Texas Ranger Brandon Bess is determined to bring justice for victims of unsolved crimes. His current focus is the cold case of a man’s torso that was discovered back in December 1999 in a roadside ditch on CR 622 in Liberty County.
As a cold case investigator for the Texas Rangers, Bess strives to keep the case alive, hoping that DNA testing will reveal clues that may lead to identifying the victim and possibly uncovering his killers.
When asked what motivates him, Bess said, “Justice for the victims and answers for the families.” He believes that the lives of family members of the missing are left in limbo, left waiting for answers that often never come.
“Of the cold cases I have been able to solve, the families have said it’s something that has nagged at them. They are thankful to have answers. In a Harris County case I had recently, involving us discovering the identity of a teen victim, after identifying the young man his sister told me that she thought he had just run away. They came from a dysfunctional family. But the truth is he has been dead since that last time she spoke to him,” Bess said. “Families don’t really get closure but they get peace in knowing what happened to their loved one.”
In the 1999 case in Liberty County, Bess said the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office conducted a very thorough investigation even though there was very little to go on. Only the lower part of the man’s torso was found. It had been carefully wrapped in a tarp and placed in the roadside ditch in the Dayton area.
“The torso, believed to be a white Caucasian or Hispanic, was still wearing clothing – pants and a belt. The belt buckle was Bianchi brand,” Bess said.
The Bianchi brand is favored by military, sportsmen and police. The victim’s pants were 26-inch waist Levi blue jeans and he was wearing a brown leather belt with the Bianchi buckle. He was possibly a smoker as he carried a yellow Bic-brand lighter with the word “Turbo” etched on its side.
“The victim had been shot. All that was ever found was his torso. Fortunately, investigators kept a portion of his femur that is now being used for DNA testing,” Bess said.
Because of the precision cuts used to dismember the body, Bess said, “We believe his murder could have happened using packing house equipment, like if you had a professional setup.”
While DNA testing has been around since the 1980s, it wasn’t until around 1999 that DNA began to be entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), according to Bess.
“We’ve checked and our victim is not in the CODIS system. He could have been in prison before 1999, but we won’t have his name in CODIS. Even so, I am feeling pretty good that we can identify him. Using genealogy records, we should be able to find at least a next of kin, which hopefully will lead to his identity. The DNA system hasn’t failed me yet,” Bess said.
As for whether or not the murder aspect of the case will ever be solved, Bess is a little less certain.
“It’s terrible to be able to get to the point that we identify someone but then have no other clues to work with,” the Ranger said. “With all of the other missing person cases from that time in Liberty County, we have been able to get DNA from family members. We don’t believe this will be a reported Liberty County missing person.”
Currently, Bess is working four cold cases for Liberty County and a total of 25 cases for Company A of the Texas Rangers. He plans to highlight other cold cases for Bluebonnet News in the coming months.
“If there is anything possible left to do, we are going to do it. Hopefully we get answers that bring families peace,” he said.
If you know anything about this case or others, call the Rangers Office in the Liberty County Courthouse at 936-336-4627 or contact the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office at 936-336-4500.