Detectives report progress in cold case

Vernon Parish detectives believe they are making new progress in their renewed investigation of a cold case from 1980.

Chief Detective Rhonda Jordan said that since launching a new investigation into the death of 15-year-old Darlene Howard, cold case team members have been successful at locating witnesses or acquaintances of the victim listed in the original case file, as well as “persons of interest.”

“We have interviewed two persons of interest in the case and we believe that one of the two warrants closer examination by investigators,” Jordan stated.

Jordan said that detectives have been traveling out of state to conduct interviews with the persons listed in the original case file, and she said being able to locate those individuals has been half of the battle for detectives.

“The most difficult aspect of working a cold case is locating persons listed in the case file. Often times, people relocate or have name changes so that aspect of the investigation has been very time consuming,” she stated.

According to Sheriff Sam Craft, Howard was last seen by her mother on April 15, 1980 at her residence in the Sandy Hill Community.

Howard’s mother told investigators that her daughter went to go put a letter in the mailbox, and never returned. Her body was found on April 27 in a wooded area on West Boundary Road not far from her home, and Craft said he believes the killer was someone the girl knew.

“The crime was committed in a somewhat personal nature, and we believe she was face to face with her killer at the time that this happened,” Craft stated.

He said Howard suffered defensive wounds to her arms and was stabbed multiple times.

“We believe she put up a struggle and fought for her life,” he stated.

The case was first reopened in Nov. 2017 after Craft first announced his creation of the cold case team. In addition to Howard’s case, the team is also looking into several other cold cases that span from 1980 through 1990. He said the new ability to use DNA evidence in those cases leads him to believe they have “a strong chance” of being solved at last.

””Cold Case Darlene Howard