30-year-old Central Texas abduction-murder case cold, but not closed

Shelia Renae Finch was whisked off the street near her home on Oct. 17, 1989. (File)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A 10-year-old South Waco girl preparing to register for school was whisked off the street within blocks of her home 30 years ago Thursday and police say detectives are still looking for leads in hope of solving the baffling abduction and murder.

Shelia Renae Finch left her house at 2812 Ross Ave. at about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday Oct. 17, 1989, on the way to a neighborhood grocery store about three blocks away at South 26th Street and Dutton Avenue.

She went to the store to use a pay telephone to call her aunt, hoping to get a ride later that morning to Sul Ross Elementary School, several blocks away, where she needed to register for classes.

She was late enrolling that semester because she'd just returned to Waco from Fort Worth to live with her grandmother.

Her aunt drove to the home on Ross Avenue to wait for Sheila, but the little girl never showed up.

Shelia's grandmother called police to report her granddaughter missing.

Waco police began searching for Shelia that afternoon, and then showed up in force the next day.

Then two days later at about 3 p.m., almost 10 miles away, on the shore of Lake Waco at Speegleville Park, a sister and brother who went to the area to fish found her body.

Police found her pink-and-white bicycle nearby.

Then Justice of the Peace Alan Mayfield pronounced Shelia dead and ordered her body taken to the Southwest Institute of Forensic Science, in Dallas, for autopsy.

Mayfield confirmed the body was fully clothed but also noted the crime scene was "bloody."

Six weeks after the body was found, on Dec. 1, 1989, Waco police issued a Crime Stoppers alert to local media regarding the child's death, asking that anyone with knowledge of the incident call police, but nothing probative surfaced.

When the report of autopsy returned the results didn't help investigators very much, either.

Eighteen sharp-force trauma wounds were identified on her body by the medical examiner, Dr. Charles B. Odom.

In the initial examination the medical examiner reported she was dressed exactly as her grandmother had reported, but oddly, none of her clothing showed evidence of cuts or rips, just some small tears along the waistline of the shirt.

Of that number 18, any one or any combination of nine wounds could have caused her death because those wound tracks intersected the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys or a combination of those internal organs, the other nine "involved only the skin and sub-cutaneous layer," the report said.

Oddly in his report Odom pointed out while the injuries were a result of sharp-force trauma, the weapon, or instrument used to create the wounds likely was dull, not sharpened to a fine edge.

The wound track in the liver "suggests that the instrument was more dull than sharp," and "the track in the liver is not characteristic of a sharp instrument," the report of autopsy reads.

Stab wound No.14, Dr. Odom said, caused the most damage because after passing into the abdomen, the knife blade "nicks the lateral aspect of the left kidney," which causes hemorrhage into the girl's abdomen.

Wound No. 3 "perforates the ascending portion of the thoracic aorta just above the base of the heart," which given no other wounds could have caused her death.

Externally the girl's genitalia, "reveals an area of contusion," but also the report notes: "No actual laceration or tears."

The only other wound on her body was a contusion, a scrape or abrasion, on her right calf.

Among the items sent from autopsy to the state crime lab were a sexual assault kit, a hair, possibly a fiber recovered from the child's body and samples of her blood, the report of autopsy states.

The attack, put simply, was brutal: 18 stab wounds on the front of her body, from just below the right collar bone to one just above her navel, some of them slight and very superficial, other that produced knife tracks that pierced all the way to her spine, but there were no cuts in her clothes.