Friday, August 1, 2008

A Cold Case Awaits a Break

by Connie Park

Being fortunate enough to learn from the most talented homicide investigators, I've had the opportunity to investigate a number of murder cases. Some of them have had such an impact on me that I've said to myself All the hard work and long hours were worth it. That is the reason I got into law enforcement. I have felt selfish at times because I did the work for self gratification, that is, to make me feel good about doing my part to help secure justice.

One of those cases is the capital murder of 77-year-old Margaret Barziza. I remember reading the 1982 case and seeing the crime- scene photos. I don't believe I'll ever forget how disturbing it was. I doubt anyone could imagine what Margaret was going through during the last few minutes of her life.

It hit me all of a sudden and I figured out why I chose to get into law enforcement and why I became a homicide detective. If I could assist in anyway in identifying the killer and solving this case, EVERYTHING would have been worth it.

I can't say the cases never had an impact on me personally. But, like the others, I could not show it. I had to be tough and prove to myself that I could handle it like the others. One sergeant told me that everybody handles it differently and that it no way showed my weaknesses.

The Victim

In 1905, Margaret Barziza was born in Houston, Texas, where she grew up and lived all her life. Houston was the place where she met and married her husband. Houston was a place where Margaret felt safe and a place she called home. After several years of building a home and creating memories together, Margaret’s husband Jim became extremely ill. Jim was not able to take care of himself.

Without hesitation, Margaret became his caretaker and sole source of support. She fed and bathed Jim and did whatever was necessary to make him feel comfortable. Margaret’s actions defined the true meaning of unconditional love.

Margaret cared for Jim until he succumbed to his illness and died. After several years alone, Margaret too became ill and was unable to take care of herself. She was diagnosed with
Alzheimer’s and dementia and she had to be admitted into a nursing home. The roles became reversed and Margaret had to rely on others to take care of her. The degenerative disease caused her mind and body to become so weak that she had to be bedridden for the remainder of her life.

On March 21, 1982, at approximately 8:00 p.m., one of the
Golden Age Manor Nursing Home staff members was doing her nightly rounds when she saw that Margaret was missing and was not in her bed by the bedroom window. A staff member walked towards the window and looked out and saw an unknown male on top of Margaret who was lying helpless on the grass lawn. The staff member yelled out through the window and the suspect took off running. Margaret sustained blunt trauma to her face and head. She had been sexually assaulted. Despite the efforts of those who tried to help her, Margaret did not survive the gruesome and ruthless beating.

The Suspect

The suspect was described as a white or Hispanic male in his 30s with brown, medium-length hair. Wearing a dark-colored uniform, he was approximately 5'8" tall and weiged 180-185 lbs.

The scene suggested that the suspect had walked up to the bedroom windows and took off each of the screens. The first two windows were found locked but by the time the suspect reached the third window, he found it unlocked. Unfortunately, Margaret was sleeping on her bed, which was next to the bedroom window. The suspect managed to grab Margaret from her bed and threw her body outside onto the lawn. Margaret was not able to scream or fight back as the suspect was beating and sexually assaulting her. She was only able to lay there helplessly.

The Investigators

A group of Houston Police Department Homicide detectives worked night and day to catch this heinous suspect who killed an innocent 77-year-old helpless woman. They interviewed countless possible witnesses and suspects and followed up with all leads. As time went by, there were fewer and fewer leads and fewer suspects to investigate. Not in any way was the talented group of detectives willing to give up on the investigation.

Unfortunately, I wish I could tell you the suspect has been caught and locked away. But after twenty-six years, the case remains a mystery. Most of Margaret’s relatives have passed away and only a handful of them remain. The detectives that were involved in this case will never forget about Margaret Barziza or forget about the horrible crime scene.

Sgt. Mike Peters of the HPD Cold Case Squad has reviewed this case and stated that the crime scene photographs were the worst he has seen. “This is one of the most brutal murders that I have ever seen as a Houston Police Homicide detective," he said, adding that it had taken him several days to rid the images of the crime-scene photos from his mind. The terrified look on Margaret’s face showed the horror she must have felt and suffered at the time of the brutal murder.

We will continue to search for any new leads or locate witness who might be able to provide any clues in this investigation. Margaret Barziza will remain in our memories until her killer is caught. If you have any information, please call 713/308-3600.


Paralegal Sandy said...

Sometimes I have found myself wondering what does it even matter about finding the killer. The person is gone. The horrible deed is done. Nothing will give that person their life back. Usually the punishment doesn't fit the crime. (Example: A WARRANT TO KILL by Kathryn Casey) The only thing that is really any consolation in my mind is that if the perp is caught and taken out of society maybe they won't get the chance to take another innocent life.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of Margaret Barziza's ("Nanna") granddaughters. While most of Nanna's relatives in her age bracket have passed away, most of her relatives have not. Most of us still live in or around Houston. We still ache when we think about how that gentle, loving, giving person died. I hope the police than find the sorry excuse for a person who murdered Nanna. As an aside, it would be nice if the media could restrain itself when something horrific like this occurs . . . I learned of this by watching the news. The family members hadn't even had time to contact other family members before her murder, in gruesome detail, was broadcast on the evening news.