Prime suspect in murder mystery still on the run 30 years later

The prime suspect in a local murder mystery is still on the run 30 years after the crime was committed and detectives are trying to dig up new leads on the man.

HOUSTON - This week we are focusing on unsolved murders. Murders that need just one missing piece to turn them from cold cases to closed cases.

Wednesday's case is about Opal Lee Zacharias, a woman robbed at gunpoint in her own garage and then dragged to her death near Garden Oaks. Now, 30 years later, police are still searching for her killer.

"She was the glue that kept us together,” said Molly Nash, Zacharias' sister.

Zacharias was a Sunday School teacher with a warm heart.

"She always had a cherry pie and that was my favorite,” said Charles Paydon, her nephew she raised like a son.

But who would want Zacharias dead? She was living the American Dream, married and running a liquor store with her husband.

"Big change, big change, brings back a lot of memories,” said Paydon, looking at where the family’s liquor store used to be on Fulton Street, just north of downtown.

Now, he wonders why Lance Bedgood, the man police say pulled the trigger, is still on the run.

"He took her life and he's continued on...It just doesn't seem right,” said Paydon.

It was 1987 and Zacharias was at home with her husband getting ready for work. He left, leaving the garage door open and when she came out two men were waiting. 

Police say she was shot and then run over, as one of them raced down the driveway in her car on Chantilly Lane near N. Shepard and Loop 610.

“This is where it happened, we believe the vehicle was inside the garage,” said Detective Paul Vela, with Houston Police Department’s Cold Case Unit.

Vela is trying to dig up new leads on the prime suspect, a man with a long criminal history who was out on parole at the time of her murder.

"For someone to come in and just take her away from her husband… I think it kinda hit people,” said Vela.

But why did he choose her? Both investigators and the family believe he followed her home from the store because he thought she had money.

"She would give anybody anything, and not hide it,” said Nash.

A month before the murder, her sister called concerned.

"She bought things they brought into sell, she really thought she was helping their families and I told her those were not your friends," said Nash. "I was afraid they were going to kill her."

It wasn't just the store where she was vulnerable. The family owned a quad plex behind it that they rented out.

"What we think happened is someone was living back here who knew Lance Bedgood. They came and visited, they went to the store, they all saw the jewelry she had on,” said Paydon.

Even though that's what may have lured her killer, investigators say he got away with just her car and purse. Both of which he ditched and then disappeared.

America's Most Wanted featured the cold case and tips came in on possible sightings from Florida and North Carolina to Michigan.

"I believe there are people who have covered for him, I believe people are afraid of him,” said Vela.

Lance Bedgood would be 73 years old with a scar over his right eye and tattoos.

"I would really like to see a final, a final answer,” said Nash.

An answer her husband never got. He died years ago without seeing a resolution to the case. It's a mystery that's always haunted this family and still decades later they only want one thing.

"That person receives his punishment for taking such a wonderful lady from this earth,” said Nash.

There's still an active murder warrant out on Bedgood. If you know where he might be, call Crime Stoppers.

Houston Police are launching a new part of their website to feature unsolved crimes. To read about cases and wanted suspects, click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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