1988 murder of Williamson County man remains open case

The 1988 brutal attack and murder of a Williamson County man outside his home remains an open case as his family and investigators continue to ask who did it. 

On March 5, 1988, 77-year-old S.E. Ritchey and his wife Ethel returned home after their weekly grocery trip. The couple owned and operated a laundromat in Taylor where they would collect their earnings and then run to H-E-B every Saturday.

"I saw them leaving the grocery store, which they did every Saturday night. It was very predictable, their schedule, and I saw him leave," said his granddaughter Carla Ritchey-Scruggs. "They walked out to their car and they loaded the groceries and then left. And about 30 minutes later, an ambulance came, lights and sirens and I saw it head out that direction. And I just knew."

When the Ritcheys arrived at their home in rural Shiloh, Texas, they were brutally attacked in their driveway.

"This was about 10 p.m. when they arrived home that day. At that time they began unloading the groceries," said Williamson County Sheriff's detective Mark McKinney. "They had established a pattern of closing the laundromat down, go into H-E-B to buy the groceries and then go into their house. I think it's likely someone knew that they close the laundromat down and had the money from that. And, no more or less targeted them to go and take the money from them."

During the attack, S.E. Ritchey was struck in the head with a blunt object and Ethel was knocked unconscious. Police determined the couple were targets of a robbery.

"An unknown suspect or suspects then robbed Mr. Ritchey of the money that they had from closing the laundromat that day. It was roughly $300," said Det. McKinney.


S.E. Ritchey died just 17 days later from his injuries. Their granddaughter Carla says her grandmother Ethel was never the same after that.

"She was never…right after that either, of course. She can never really remember," Ritchey-Scruggs said. "The first probably six weeks after this happened. I stayed over there with her every night. She had bars put on her windows and the door secured, but she could never really remember what happened."

Ritchey-Scruggs says the family dynamic has never been the same since the attack.

"Like a piece of glass that a rock hits, and it just, just runs, the cracks and the breakage just runs in. It hasn't stopped to this day," she said.

Ethel passed years later due to natural causes and is buried next to her husband.

Even though 35 years have passed, Carla still wants justice for her grandfather.

"He'd fight for me. And that's why I fight for him," she said. "He'd do anything in the world for me. And we're going to figure this out. We will figure it out. I'm not going to stop now."

Investigators are in the process of having evidence retested and hope more information will help them close this case.

Anyone with any information regarding the murder of S.E. Ritchey is asked to call the Williamson County Sheriff's Office at 512-943-5204 or Williamson County Crime Stoppers at 800-253-7867, which is offering a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest.