Missing Pieces: A killer's secret

Two men went to prison, convicted of murdering 19-year-old Shelley Sikes in 1986. But her body was never found. KHOU's Grace White takes a look at this cold case.

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas -- This week, we are taking an in-depth look at five murder mysteries. Murders with missing pieces that are preventing investigators from solving and closing the cases.

Shelley Sikes was kidnapped in 1986. Two men were even sent to prison, but her body was never found.

"She was always the life of the party," said Dana Wild, her sister.

A brunette with a show-stopping smile.

"She was voted best personality her senior year, she was voted most talented, she was voted Miss School Spirit," Wild said.

Shelley, 19, is the last person anyone thought would be murdered.

"I thought Shelley of all people, this would happen to Shelley?" said Erin Sikes, her mother.

Her mother, sister and police believe they know who did it. Two men went to prison convicted of kidnapping Shelley in 1986. However, her body was never found.

"Until we can find her and put her in her grave, it's never closed," said Wayne Kessler, one of the original investigators who worked the case in Galveston County.

It was Memorial Day weekend, and Galveston was packed, but one night of partying fueled by alcohol and drugs turned to murder.

"She was at work at Gaido's and had gotten off work and was headed home," Wild said.

Detectives found Shelley's car, right off the causeway. A Blue Ford Pinto, we found video of it digging through boxes of evidence at the Galveston County Sheriff's Office and pictures few people have ever seen.

Despite the evidence detectives had no suspects. Until a year later, when an El Paso dispatcher got this call.

Caller: "I think I know something about a girl that's missing in Galveston County."

Dispatch: "What's her name?"

Caller: "Shelley Sikes"

It was John King on the phone, and soon after came an arrest.

"I was like jumping up and down, I said, 'We got ya,'" Kessler said. 

Then came a twist. In a chilling note, King said he wasn't alone, and a guy named Gerald Zwarst might know where to find Shelley's body.

"This was their stomping grounds. They were from here, this area was a well-known area for the kids to hang out and party," said Lt. Tommy Hansen with the Galveston County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say King and Zwarst picked Sikes at random on the road. They harassed her, she flipped them off and they ran her off the road. 

"When they had buried her, they realized she was still alive because the dirt was moving, and they took a shovel and began beating it, until she stopped," Hansen said.

"To hear those kinds of things and know how terrified she must have been it's just horrible, no family should ever have to go through anything like that," Sikes said.

Shelley's mother had to live with the fact that King and Zwarst wouldn't be tried for murder. Because there was no body, they were only convicted of aggravated kidnapping with life sentences, which at the time carried 40 years. 

"It's like a sore that can never heal," Wild said.

Shelley's family has spent the past decade fighting parole. Even offering to grant both men immunity if they led police to Shelley's body, but instead it turned into a wild goose chase, first with King.

"We kinda thought she's gonna be buried behind his house," Kessler said.

Then Zwarst led investigators to this blouse found in a sandpit. They thought it belonged to Shelley, but her family wasn't convinced.

"I know the papers and everyone says that it was hers, we really don't know if it was hers," Wild said.

In the end, detectives think Shelley's body was moved, but King died in prison in late 2015.

"There was relief, because I wouldn't have to fight his parole anymore, but then there was anger because he died without telling us where Shelley was," Wild said.

Leaving only Zwarst.

"He swears to this day that if he knew where she was moved, he'd tell us," Hansen said.

Shelley's family is not giving up.

"I don't want him to have any kind of a good life to live, because he certainly didn't allow my sister to have any kind of a good life to live," Wild said.

Zwarst is up for parole this year and they're preparing for a fight. Still hoping one day they can bring their sweet Shelley home.

Shelley's family just got the notification at the beginning of May Zwarst is up for parole this summer. He declined our request for an interview. If you have any information that could help investigators find Shelley's body, call Crime Stoppers.

For more information on how to send support letters to the Parole Board tap/click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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