more cautious now, True Crime Broads’ Crystal Lawson explained during a video call in March: “There's a homicidal maniac on the loose as far as most of the citizens in the area are concerned.”

Some women won’t take out their trash cans alone at night. Rodden bought a gun and carries it wherever she goes.

One social media user on the True Crime Broads’ Facebook group recently posted that she’s “constantly looking around” while going about her business, and that she won’t “feel safe in Midlothian until someone is arrested” or officially named as a suspect.

Bina recalled that she’d watch her grandkids play in the front yard of her home, near where Bevers lived. After the murder, Bina gave police a ring. “I've got my grandchildren out here playing. Do I need to be concerned?” she asked them.

They assured Bina there wasn’t any reason to be alarmed.

“Why? Why is there no reason for alarm?” she wants to know. “I’m still alarmed.”

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A Midlothian billboard still advertises the reward for help in finding Missy Bevers' killer.
Alicia Claytor
April 18, 2016, was a nightmarish day for Brandon Bevers. He was on a fishing trip in Mississippi when he reportedly got the call from a student in Missy’s class. He was told that there’d been a robbery, and that Missy was “no longer with us.”

For the eight hours it took to get back home, Brandon was stuck in a car, virtually alone with his thoughts, he said in an interview with NBC-DFW two years after Missy’s death.

“Seven days into this, I thought that the person would be apprehended, and I never imagined it taking this long,” he said at the time, in 2018. “I have faith that this will be solved, the person will be apprehended; I just don't know when. But the longer it goes on, the harder it is.”

Lately, Brandon is simply “maintaining.” He told the Observer in early April that, all things considered, he and his three girls are doing relatively well. He describes the ordeal surrounding Missy’s death as frustrating. Investigators have been tight-lipped for some time now.

He also said he’s become more emotional these days — not necessarily because of hopelessness, but from “the feeling of just kind of living in a vacuum without any results.”

Brandon still struggles with the way that Missy has been portrayed by the media. Early on, the narrative crafted about the couple was that they were having financial difficulties, and that there’d been an extramarital relationship. Yet they weren’t really having financial problems, Brandon said. There had been an affair “that came to light in 2014,” but they were working through it.

“Seven days into this, I thought that the person would be apprehended, and I never imagined it taking this long.” – Brandon Bevers

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To see cable networks run segments about Missy’s murder was surreal for Brandon. Somehow, his family’s greatest tragedy had been twisted into a form of exploitative entertainment for countless faceless news viewers and true-crime consumers.

“In the days following this thing, you're sitting at home, you're watching news reports of this whole thing from all over the United States and you know, CNN will air a segment on it, and they'll have a banner running across the screen that says ‘Sex, Lies and Murder’ or something,” he said. “And you're just sitting there going, ‘What?’”

Brandon is well aware of the true-crime following that Missy’s case has accrued. The way he sees it, people will believe what they want to regardless of the facts. Some would apparently rather view Missy’s murder as something out of a Lifetime movie.

Seven years later, Brandon comes across as a man who doesn’t have the bandwidth to care what others think about him. Not anymore. “My first priority is these kids,” he said. “My second priority is this investigation.” He cares deeply about how Missy is portrayed. She’s not here to defend herself.

The tree-planting ceremony seemed to have meant something to the Broads and to their listeners, but Brandon wasn’t moved.

“Why wasn’t Missy’s family here?” one ceremony attendee had asked.

They had plans.

When April 18 rolls around, Brandon said, he typically gathers with Missy’s mother and brother. That day, the family seeks to “spend some time in solitude,” he said. “That’s kind of our moment of privacy.”

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Creekside Church is ground zero for internet sleuths trying to solve the case.
Alicia Claytor
Brandon has a strained relationship with Rodden and Lawson, the True Crime Broads podcasters. They have spoken with one another over the years, and Rodden has appeared on the news sitting alongside him. But these days, Brandon questions the Broads’ motivations. He pointed to an episode in which he believed Missy had been cast in a poor light by a guest who’d made some false claims.

“It just pissed me off to no end. It upset the girls, and [Rodden and Lawson] don't even understand why I'm so mad,” Brandon said. “And the fact that they don't understand tells me that their ego is greater than their judgment ability.”

The Broads were aware that Brandon had been offended, but they told the Observer in late March they thought he’d gotten over his anger. Lawson pointed out that they aired a disclaimer ahead of the episode in question and said his girls have likely heard worse in the media. Rodden noted that they’d given one of the Bevers daughters a platform on their show to share her feelings on the investigation.

Still, Lawson said she knows that the family has endured a horrific several years. She can’t blame them for emotions running high.

Plus, they’ve gone to bat for Brandon, who some gossips still believe was connected to Missy’s death.

“I tell you what: One of the things that Renae and I have done tirelessly is to try to get people to stop blaming him for the murder,” Lawson said. “And I think he and his mother and everyone have been very thankful to us for that.”

She and Rodden estimate that they’ve covered Missy’s killing in at least 100 episodes. They're constantly mining for new angles, something that’s getting increasingly difficult. They’ll reiterate the same facts and dispel the same myths for the benefit of new listeners. It hasn’t appeared to wear on their dedication to the case one bit.

Lawson and Rodden want police to release additional information about the murder, such as another picture or video clip of the killer. They want to see greater media coverage to help keep Missy’s story alive. Law enforcement could be just one tip away from cracking the case. It might take only a single, seemingly inconsequential detail to do it.

The two podcasters and Brandon may disagree on how to approach the case, but they all share the same aim: for Missy’s killer to get caught.

Rodden said she worked with Missy for a time at Vault Denim, which she described as a jeans company that “was kind of like multilevel marketing.” Lawson said her children are the same ages as the three Bevers girls.

Rodden gets why so many are invested in Missy’s case: They see themselves in her.

“They truly, truly care about Missy,” she said of their listeners, “and they really want to see this case solved.”

At the ceremony on April 18, Rodden pressed the importance of the case while talking with the media. Newscasters eventually broke down their equipment, and the Kuykendalls and Bina went their separate ways. A slight breeze rustled the red oak tree’s leaves, moving them to dance. On the road leading out of Midlothian, the setting sun broke through a canopy of clouds.

Missy may be gone, but she can still be seen smiling next to the train tracks in town.

There she is, on the left side of a striking red billboard: a photo of Missy wearing a purple tank top, hair cascading just past her shoulders. On the right side of the sign, a grainy image of her killer in tactical gear, stalking the empty halls of Creekside Church.

The billboard asks, in yellow all-caps letters, the four-word question that’s kept so many awake at night: “WHO KILLED MISSY BEVERS?”

Those with tips are encouraged to call the Midlothian Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at 972-775-7634 or Crime Stoppers of Ellis County at 972-937-PAYS (7297). Rodden said Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction, and there is another, independent reward of $150,000.
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