After eight years as the Texas Ranger for Liberty County, Ranger Brandon Bess has been assigned to the agency’s unsolved crimes investigation program. Bess will remain with Company A under the direction of Major Grover Huff, the former Texas Ranger for Liberty County, and will continue to work out of the Liberty County Courthouse.
Bess’s new role means he will be focusing on cold case investigations using technological advancements in genealogy and DNA. It’s a dream position for Bess, who recently was instrumental in identifying a suspect in a cold case murder out of Beaumont, Texas.
The victim in that case is Mary Catherine Edwards, 31, who died in 1995. She was suffocated in a bathtub and sexually assaulted.
Edwards was an unmarried school teacher who lived alone at a home on Park Meadow Street. Her body was discovered by her parents who went to check on her when they could not reach her by phone.
“They say she was a super sweet person. She has an identical twin who is also a school teacher,” Bess said.
The suspect, who Bess said cannot be publicly named at this time, was identified using DNA and genealogical testing. He was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, and is awaiting extradition to Jefferson County, Texas.
Bess has already helped solve three cold cases, including the Beaumont murder, and is hoping to provide justice for more victims and their families.
“I am super passionate about solving homicide and serial sexual assault cases in particular,” Bess said.
One case that is constantly on his mind but may never be solved is the murder of Monica “Christie” Wilson, a Liberty County woman who was killed in 1982 after she left Snappy convenience store in Liberty where she worked as a clerk. Her car was found abandoned and her body was dumped in a rural area.
Wilson’s murder investigation comes with some extraordinary challenges, some brought on by a storm that damaged the roof of the former Liberty PD headquarters, destroying evidence.
In his eight years as Ranger for Liberty County, Bess said he has been privileged to work alongside amazing investigators at the various agencies across the county.
“I have too many good things to say about Liberty County. That’s why I am happy that I get to stay here after this reassignment. Liberty County has absolutely been my favorite post so far,” he said.
If he could have handpicked his replacement, Bess said it would be Joshua Benson, who DPS announced on Monday afternoon is Liberty County’s new Ranger.
Benson, a native of Conroe, Texas, has been a Ranger for eight months and previously worked as a DPS state trooper.
“Ranger Benson is a young, energetic, smart family man. He will be a super Ranger for Liberty County. He’s way smarter than me,” said Bess, jokingly.
In recent weeks, Benson has already begun familiarizing himself with his new territory, which includes Hardin and San Jacinto counties, and has assisted other agencies with major criminal investigations, including an April 14, 2021, murder in Dayton.
Benson is a 2011 graduate of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. After graduation, he completed an intense, five-month state trooper academy offered by the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin. He worked as a state trooper from 2012 until his promotion to Ranger last August. As a trooper, he worked in Chambers and East Montgomery counties. He was promoted to the narcotics investigation team in Corpus Christi for one year and then worked on the child sex trafficking investigation unit out of Houston for three years.
Being a Ranger is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Benson.
“This has always been a desire and goal for me,” he said.
Bess leaves some big footprints behind for his predecessor but Benson is up for the task.
“I look forward to working with the agencies in the area and becoming integrated in the community building upon the positive relationships established between the community and law enforcement,” Benson said.
Benson and his wife, Holly, a nurse practitioner for Liberty Medical Surgical Clinic in Liberty, make their home in Lumberton, Texas.