Oct. 29. 2011, Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer conformed that skeletal remains found in an area off Sandy Hill Road southwest of Mineral Wells were indeed those of Townsend, who was reported missing July 5, 2010.
Today, the circumstances surrounding her death are still a mystery to all but those who left her body in a lonely field covered in brush with the apparent intention of covering what law enforcement officials believe was “foul play.”
“Circumstances we determined before her disappearance lead us to believe it was foul play,” Mercer said in 2011.
“We have interviewed a number of people,” the sheriff said last week. “Someone knows what happened. We’re still looking for information and there is a $20,000 reward for someone, anyone, who comes forward with information that leads to an arrest.”
For the 16 months she was missing, rumors flew across the county with reports that her remains could be found anywhere from Lake Bridgeport to several far-flung locations in Palo Pinto County.
According to police, Townsend sent a text message to her mother at 12:10 a.m. July 5, 2010, stating she was on her way home from Mineral Wells. Former Mineral Wells Police Chief Mike McAllester said her vehicle, a 1997 gray Toyota four-door sedan, was found in the 800 block of Southeast Third Avenue in Mineral Wells the day she disappeared.
The car radio had been stolen.
He later said police had identified the suspect in that theft and McAllester reported the suspect said he had taken the radio at the location where the vehicle was found.
A number of people had been given polygraph tests and no particular individual had stood out, McAllester said during the investigation.
Phone records have shown there were other text messages after the 12:10 a.m. message to her mother on July 5, but police said there was no indication her phone was ever turned on after those messages.
Lena Rittenbury, the missing girl’s aunt, said Townsend was wearing pink shorts and a black top over a black and white polka dot bathing suit. Her cell phone was an older Blackberry and she carried a thin orange and yellow clutch purse.
None of that has been located.
She was reported to have left a residence on Highway 180 West near E-Z Mart on the edge of Mineral Wells. Another family member reported seeing her in the convenience store at approximately 12:15 a.m. the morning of her disappearance, however, law enforcement officials said there was no evidence of that on store surveillance videos.
Volunteers and law enforcement searched the west side of Mineral Wells soon after her disappearance. Cadaver dogs also searched areas where tips indicated her remains might be located.
Mercer said the remains were discovered by a man looking at the property.
In addition to the $20,000 reward, Palo Pinto County Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those involved in her death. Callers can remain anonymous – 940-325-0000.
Or call the Mineral Wells PD, 940-328-7770; the sheriff’s office, 940-659-2085; or the Jack County Sheriff’s Office, 940-567-2161.
Townsend was the mother of a 2-year-old son and lived with her family outside of Perrin in Jack County.
Asked if there were “persons of interest,” Mercer replied, “About a hundred.”
“We have a strong sense it was someone local,” he added.