SALIDA, Colo. -- The 1980 disappearance of Beverly England in the mountain town of Salida is one of Colorado’s oldest mysteries. But FOX31 has learned there’s new hope her case might finally be solved.
“I’d say we’re very confident we know what happened and we’re very confident we know who did it," Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze said.
In October, Spezze and Salida police Chief Terry Clark announced in a joint news release that DNA had finally identified remains found in 1992 as Beverly England.
“I feel good, good that we may very well solve it,” Clark said.
The 32-year-old married mom of two vanished June 12, 1980, after leaving her two kids with a friend at Alpine Park in Salida. England said she needed to meet another woman but never returned.
Later that day, her husband found Beverly’s car at Riverside Park in downtown Salida, with her shoes and purse still inside.
“I was 8 years old and it was pretty hard,” said Beverly’s now adult son Cayl England.
His sister Bricia Patterson was just 5 years old. She describes her mother’s disappearance as “devastating.”
In their first television interview, the siblings said they believe the woman last seen with their mother had something to do with her death.
“There's talk about an affair and that they were meeting each other to discuss it,” said Cayl England, who explained he has learned over the years his mom was accused of having an affair with another woman’s husband.
“If there's any truth to this outside affair whatever, maybe she was in the way and some sick soul decided that that was the only way to get her out of the picture permanently,” Bricia Patterson said.
Investigators confirm they have a suspect but won’t name who it is or discuss England’s alleged affair except to say an affair could explain motive. Detectives have confirmed Dale England, Beverly’s husband at the time, has been cleared as a suspect. That came as a huge relief to his kids.
“I'm sure it haunted him quite a bit. I believe he was under the microscope quite a bit, being a teacher and staying in that small town," Patterson said.
Added Cayl England: “You could always feel an atmosphere of suspicion around our dad.”
A scrap metal collector found England’s remains in 1992, west of Salida in a remote part of Chaffee County. The sheriff at the time sent the bones to a pathologist in Colorado Springs who wrongly assumed the remains were from a pioneer-era woman and more than 100 years old.
That pathologist then sent the bones to a college lab where they sat on a shelf for 23 years.
"I certainly wish in '92 you know that things would’ve gone a little bit differently,” Clark said.
His office was never been informed of the 1992 discovery at the time. It wasn’t until someone did some house cleaning at the unnamed college in Colorado Springs that the remains were rediscovered in an evidence bag and sent back to the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office.
This time, the sheriff sent the remains to the University of North Texas Health Science Center. The lab in Fort Worth, Texas, used DNA from Beverly England’s adult children to identify the human remains as Beverly England.
“This technology did not exist in 1992, so when Beverly England went missing and even when those remains were recovered, DNA was not being used for missing and unidentified cases,” said B.J. Spamer, who works on missing person cases for the lab.
Spezze said the DNA identification of Beverly England has allowed detectives to reopen a 35-year-old murder case.
“Just luckily somebody stumbled on them and found them and gave us the opportunity to do what we're doing now," he said.
Investigators went back to the scene in October, where England’s remains were first found in 1992, and said they have uncovered new evidence. It’s being tested and depending on the results, Spezze and Clark said an arrest could still be made.
“I believe that they will end up making an arrest off of this,” Cayl England said.
Patterson said she has never given up hope that her mother’s case might one day be solved,
“It's pretty important because I have, me and my brother have done the time for this crime for the last 35 years and somebody has gone on living their life with this nasty secret," she said.