Arrest Brings Shocking Discoveries in 1988 Texas Cold Case

New Evidence Found in Cold Case from 1988

SAN ANGELO, TX - An arrest has brought out new information in a cold case from the 1980's. It has also lead to some shocking discoveries. Our Senora Scott spoke to Texas Ranger Nick Hanna when the Texas Department of Public Safety highlighted the case in 2016. Now, she's investigated further and brings you the details.

"We've got some suspects identified that we're focused on. We still have evidence at the lab that we hope to get results on,” Texas Ranger Nick Hanna said in 2016.

"The bad guy knows we're out there, and he needs to know we're coming and we're not gonna stop,” Lt. Terry Lowe, an investigator with the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, said in 2016.

This interview with Ranger Hanna and Lt. Lowe from over a year ago about two killings that happened in 1988.

"Someone in this community has information,” Ranger Nick Hanna said in 2016.

"Somebody looked these kids in the eyes and killed them, basically an execution,” Lt. Lowe said in 2016.

But just last week, there was a major break in the case.

Investigators now have many new pieces of that puzzle.

It started with the arrest of John Gilbreath on other charges: possession of drugs, body armor and firearms. Then came a search warrant. That's where these investigators found more clues related to murders of Shane Stewart and Sally McNelly.

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According to court documents, on June 11, a Tom Green County Sheriff’s Deputy pulled over a 2005 Honda passenger car that Gilbreath was driving for a traffic violation. The deputy smelled marijuana and Gilbreath admitted to having two “joints” in the driver’s door panel. The deputy then searched the car and found around a half a pound of marijuana, a loaded .38 caliber handgun and a camouflaged-color vest -- commonly called “body armor” -- along with other drug paraphernalia.

Dorothy Sylliaasen was a passenger in the car. She told law enforcement she and Gilbreath were going to Austin to pick up drugs, then come back to San Angelo and distribute them. She also said Gilbreath had ledgers and scales in his home. The Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office then got a warrant to search Gilbreath’s home for items used for drug trafficking.

During that search, law enforcement came across items relating to the murder of Shane and Sally.

In the home in the 2700 block of on Raney Street, court documents show investigators found three audio tapes with "SS" written on them, handwritten notes and ledgers mentioning Shane and Sally, a lock of hair and a fingernail.

Other items found in the home were bags and boxes of papers, letters and other handwritten documents mentioning Shane and Sally. Also found: a small book labeled “Wide Open Arms,” photographs, photocopied notes and calendar and other possible biological material believed to be blood.

Gilbreath has not currently been charged for the murders, but he does have an extensive arrest record. Those arrests are for multiple theft and possession charges, dating back to 1989.

Gilbreath, 46, would have been 17 at the time of the murders. Investigators say it happened at Twin Buttes on the Fourth of July. Shane and Sally went out to watch the fireworks...but never came home.

Shane’s car was found in another area of [edit: O.C. Fisher Reservoir] the next day. However, their remains weren't found until months later.

Recently, the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) has joined in the hunt for the killer or killers. But investigators are still calling on the community, noting that any tip could finally help close this case.

If you have any information, you can contact the Tom Green County Sheriff's Office at (325) 655-8111. 

Gilbreath has since bonded out of jail. His bond was set at $175,000. 

For more about this case, click here.

© 2017 KIDY-TV


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