A perplexing decades-old missing persons case remains unsolved

Local News

The oldest missing persons case in Marshall, Texas remains open with little to investigate still to this day.

It’s a mysterious disapperance decades old. Teresa Lanette Barnett was a 30-year-old woman with a three-year-old child at home when she went missing on the morning August 7, 1987 in Marshall. She was last seen by her husband Wayne Barnett who dropped her off at the former Eckerd Drug store that’s now Hope’s Closet in Marshall. 

“She was dropped off by her husband who subsequently left his truck there for her to shop while he left with his father and she never returned to the vehicle,” said Lt. Patrick Clayton, Marshall Criminal Investigations Divisions.

Detectives first interviewed her husband and his father, but they were never named as suspects. Lieutenant Clayton said he inherited the case from past detectives who’ve since passed away. He reinterviewed Wayne Barnett to see if his story had changed. But each time, no evidence was found or reason to believe Barnett was behind his wife’s disappearance.  Clayton describes what detectives would have done in 1987.

“We would have questioned the last person to see her alive which was her husband and his father. We would have probably canvassed the store to see if she went in there. Attempted to look for any kind of video which back in the 80s’ there was not a lot of surveillance video. It is interesting her purse was located the next day,” Clayton said. 

Another piece of the puzzle was found nearby. A jogger found her purse on the corner of South Washington Avenue and Lakeview Drive, a few miles away from the drug store on a side road close to Interstate 20.

“When you find a purse five to seven miles away as a detective, what do your thoughts go to? Well, it’s interesting it could be that someone through the item out, somebody places it there to try to throw law enforcement off, that she placed it there and left with someone. We really don’t know what could have happened,” Clayton said.

Little information is available about Barnett’s life. She was a housewife and mother, and not from Marshall but lived there with her husband who was a native. He has since moved away and does not keep in touch with Marshall police. But her daughter’s DNA was submitted to the Texas for Missing and Unidentified Persons. So if her body is ever discovered, DNA on file will verify her identity. 

“You begin to speculate she could be deceased but we really don’t know. She could have changed her identity and left,” Clayton said. 

Clayton said new information from the public, hard evidence or a confession would help bring the case to its end. Until then, the disapperance of Teresa Barnett remains a baffling case without clues.

This story is part of the Catalyst project “Mayberry Texas,” (link to www.mayberrymissing.com) a statewide investigation into the 5,628 active missing persons cases in the state since 1998. Explore an interactive map of some of the cases and learn about a solution that could help families find closure. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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