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1971 Houston cold case gets new resources

Rufus Ray Brigham was stabbed to death on June 17, 1971 on Denver Street.

HOUSTON — Houston police are re-opening the case of an African American man murdered in the 1970s. It's part of a million-dollar grant to solve cold cases where civil rights were violated.

Outside the big city, in an area known for ranchlands and cattle, a family raising ten kids was hard to miss.

"Most people in El Campo know us," said Bridget Eguakun, one of the sisters. "They know us by our high cheekbones. They say, 'I don't know who your daddy is, but I know you are a Brigham.'"

There were seven girls and three boys. The oldest, Rufus Ray Brigham, was ambitious. He moved to Houston, got a job, got married and had a baby. But in 1971, he was murdered.

"When he got killed, it was just really hurtful because who would do that to somebody like that?" said Brenda Overton, Rufus's sister.

It was June 17, 1971. Rufus got a call from his brother-in-law, Michael Ward, for help. He went to pick him up and Ward told him he had been robbed and a man had tried to sexually assault him. 

Ward wanted Rufus to go back and help him get his car. That's where investigators say his trouble began. 

"So, Rufus gets out of his car, while they did not know this, but the suspect, Clarence, gets out of the car," said Detective Paul Vela with Houston Police Department's Cold Case Unit.

Clarence is the only name Houston police have to go by.  He's the same man who Ward said attacked him, and this time he surprised both of them. 

Police say Clarence jumped out of the car with a knife and stabbed Rufus to death.  

"We are still looking for Clarence, we don't even know if that's his real name, his nickname, we don't know," Vela said. 

"I'm just hoping that someone will see this and maybe they will step forward," said Arnita Brigham Moore, Rufus's daughter.

She was just one year old when her father was killed.

"As I began to grow up and wanted more of my dad in my life, needing a dad, needing my dad in my life, I wanted to know why he was murdered," she said.

Now, detectives are hoping that's something a million-dollar grant given to the Houston Police Department from the Department of Justice will help change. The grant focuses on cases where a person's civil rights were violated. 

Detectives told us this case was selected because Ward told them he was gay and they believe that's why he may have been targeted. 

"Every family is important to us," said Vela. "Back in 1971, people were not as open as they are now." 

Talking about it now, Rufus's daughter hopes will give the case new momentum. 

"I'm so honored my father was picked," she told KHOU 11.

Back in El Campo, Rufus is buried next to his mom and dad. His sisters say seeing his case solved will give their big brother the chance to finally rest in peace. 

"We can't bring him back, but we can get some closure," said Eguakun.

If you have any information on this cold case or any others, call the Houston Police Department Cold Case Unit at 713-308-3618 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).

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