Cold case murder of beloved seven-year-old Killeen girl heating up

Twenty one-years is a long time to go without knowing that's what Danyell Martin has been doing, wondering who killed her sister Danydia in 1997.

“She is missed very much, and there's not a day that goes by that we don't think about her,” said Martin.

Danyell says her seven –year-old baby sister was smart, she loved learning.

“She had a personality on her. I can only imagine to this day what she would be like. Her and my brother were the closest and they used to kind of team up against me because I was the oldest,” said Martin.

It was a typical start to the day for Danydia, she was walking to what was then Marlboro Elementary School, but she never returned home Danyell says each day, her little brother and cousins would walk to and from school with Danydia.

“All the boys they met up with my sister at a certain part of the school, they would walk home together. That day they couldn't find her. Apparently she had been marked absent,” said Martin.

That same morning, witnesses reported seeing the first grader with an unknown man before she disappeared. 

“She was riding piggyback style on somebody's back away from the school she attended,” said Det. Fred Harris, Killeen Police Department.

It didn't take long for search parties to assemble. Hundreds of police officers, firefighters, Fort Hood personnel, even Killeen residents, all joined in on the search. 

“You talk about a missing seven-year-old. I don't think there was anybody who wasn't touched at the time,” said Harris.

After seven long days, they made a grim discovery.

“She was found on the side of the road on Highway 195 by the Lampasas River. She was placed in a trash bag,” said Harris.

Police are keeping Danydia's cause of death under wraps so the investigation won’t be sabotaged. The thought of someone doing this to her sister, stabs at Danyell’s heart each and every day.

“She was somebody's child, she was somebody's sister, and that she didn't deserve that. She didn't. The person who did this is an evil thug. We will just call it what it is. He's an evil thug and that's why he doesn't need to be on the streets,” said Harris.

Harris had the case handed to him back in 2011, and he says he will not take a promotion, until he finds Danydia's murderer.

“I have no desire to go to any other division to do anything else. I just feel this case has changed hands too many times,” said Harris.

“Since Detective Harris has been on this case, I have to give it to him. I feel we are closer and closer,” said Martin.

This case may have gone cold, but it is now starting to heat up. Harris already has his eyes set on a few people.

“You like to have people of interest in the majority of homicide cases that you work. It doesn't mean that they did it, doesn't mean that they didn’t do it, it just means they keep popping up on the radar. At some point when we get enough evidence we are just going to have to have a chat and find out,” said Harris.

Until that day, Danyell and the rest of Danydia's family are left with hope and faith, which has carried them for 21 years.

“Somebody knows something. He's out there somewhere. I feel like even if justice doesn't take place, I put it in God's hands,” said Martin.

“You do this to her and you think you can just walk the Earth and be free from this crime, it's not going to happen,” said Harris. If you have any information on Danydia Thompson’s case, call Bell County Crime Stoppers at 254-526-8477.