GILMER, Texas — When a teenage girl vanished one winter night in 1992, a small east Texas town would be rocked with rumors of police corruption, Satan, and murder.
17-year-old Kelly Wilson was working at a video store in Gilmer, Texas. On January 5, 1992 Wilson and store manager Joe Henry closed up, said goodnight, and Wilson went to make the nightly deposit at the bank across the street. Joe Henry was the last person to see her alive.
And to this day, she’s never been found.
There was video from the bank showing Wilson’s car the night she vanished, but the footage is grainy and police could not make anything of it. When police found her car parked back in front of the video store, her purse was found inside... but the keys were gone. There were also signs of foul play. Her car tires were slashed.
For two years, Gilmer Police Sergeant James Brown made it his mission to find Wilson. He spent evenings and even vacation time trying to track her down. The only major development was when police charged one of Kelly’s classmate with a misdemeanor for slashing her tires, but there was no evidence tying him to Wilson’s disappearance. And he claimed he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But then in January 1994, two years after Wilson disappeared, a bombshell: Brown and seven others were charged with the kidnapping, abuse and murder of Wilson.
True Crime Chronicles, a weekly true-crime podcast from VAULT Studios and TEGNA, is taking another look at the case and talking to some of the people who were close to the story when it all happened.
Hosts Will Johnson and Jessica Noll spoke to CBS19’s Lexie Hudson about the case. You’ll also hear from Kelly’s store manager Joe Henry and local newspaper reporter Phillip Williams about the shocking twists and turns to a case that still clings to the recent history of the little town of Gilmer.
“You can imagine how sensational it was. They said this satanic cult had gotten this girl and one of the eight defendants who was charged was the police Sergeant who had led the investigation of it for two years. You can see how that would attract national attention," said Williams, who was a reporter in a nearby town when charges were filed.
Lexie Hudson spent time in Gilmer in recent years getting to know Wilson’s story. She knows how allegations of a satanic cult and rituals could consume the little town: “In East Texas God and football are king.”