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Teams try to unearth mysterious 2002 cold case in McLennan County

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 1:40 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2020 at 11:53 AM CDT
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MCLENNAN COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - A cold case from 2002, the disappearance of Justin O’Brien, has been ‘dug up’ by the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re looking for bones, we’re looking for smells, anything that looks out of the ordinary," sad Jim Huggins, a Forensic Science professor at Baylor University.

The BU forensic team came to help the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office dig up a well at TPNL Lake in response to a tip years prior about a decomposing smell there following O’Brien’s death.

O’Brien, a 23-year old from Mart who was living in a Waco apartment, disappeared in April of 2002; he was on his way to his mother’s birthday party but never made it, investigators say.

His truck was found days later near a bus stop in the Dallas area, according to MCSO investigators who believe foul play was involved.

“Some of the best investigators in the county have worked on this case over the last 18 years." said Steve January, a Captain at the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office. "A lot of different agencies have applied resources to this.”

MCSO was one of the agencies who worked the case back in 2002.

The agency’s Cold Case Unit decided to take another crack at it about two-and-a-half years ago, January said, inheriting 17 binders of information.

“Since then, we’ve been everywhere, all over the state, looking at evidence and tracking down leads,” he said.

The TPNL lake was one of those leads, however, the team dug 23 feet Wednesday and found nothing.

“We found the remains of the well, that’s about it," said Huggins, who added it wasn’t a total loss. "By being able to be put an end to this part of the lead, then we can go on to others.”

Terry Fuller, a detective with the MCSO’s Cold Case Unit, says they have more leads--and possibly digs--to get to.

“We’ve got several other tips," said Fuller. "We’re not going to give up on this case.”

Fuller said it was a disappointing day for them and for the family, but they won’t stop trying to find O’Brien’s body or his killer.

“They (the family) pray every day about us finding the remains," said Fuller. “We know too much about this case to give up on it.”

MCSO officials say they have multiple persons of interest for O’Brien’s disappearance--and his murder.

Anyone with information can leave an anonymous tip by calling: (254) 759-5618.

Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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