HILLSBORO, Texas (KWTX) John Christopher Terry left work on a Friday in October 2014, stopped by to pick up some groceries at the Hillsboro Walmart and then disappeared.
Terry, who was 30 when he disappeared, was last seen on a store surveillance video just after 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 17, 2014 leaving the Walmart parking lot.
He hasn’t been seen since.
The next day Hill County sheriff’s deputies found his new 2014 blue Jeep Compass abandoned on Hill County Road 2346 near Abbott, 25 miles from his home.
Hill County Sheriff’s Investigator April Stoll and her boss, Sheriff Rodney Watson are sure Terry was murdered and that the killer, so far successfully, disposed of his body.
Both Watson and Stoll said they’re convinced Terry made it home that day, but blood and other evidence recovered at his home leads the investigators to believe he never made it inside.
“He was murdered right there outside his front door,” Watson said.
Stoll says the forensic investigation of Terry’s Jeep presents another list of unsolved riddles.
“It's significant the keys were still in the car,” she said.
She said the Jeep’s windows were left open.
Terry’s cigarettes were lying in the passenger seat and his cell phone and the bags of pet food were in the back seat.
“There was no wallet in the vehicle," she said, nor was there any blood.
And while subsequent investigation has revealed indications of motive, Watson said none has become concrete.
"There was loose paperwork in the cup-holder area, just the way that it was positioned it looked like it had been shuffled around almost intentionally," said Stoll.
Stoll is convinced the killer drove Terry’s car to the place where it was found and abandoned it there in an effort to “throw us off.”
“His body was not transported in that Jeep.”
That, however, suggests two people, at least, were involved “because somebody had to pick them up.”
“We believe somebody out there knows something and if we can secure just a little more evidence, we can close this case,” Watson said.
Deputies say Terry, who’s 5-foot-9 and weighs 180 pounds, was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, blue jeans, tan work boots and a blue Dallas Cowboys ball cap featuring a “D” in white embroidery.
He wore a full beard at the time of his disappearance and has a vertical scar that runs the length of his right ear.
In addition, he has a tribal dragon tattoo on the back of his left arm and a tattoo of “1984” across the top of his chest.
Terry was a mechanic at Gene’s Auto, in Hillsboro.
He lived in a home fashioned out of a metal building on property his father owned near Carl’s Corner with his two school-aged sons, Stoll said.
Terry and the boys’ mother had divorced, and Terry gained custody of the children.
Texas EquuSearch, a volunteer organization from Houston that assists in missing persons’ searches, joined in and probed a 15-acre area around Terry’s property which consists mostly of wooded land.
Stoll said EquuSearch used drones to do an overhead search of the land to find areas with different soil densities or areas that might indicate the presence of a clandestine grave, but the overflights didn’t turn up anything new.
The Missing Persons Clearing House, contacted concerning this incident, would not confirm if the service had received any tips or new information on the event.
Deputies also suggested the volunteers search the area in Abbott where Terry’s vehicle was found, as well as the nearby Mason Cave, though Stoll said she didn’t hold out hope that the cave would reveal anything, which, in the long run, it did not.
Sheriff Watson said evidence that had not been submitted in 2014 was taken to the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab, in Austin, in 2017 and after analysis those pieces of evidence provided new clues, though Stoll would not reveal specifically what they learned.
Surveillance video from the Walmart store shows Terry leaving around 6:30 p.m. carrying a bag of dog food.
"His intent was to come home,” Watson said, “When he left, we could see no one else was in the vehicle.
“He would not have left those two kids."
Terry’s family still holds out hope he is alive, his brother Cody Terry said.
“The family hasn’t given up and we all believe when the Lord is ready, he’ll lift the darkness.
“He was just my go-to guy and I haven’t had that for five years now,” Cody Terry said, “and it hurts that I can’t just text or call him.”
Cody Terry said Terry’s sons, now 11- and 13, live in the Dallas area where the oldest plays junior high school football and plays in the school band and the younger shines in the classroom.
Investigators asked anyone with information to call the Missing Persons Clearing House at 1-800-346-3243 or the Hill County Sheriff’s Office at (254) 582-5313.
A tip could lead to a $10,000 reward.
Whatever the outcome, Cody Terry said, the family “just wants answers.”