Justice for Jean: Investigators hope to crack unsolved murder case

Away from the city lights, a teacher was brutally killed in a rural Texas town southwest of Houston.

Away from the city lights, a teacher was brutally killed in a rural Texas town southwest of Houston. It's a murder that happened almost 20 years ago, but investigators are hoping new leads will crack the case wide open.

"It was not a random thing, I don't believe at all," said Lois Woodring, friend and former teacher. "She was just always a very beautifully dressed person, carried herself well."

Jean Schoeneberg, 57, was a picture-perfect teacher who was murdered in the middle of nowhere.

"We're 90 miles from Houston, 40 miles from Victoria, so I never remember anyone coming and covering any of it," said Andy Bridges, Principal at Ganado High School where Jean taught.

The crime scene surrounded by cows and crops in rural Wharton County seems like an ideal place for a killer to disappear. The day Jean was murdered, Lois was waiting for her at school.

"I was waiting on her and trying to figure out why she wasn't showing up, because that wasn't like Jean not to show up when she said she would,” Woodring said.

Sergeant Scott Grosser with the Wharton County Sheriff's Office remembers hearing the call from County Road 311. It was August 5, 1999.

"The big question early on is... who did it, why did they do it, why did she have to die?" Grosser said.

That morning, Jean was walking down the road like she did almost every day. She was about a mile from her house when investigators say she was brutally attacked.

"Right here at the edge of the road, there was evidence of a struggle, there was some pooling of blood disruption of the gravel," Grosser said.

Her throat was cut twice, but there were no signs of sexual assault and nothing stolen.

"It was a very violent attack... someone managed to approach her whether they were in a vehicle or on foot from somewhere they were hiding is unknown," Grosser said.

The odd thing is it happened right at this tree Jean's turn around point to head back home.

"The way she was killed, it almost seems like somebody knew her, knew her patterns," Woodring said.

Deputies say there were no witnesses, and the whole area is family.

Over the years, Jean’s husband, son and daughter haven't said much publicly about the murder. In fact, they asked us to leave it alone.

"I would like to see justice for Jean," Woodring said.

This friend, though, is talking, hoping it can make a difference. After the funeral, she noticed something she shared with the Texas Rangers.

"I thought I knew Jean really well, and then I found out whenever I got her keys from her husband I found out those keys fit a mailbox in Edna," Woodring said.

That was strange to Woodring, because Jean lived in the Louise area and taught in Ganado, but Edna is the next town over and in the opposite direction.

"I bet she just didn't want that to be shared with others, I guess," Woodring said. "Everybody has secrets."

Deputies chased down leads from letters, but they didn't want to talk about what or who they found -- only that it didn't lead to a killer. Investigators told KHOU they believe the killer is still out there and they also believe there are people who know who did it.

After the family was ruled out, detectives turned their attention to Ganado High School where jean taught.

"Very somber time, very sad time for our students and for our faculty," Bridges said. "She was well liked by our students and by our staff."

Jean taught in Ganado for a least five years, mostly English.

"There were students that may not have liked doing their work for her, what she expected of them and wanted from them, but at the same time this was a new school year," Woodring said. "I don't think it was a student or a young person that did this."

Detectives are starting over, following a new lead behind bars. They're even resubmitting DNA evidence hoping to find a match to someone already in the system.

"It needs to be solved, a woman was murdered out here. She didn't deserve to die like this," Grosser said.

For now, it's just another lead that could be as remote as the crime scene itself.

"It just doesn't fit a pattern, it doesn't fall in place with any other series of unexplained attacks of its nature... it stands alone," Grosser said.

"I always wanted some sort of closure for this," Woodring said. "I know that there's a lot of people that have questions about what happened to her I don't think her case has ever been forgotten."

Investigators are hopeful they can solve Jean's case, because it was one of just two cold cases in the entire county. The other case was solved earlier this year. It was also from the 1990s. The remains of Rosemary Diaz, 15, were found in a shallow grave. The main suspect confessed to family members before his death. It was a tip call that cracked the case.

That's why they want your help to solve Jean's murder. If you have any information, call the Wharton County Sheriff's Office at (979) 532-1500 or the Texas Rangers at 1-800-346-3243. You can also submit tips online here.

(© 2016 KHOU)


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