Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Lover's Lane" Unsolved Murders

by Jenna Jackson

A young couple, newly in love and looking forward to their lives – brutally murdered and left where their killer likely thought no one would discover them. Nearly 18 years ago, Cheryl Henry and Andy Atkinson met up with the wrong person/s, and two young lives, full of promise, ended.

In the summer of 1990, the bodies of Henry, 22, and her boyfriend, Atkinson, 21, were found in an undeveloped, wooded area of Houston where young people often went to park and kiss. Both had been tied up with rope and their throats slashed. Henry had been raped.

For almost two decades, detective Billy Belk worked the case for the Houston Police Department's Homicide Division. Other cases would come and go – but this one stayed with him through the years. Unfortunately, there was only so much he could do with the little amount of evidence they had. There were no eyewitnesses. Semen was collected from Henry's body at the scene -- but DNA testing was in its infancy and wasn't much help at that point.

But Belk made sure the evidence they did have was properly collected – and it finally paid off. A week after Belk retired, he got a phone call. The DNA from semen found on Henry’s body had just been matched to an unsolved rape that happened that same year. A 30-year-old exotic dancer who worked at GiGi’s, a topless club in Houston, had been raped in her apartment.

Now a 48-year-old Realtor, the woman still clearly remembered that terrifying night, just two months before Henry and Atkinson were killed – and the face of the man who raped her. Police have now released a composite sketch of the suspect. She said he was a white man in his mid-30s, about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes, a possible mustache and olive skin.

Like the rape victim, Cheryl Henry had worked at a similar club in Houston -- Rick's Cabaret. Henry's boyfriend Atkinson occasionally worked the door at Dreams Street, another southwest Houston club, which his father managed. With the DNA link, police can refocus their investigation based on the likelihood that the man who raped both women frequented or worked at local strip clubs.

The “Lover’s Lane” slayings may be Houston’s most notorious set of unsolved murders.

"It's a bad Hollywood movie," Michael Miller, an HPD homicide investigator who inherited the case from Belk, his former partner, told the Houston Chronicle last week when the news broke. "Somebody came up on them, tied them up and marched them out to the woods. These two knew they were going to die."

Miller says he knows there are other victims out there – and he hopes someone will recognize the sketch and call him. Even the smallest lead could help him track down this rapist and killer, who could still be at work today.

Over the years, the victims’ families and the police department have kept these murders in the limelight. As a producer for 48 Hours, I've seen what these families go through -- it is an unspeakable nightmare to lose a loved one in this manner. But to never know who did this -- and never have them pay in any way for what they've done -- is beyond comprehension. 48 Hours has looked into this case a handful of times – as have many other media outlets. But there has never been a break with as much potential as this one.

It will definitely still be an uphill battle to find this man. It will take a lot of pounding the pavement (something the cops on this have been doing since day one) – and a huge stroke of luck. But at least it’s something – and hopefully it will get people talking.

Because the composite is of the killer 18 years ago, he obviously will have aged and will look different. But the hope is that someone will recognize him as he looked back then – and give the police a lead.

These families lost two loved ones; their lives ended before they really even began. Hopefully the progression of new DNA science – and the steadiness of old police work – will finally create a break in this case.

If you know anything, no matter how small, call Detective Michael Miller at 713-308-3946 or 713-308-3600.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and charging of a suspect. Call 713-222-8477.


Kathryn Casey said...

This is a heartbreaking case, Jenna. Glad you did the post on it. So many of us in Houston have watched this case hoping for a lead. Maybe this is the one. Let's hope so.

andy kahan said...


Great post--I have supported both families over the years in particular Barbara Craig and have watched their heartfelt agony as the years have gone by without any resolution.
This case epitomizes the saying I use for unsolved homicides: Grief is intensified when justice is lacking.
Let's continue to hope and pray that both families ultimately find justice and bring Cheryl and Andy's killer to justice

Connie Park said...

Jenna...Fascinating story and one that investigators will never forget. The latest information about all three victims working in the same industry or somehow associated with it brings new light into the investigation. You can't even imagine or come up with these stories. Great job!

Soobs said...

I'm confused....did the police JUST NOW release the composite of the man who raped the now 48 year old realtor? Why wait 18 years? He obviously no longer looks the same.

Anonymous said...

Was curious.. if they found ANY kind of drugs in her body?was she given anything..before she was raped? are there any other clues that the police have left out?

Lee Henderson said...

I was one of Andy's fraternity brothers in North Carolina. A letter was sent to HPD eleven years after their murder but i never heard from where it was postmarked. Any idea what city the letter was mailed from? Was it Houston?

Women in Crime Ink said...

A copy of the note can be found here:

The below comment came to Women in Crime Ink from Sgt. J. W. "Billy" Belk, who investigated the case:

"The envelope was postmarked from Houston, but nothing ever came of it. No identifiable prints or DNA came from the note. We released a copy of the letter back in 2004, again no luck. Nonetheless, I'm still confident DNA will eventually find the killer."

For more information, visit

Anonymous said...

how do people live with themselves? someone somewhere knows something and they are protecting the monster who did this - come on people!!! do the right thing 'cause karma's a bitch.

Anonymous said...

I was also raped at knifepoint by this guy in 1991. The investigator told me they suspected it was the same guy....when I read details of the rape of the dancer in her apartment I was sure, because he said some of the same things. He's still out there.... It's so scary

Carl said...

God will judge yes karma is a bitch