“I prayed for many years: ‘Lord, let me live long enough to find out what happened to my son.’ It took many years, but he granted that wish. And why He waited to grant that prayer, why he waited so long, I don’t know. But I know He knows. Maybe it’s because I would become closer to Him, which I have.
– Donna Casasanta, mother of murder victim Dean Clouse
Walking back into the memory of my soul, I easily remember the beautiful little son that used to come to me, running as fast as he could. And I would sweep him up into my arms, then he would kiss me on each cheek and tell me, “Mommy, I love you.” That sweet little boy that I raised is right there in my memories.
I worked so hard to guide him and mend him and mold him and fix him, as I did with all my children. He’d always give me a great big hug, give me a kiss on my cheek. He would say, “I love you, Mommy.”
I raised six devoted children. I tried to spoil them in a good way, not a bad way. And yet, one day someone walked into our lives and killed my son viciously. And killed his lovely wife, viciously. Took them out of this world.
We didn’t know what happened for decades – they just disappeared.
For so many years, I kept thinking and going back in my mind over the last time I saw them. What could have I said? What could have I done? What should I have not said? What should I have not done? Could I have kept him close to me? Could I have prevented him from moving so far away from us?
Not only did we lose our precious son and my daughters’ brother, we also lost his lovely, sweet, gentle wife, Tina. Our family had all come to really love Tina. Dean picked the right one when he chose Tina. We knew he had married up!
Their first year of marriage gave the family a beautiful baby girl to love. Holly Marie was my first grandchild. At the time of their disappearance, she was almost a year old. They all three just disappeared.
We’ve never been the same again. All of my children have been hurting. They loved their brother, especially my little Chris. My baby boy. When his brother disappeared, he was only about 8 years old. He took it so hard. And it still does, for that matter. So many questions to be answered.
Last year we got a call from a forensic genealogist. They wanted my DNA to verify that remains from an old cold case were my son. When they called and said it was a match, it was like someone just reached in and took out my heart. I was devastated. I had known, but I didn’t want to know.
We were all devastated to learn the truth.
When we went down to Texas to see where my son was buried, there were so many unmarked graves. Thousands of graves, all unknown persons. We had to call ahead so they could place little green flags to show us my son and his wife’s resting places. They were buried toe to toe. Together in death as in life.
Police never found any remains of a baby, and had not been looking for her all this time. No one knew to look! For years we’d assumed she was with her parents living without contact with the family that loved them. So learning that they were lost to us so many years ago inspired a panic to find out what happened to her.
Our advocate, Allison, helped us open a missing persons case to start looking for Holly. And sure enough, she was found within a few months. Alive!
Holly is happy. She’s married with five children, and she even has grandchildren! She got in touch the same day the investigators found her. And she sends me pictures. We all want to meet her! In the long run, God gave Holly Marie back to us, her family.
Out of all this tragedy and all this hurt and all this pain, my son and his wife did not die for nothing. We set up a fund called The Dean and Tina Linn Clouse Memorial Fund. The proceeds go toward identifying other John and Jane Does like they were. We want to help those trying to find their names, just as they did for my son.
People who have given to their memorial fund, I thank you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It will help other families to find their loved ones, and they can lay them to rest. My son and Tina were in that unmarked cemetery for 40 years before anyone knew who they were.
And if you can’t donate, I plead with you – please do a DNA test and put it in the public database called GEDmatch. If something happens to your grandchild or your great grandchild, even after you’re gone, your DNA can help identify a family member that might be unknown. I just thank you from the bottom of my heart everyone that has done this. I’m so glad that we have the science and the experts that we have today with DNA.
Oh, have we come a long way!
We’ll keep the Dean and Tina Linn Clouse Memorial Fund going as long as we can keep going.
And if there’s anyone out there reading this: If you’re going through what we’ve been going through, and you think you can do it by yourself? You can’t. You need help through it. If you have lost a loved one and you’re not quite sure how to deal with it, especially if it’s in a tragic way, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who has gone through the same thing. Or close to the same thing, and never gave up. Keep looking like we did.
I write this in great admiration and respect for all the agents, the media, and the forensic experts who worked on our cold case. I don’t know all their names, but I want you to know my family prays for you every day. Every day. You’ve been an inspiration to us. We love you all.
I also want to thank the Linn family. All these years, Tina’s brother Les and sister, Sherry kept everything. All the papers, everything that we needed when all this came down. They sent us many pictures and helped us so much. And I want to thank Robert and Janet Clouse and their daughters that have helped us with pictures and the baby book and a lot of things that helped us to tell the story to the media, to try and find Holly.
We will get an answer of who did this to my precious boy and his lovely wife, and why.
My son Christopher has been holding us all together. I don’t know what I would have done without his support for all of us. He has given his courage, understanding, protection, and stability. I wish his brother Dean could have seen him grown up. As all my girls have done well. I’m very proud of all of them.
Finding Holly has put sunshine back in our lives. We now have a little bit of Dean with us and we have a little bit of Tina with us through Holly and her children. That is a wonderful feeling. A satisfaction. Love and understanding.
God has truly blessed me with my family and I am at ease with my soul.
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