A mother was brutally murdered, and her six kids never knew why. The case went cold, but this year, there's new progress.
As part of our Missing Pieces series, we're looking at what it will take to solve her mysterious death.
Sundown in southeast Houston, when night life comes alive. Dotted with dive bars, there's always somewhere to stop for a cold drink and a smile.
One face, a favorite, Judy Ann Tijerina. Her daughter, one of six kids who still doesn't know why their mother is gone.
"She was always trying to provide for us. She was a good mom," said Tina Tijerina, her oldest daughter.
On June 23, 1998, Houston Police found Judy shot to death.
"There was someone who felt she had to be done away with," said Ramon Cervantes, a detective with Houston Police Cold Case Squad.
Her body was dumped on Scarsdale Boulevard near the Gulf Freeway and with few clues.
"She had no enemies. She was a great person. Where she worked, all the customers loved her there," said Sophie Garcia, her best friend.
Garcia remembers where she worked as a waitress at the Amazona club on South Richey Street.
"It was a normal little place people would go, a sports bar," Garcia said.
However, it's also where her life took a turn.
"I remember my mom told us she was bringing in a girl that worked with her that was having some domestic issues," Tina Tijerina said.
It wasn't the first time Judy took someone in. She'd been a victim, too, of domestic violence.
"Because she did a good deed, she's not here today," Garcia said.
Then, Judy left on a trip to Dallas, and things got bad.
"She was actually visiting one of her sons living in Dallas, and he was graduating from school, and they were celebrating his graduation," Garcia said.
While she celebrates, there's trouble back home. Police say the woman she gave a room to, along with four others, ripped off a dangerous drug dealer. Seventeen kilos of cocaine totaling tens of thousands of dollars.
"When my mom got back, I told her about it, and she was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I hope it's not who I think it was,'" Tina Tijerina said.
A man Judy knew would be trouble -- and he was.
"I found a bruise on her arm, and I questioned her about it, and she said that two gentlemen had come to her place of work, and one of them had grabbed her arm and was asking for the one young lady she had given a place to stay," Garcia said.
The last place Judy is seen is JR's club also on South Richey Street. A witness saw Judy leaning over a car, talking to someone. But whom?
Houston police are retracing her steps and putting new eyes on the case.
"There's no indication she was sexually assaulted... nothing was stolen," Detective Cervantes said.
No arrests ever came, but detectives discovered the drug dealer, who was ripped off, still threatened Judy, and she had enough.
"She got tired of it, and pretty much said if this doesn't stop to those that were involved, if this doesn't stop, then I'm going to tell them what went on," Detective Cervantes said.
But who killed Judy? Was it retaliation for the dope rip-off or someone afraid she'd tell?
Police count eight possible suspects. They're trying to match to DNA found at the crime scene.
"I do, I do. I believe she knew this person," said Garcia when asked if she thought Judy knew the person in the car she was last seen talking to the night she died.
Whoever it was is keeping a secret, this daughter hopes cold case detectives can bring to light.
"I know for me and my younger siblings, and for my grandmother, we really need closure. We really need this closure to move forward with our lives," Tina Tijerina said.
The lives of six children, most begun without even knowing their mom.
"When you take someone's life, you don't know the damage that you cause, because for me it's caused a lot of damage," Tina Tijerina said.
You can read more about Judy Ann Tijerina and other cases the Houston Police Cold Case Squad is working here. If you have any information that can help, call Crime Stoppers or HPD Cold Case at (713) 308-3618.
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