TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas - This Thanksgiving Day will mark 35-years since Travis County deputies found the body of a young woman murdered and left in the cold.
At a time when families come together to celebrate, hers was in mourning. And that dark cloud of loss has never lifted as the crime remains unsolved.
"She was such a promising, intelligent, ambitious and thoroughly good young person. To have her life cut short like that is a tragedy,” said Rebecca McCormack.
On November 25, 1982 the body of Ruth "Elizabeth" Bettis was found in a pasture off Sprinkle Cutoff Road, east of Dessau in Travis County. The 19-year-old had been sexually assaulted and shot. Her vehicle, a 1969 light blue Volkswagen beetle, was found a short distance away.
Elizabeth's mother, Rebecca McCormack, who now lives in Connecticut, spoke with her two days before she was found.
"She was very hopeful. She didn't foresee danger of any sort,” said McCormack.
Elizabeth was last seen on November 24th leaving Sugar's gentleman's club where she worked. The building along Highland Mall Boulevard still stands, but the business has since changed names.
"I can well imagine somebody that she'd met 15 minutes before knocking on the car window and saying 'can you give me a ride up the way?' She was totally fearless and she didn't use the best judgment in the world. As most of us don't when we're 18 turned 19,” said McCormack.
Travis County Sheriff's Detective Jim Anderson took over the case in 2006.
"As she was fixing to leave, the bouncer saw a black male. He was speaking to her. She was in the driver's seat. A few seconds later he ran around the vehicle and he got into her passenger side and they drove off. That's the last known time we have of her,” said Anderson.
In October, after many years of sketches, and ruling out possible suspects the Texas Rangers selected to feature the case on a cold case website and increase the reward for information leading to an arrest to $6,000.
"A lot of time has gone by. We're looking at 35 years. Peoples ties to certain people have changed. Maybe someone that was afraid to talk back then will now speak and looking at a reward. Hopefully will generate some interest,” said Anderson.
Elizabeth is buried across the street from her mother's home. Liz, as she called her, was known for being a defender of all who might need defense-- be it animals or people. She had adopted an abused dog shortly before her death. The only thing found inside her Volkswagen was hair from the dog.
She loved music and reading. She graduated early from high school and set out to Texas alone.
Her mother often travels to Austin to visit the field where Elizabeth was found wishing to know what happened so that if she could somehow live it with her he would feel Elizabeth wasn't totally alone.
"It has changed us all. All completely and we think all the time about what Elizabeth would be doing now had she been spared,” said McCormack.
Report a tip: http://www.dps.texas.gov.