HOUSTON — When Karen and Randy Douglas said I do, they thought it was forever.
“I would never forget seeing her walk down the aisle. I was happy, as happy as I could be," said Randy Douglas.
He and Karen were sweethearts at C.E. King High School and had just welcomed a baby daughter.
"We did everything together," said Randy.
One afternoon that all changed.
“I left for work that morning and then by noon, I didn't have a wife," Randy said.
He was 23 and she was 22. It was the last thing Randy thought he would ever have to endure.
“To see to see your wife, your wife’s dead body. It's scary."
'She fought like hell'
On January 6, 1981, Karen was found stabbed more than 25 times inside their home on Croteau drive in northeast Harris County.
She fought like hell, investigators say, to protect their 3-month-old baby.
A baby, who is now all grown up.
“It is difficult sometimes, because I didn't know her. I mean, I've heard stories about her and that I'm just like her," said Chrissy Ross, John and Karen's daughter.
A picture-perfect family that early on in the investigation detectives began to pick apart. At first they questioned Randy and wanted to know how he injured one of his fingers.
“He held it up and he said, 'When did you do this?' I said when I was 15 and he said, ‘That saved your life,'" Randy remembered.
When he was a teenager, Randy's finger got caught in a motorcycle chain and immediately detectives knew the killer’s fingerprints in the house couldn’t have been him.
'A punk kid' in a ski mask
But as they interviewed other family members, they learned Karen had barely escaped a home invasion days before.
“She said she saw this guy with a ski mask and he had a knife and he pushed his way through," said Debra Perich, Karen's sister-in-law. “I said, did you get to see anything about him? And she said… 'He was a punk kid.'"
Karen wasn’t the only victim. Investigators say a month before the murder there were other women who reported being stalked by a man in a ski mask carrying a knife.
“The ladies in that area at that time were scared to death," said Sgt. Dennis Wolfford, Harris County Sheriff's Office.
He picked up the case in 2017. Sgt. Wolfford's first task was ruling out a serial killer named Henry Lee Lucas.
“I was able to research and find that the day before Karen Douglas was killed and the day after Henry Lee Lucas was in Jacksonville, Florida," he said.
With the serial killer ruled out, Sgt. Wolfford turned his attention back to a sketch in the case file.
“What you got to ask yourself why that predator disappeared and also who went to prison that was an original suspect right around that time?" Wolfford said.
There’s a couple people, he says, that fit the description. Now, they’re hoping DNA will help them zero in on a suspect. One of the items they’re testing is the killer’s ski mask.
“There are pieces of evidence that are new. They're not new to the case, but they're new to being forensically examined as far as DNA goes,” Wolfford said.
It’s the most news this family has heard on the case in years.
“I believe it can be solved; I do," Karen's sister-in-law said.
But the timing was compounded by another loss.
“I lost my wife for COVID, six, seven weeks ago. We were married for 30 years. Her name was Karen too,” Randy said.
Two wives, two Karens, taken from a husband who loved with his whole heart. If there was a silver lining, it would be that love.
“I think their relationship, just hearing about it, growing up and we planted a seed for my relationship with my husband," Chrissy said.
It's love that’s carried this widower through four decades.
“I've been, I've been patient this long, I'll keep waiting," Randy said.
Love that will carry him until he knows the truth about who killed his bride.