Could DNA be the key that unlocks the decades-old mystery of a Central Texas woman’s murder?

Lillian Morales Hefele was 40 when she died 40 years ago. (Fort Worth Police Dept. photo)
Lillian Morales Hefele was 40 when she died 40 years ago. (Fort Worth Police Dept. photo)(KWTX)
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2020 at 10:08 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson says his counterparts in Tarrant County have agreed to test evidence recovered from a murder scene 40 years ago where a Waco woman was found dead.

Lillian Morales “Lillie” Hefele,40, the mother of two and wife of a Waco insurance agent, was found on Feb. 27, 1980 inside her red and white 1976 Cadillac at 3900 Sansom Park Rd., in Buck Sansom Park in Fort Worth, dead from two gunshot wounds.

No one’s ever been charged with her murder, though that could change in coming days since the DA’s office in Tarrant County has told Johnson it’s submitting what evidence it has to the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab for testing and further analysis.

“Multiple samples have been sent to the DPS lab for DNA testing,” Johnson wrote in a June 11 letter to Bernadette Feazell, a Waco woman who was a close friend of Hefele and who has followed the case since the day the woman’s body was discovered.

Johnson continued, “It is my understanding that you have to take this initial step before this familial DNA can be utilized.

“Fort Worth PD is continuing to investigate the case along with the Tarrant County DA’s office,” Johnson said.

McLennan County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve January said he wasn’t aware that Johnson had spoken with Tarrant County about the issue, but both he and Sheriff Parnell McNamara said the office is working closely with Fort Worth police to ensure that any evidence available for testing is tested.

Fort Worth police responded Feb. 27, 1980 to a request to meet Fort Worth park officers regarding a Signal 12, a deceased person, on Sansom Park Drive and when Officers C.L. Forntenberry and J.H. Payne arrived, they found Hefele’s body inside her car.

“Upon arriving at 2007 hours (8:07 p.m.), officer was met by (a park police officer) who stated he observed the complainant vehicle in the southwest corner of Buck-Sansom Park, approximately 200 yards from 3900 Sansom Park Drive,” Forntenberry’s report reads.

The incident report shows Forntenberry opened the passenger side door of the Cadillac and immediately noticed the woman inside had “suffered a large gunshot wound in the right shoulder and one in the center of her chest.”

The report identified the victim as Lillian Morales Hefele, born April 1, 1939, who lived at 2601 Robinson Dr., in Waco.

A short story appeared the next day in the Waco Tribune that detailed Hefele’s death and it said both Fort Worth and Waco police were investigating.

At least one report indicated the car had been set on fire, but the Cadillac was closed-up so tightly the flames were suffocated.

There was, however, no mention of a fire in the police report.

She died as a result of two gunshot wounds, but she evidently wasn’t shot in the car or where the car was found because there was no mention of blood or blood spatter in the report and no mention of recovered shell casings or evidence of gunfire.

KWTX obtained Hefele’s death certificate from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office prepared and signed by Dr. N.S. Peerwani, chief medical examiner, which indicates the manner of death as “homicide, shot by another person,” and describes the fatal wound as a gunshot “to the hemothorax with rupture of the right pulmonary lobe” of the lung.

The report did not specify the type or caliber of firearm used.Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.