CSI: Anahuac

The John Doe case that continues to haunt a small town in Texas.

On April 15, 2007, a Hispanic male in his 30’s was found floating in a bayou in Anahuac, Texas, a small town east of Houston. According to the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, the victim was found with his hands tied behind his back and duct tape over his mouth. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and asphyxiation from drowning.

A young deputy with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, Nacheal Bonin, developed a personal interest in the unsolved case—the body was found next to the property her family had owned for generations. She is now helping out with the investigation under the tutelage of Captain John Mulryan, the lead investigator as well as her mentor. The popular TV show America’s Most Wanted recently visited Anahuac, where they spoke with Bonin and reenacted the crime scene. Evan Marshall, the producer, recently talked to texas monthly about the case. 

What interested you in this story?

There are a number of elements to this story that interest me. First of all, any time you have a case in a small town that most people have never heard of, you automatically have a unique element. Everyone knows what New York City looks like. Everyone has seen Dallas. But the fact that most people have never heard of Anahuac, Texas, let alone been there, the locale becomes a character to the story in and of itself.

The real hook to this story though is Deputy Bonin. We always like to highlight investigators who put their heart and soul into their jobs but it’s rare when a detective has a case that affects his or her personal life. That’s the case with Nacheal. Finally, there are a number of clues to this case that are intriguing. They’re not obvious clues—they’re subtle, they’re interesting, and they could mean many things. Our viewers are like none others. They are armchair detectives and history has told us that quite often, their theories are spot on. This is the type of case where our viewers can really shine.

How has this unsolved murder affected the small town of 2,200?

As in many cases, small-town murders always get townspeople talking. This is true in Anahuac. Keep in mind, this murder happened a few years ago and when I was there with Nacheal, if she went into the drugstore, the grocery store, the newspaper offices, people still ask what’s going on with it. This is not the type of case that just goes away.

What are the chances that someone will come forward and claim the body?

As to whether someone will come forward, it is definitely a long shot. This is not going to be an easy case to solve. With the theory that this victim may be from another country, his loved ones may not even realize something’s happened to him. This is going to be a tough case to figure out, but AMW has solved more baffling cases with less information.

Can you walk us through the crime scene reenactment?

Regarding the crime scene reenactment, there is a question as to whether the killer or, more likely, killers dumped the body over the side of the bridge or down by the shoreline or even upstream. We discussed with the investigators what their best theory is as to what truly happened. Do we know this to be 100 percent accurate? No, but in homicide cases you never know until you talk to the person who did it. We are trying to paint the likely scenario and in homicide investigations, the most likely scenario is usually closest to what actually happened.

Is this case markedly different from most crimes you cover?

Every case I work on is different which is why we work on them. The process of vetting our stories is complicated and elaborate. Each story that we profile has something different, something unusual that makes our viewers pay attention. That’s why we are successful. We tell you something we’ve never seen before. In this case, you’re going to see how a relatively inexperienced cop with a mission to solve a case evolves in front of your eyes, just as the investigation does as well.

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