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Missing baby found alive after 41 years || The case of Holly Clouse

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

On January 12, 1981, a dog emerged from a wooded area in Harris County, Texas with a human arm in its mouth. This led police to two sets of remains that would set off a mysterious string of events.

We have many answers to this mystery in the present day, but questions still remain. So let’s just get into it.

the investigation

The wooded area where the Harris County Does' remains were found

The bodies of the Harris County Does, as they were initially called, belonged to a young man and woman, thought to be in their late teens or early twenties. The female had brown eyes and long reddish brown hair. The male had dark, wavy hair and thick eyebrows. He had been bound, gagged and beaten to death; his female companion had been strangled. It wasn’t clear if they had been killed in the woods or somewhere else, but a bloody towel was also found nearby.

The Does were buried, then exhumed in 2011 for DNA testing. The DNA extracted at this point was tested to see if they were biologically related, but the results showed that they weren’t. At the time, it was also hoped that the samples would eventually lead to their identifications.

In 2021, the Does’ DNA samples were uploaded to GEDmatch, an online service that compares DNA and works to find matches. From here, Identifiers International — who were now in charge of the case — were able to find relatives of the male Doe in Kentucky. These matches soon allowed them to identify the male and learn that his wife was missing — which subsequently led them to identifying the female Doe. In January 2022, it was formally announced that the Harris County Does had been identified as Dean and Tina Clouse.

who were the Clouses?

Dean Clouse when he was younger

As a teenager, Harold Dean Clouse Jr. began hanging out with people his family referred to as “Jesus freaks.” According to his sister, Dean even left home at one point to join a cult — but returned a few weeks later.

After a whirlwind romance, Dean married Tina Linn on June 25, 1979. A few months later, on January 24, 1980, the couple welcomed their daughter Holly Marie.

When Holly was about a year old, the family moved to Texas from their home New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Dean, who worked in carpentry, had a job opportunity in Lewisville, a suburb of Dallas. Unfortunately, their new life in Texas wouldn’t last long.

The Clouse and Linn families last heard from Dean and Tina in late 1980 (either October or December, depending on the source). Dean’s mom reported him missing in 1981, assuming he’d taken off with a cult.

Not too long after their last contact, some of Dean’s family members were contacted by a woman who called herself “Sister Susan.” She said she was in Los Angeles and wanted to sell Deans’ parents’ car, which he had been driving, back to them for $1,000. Sister Susan also claimed Dean and Tina had joined their group and didn’t want any more contact with their families.

Dean’s family set up a meeting with Sister Susan and several other cult members at a racetrack in Daytona Beach, Florida. Dean’s mom called the police either before or after the meeting (again, different sources said different things. After this call, the cult members were arrested. No police report was ever found for this incident, and it’s not clear exactly when the meeting took place, though it apparently did because the couple’s car was returned to the Clouse family. Tina’s brother now believes that returning the car was a trick to keep the family from investigating further (presumably to make it look like they were okay, just didn’t want contact).

If this is the case, it worked — at least with law enforcement, who seemed to buy the cult’s story that the Clouses had left voluntarily. There was little progress, if any, made in the case over the next couple of decades — until, of course, Dean and Tina were identified.

(A quick note: Most sources say Dean and Tina were 22 and 18, respectively, when they were killed. Other sources say they were 21 and 17.)

But there were still missing puzzle pieces — including one major one about the third member of their family. When the genealogists who identified the Clouses contacted Dean’s sister to let her know about it, she asked them where Holly was. 1-year-old Holly Clouse was, of course, unknown to investigators at the time. Now that they knew this recently identified couple had a child, they had to find her.

finding Holly

Once investigators learned about Holly, they filed a missing persons report for her. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (who had done composite sketches of Tina) also got involved.

Most of the details of how Holly was found aren’t clear. But according to family members, detectives were able to find her birth certificate. From there, they found the family who had adopted her and were able to track her down. On June 8, 2022 — what would have been Dean Clouse’s 63rd birthday — the Texas Attorney General’s Office announced that Holly Clouse had been found alive and well.

According to law enforcement, baby Holly was dropped off at a church in Arizona after her parents were killed. The two women who left her there wore white robes and no shoes and are believed to be members of a “nomadic religious group.” Holly was later adopted. The details of her life haven’t been made public, and from what little I could find she seems to understandably want privacy right now. We do know that she now lives in Oklahoma and went on to marry and have five children and two grandchildren. After being located by law enforcement, she was reunited with her biological family.

Holly Clouse as an adult

Investigators have stated that the members of Holly’s adoptive family are not suspects in her parents’ murder. They believe the suspects are members of what they call a “nomadic religious group.” According to them, these group members were vegetarians, renounced “worldly goods” and didn’t wear leather. They’ve reportedly been spotted in Arizona, California and Texas over the years, sometimes asking for food.

the cult

So what’s going on with this cult? Who are they, exactly — and are they really responsible for the murders of Dean and Tina Clouse and possibly the kidnapping of Holly? It’s not know for sure, but we can piece a few details — and form some speculation — from what we do know.

Cult expert Rick Alan Ross believes the cult in question is Christ Family. It’s hard to find solid information on this group online since a search for ‘Christ Family’ turns up numerous different results and churches. But we do know a few things. According to Ross, Christ Family members don’t like children very much and would often convince parents to send their children “away.” They also separate male and female members. According to forum postings from people claiming to be ex-members, the cult believes the ‘three keys to heaven’ were no sex, no murder and no materialism. As you can imagine, this has sparked some speculation about why a married couple with a child might join this group — though we don’t know for sure if the Clouses were actually members.

Drugs are also allegedly prevalent in the cult. Christ Family’s leader, who went by the name ‘Lighting Amen’ (and believed he was the reincarnation of Jesus), was arrested on drug charges in 1987, along with several other members. According to forum postings, other members were also said to be frequent marijuana users.

So what happened here? Were Dean and Tina Clouse killed by these cult members? And, if so, why did they spare baby Holly? Some people believe Holly’s parents were killed by someone who wanted to kidnap her. Others think the Clouses were killed after some sort of argument with a cult member. Whatever the reason, exactly what happened to the Clouses remains a mystery.

If you have any information about the murders of Dean and Tina Clouse, you can contact the Texas Attorney General’s Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit at 512-936-0742. You can also reach them by email at

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