Mysterious death on Central Texas highway unsolved after three years

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In May 2012, authorities got a 911 call in the early morning hours about a woman injured and lying in the middle of State Highway 71. The victim, 36-year-old Isela Moreno, died from her injuries. The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office launched a homicide investigation. Three years later, investigators and family are still looking for answers.

“Every day she would call me,” said Gloria Adkins, Isela’s mother. “She never wanted me to say bye. At the end of the conversation it was always, ‘Later, gator.’ Never bye.”

Isela never got to say a final goodbye to her mother. Now, another call lives in Gloria’s memory: the call from law enforcement.

“I just, I lost it,” Gloria said. “And he told me that they had found her on 71 and they didn’t know if a car had run over her, if she had gotten thrown out of a car and cars ran over her on the road because she was in the middle of 71.”

Fayette County Sheriff’s Lt. David Beyer says investigators believe something ominous happened that night.

“We do feel like some type of struggle did happen out there that night or which caused her to end up in middle of Highway 71, in the condition she was in,” Beyer said.

MapAnim Unsolved.mov

A short walk off the road, at a rest stop, investigators found what is now their the main piece of evidence.

“There was some type of, I guess you could say, sexual activity that occurred in that area,” said Beyer. “Because we did find a used condom. And that’s what gives us the DNA.”

Beyer says the DNA matched Isela and an unknown man. So far, the man’s DNA has not come up with a match in the Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS. Beyer says he views investigations like puzzles and that finding that evidence was like finding half the puzzle.

“Finding that evidence that day definitely was, it was like, we’ve got a chance to clear this case.”

But the investigation also faces challenges, which have made completing the puzzle difficult. The night Isela died it was raining, possibly washing away or disturbing evidence. Beyer says the investigation uncovered Isela had used drugs and was possibly involved in prostitution.

“It doesn’t mean that she can be just forgotten,” said Gloria. “She was a mom, a grandma, a daughter, a sister.”

And she isn’t letting authorities forget.

“I’ve got some phone messages here on my work phone that I have never deleted, and a few of those phone messages are from Isela’s mother,” Beyer said. “Because it reminds us. It keeps it fresh in our memory.”

Beyer believes there might be only two people who ever knew what happened — Isela and her possible killer.

“I would greatly appreciate it if someone would come forward and say something,” said Gloria. “I really would because it’s very hard. It’s very hard on me.”

“She would always tell me I was her keeper, and now I don’t have that,” said Jennifer Spruiell, Isela’s sister. “Somebody took that from me. I want to see somebody pay for what they’ve done. But is it going to bring me that closure? I don’t know.”

Anyone with information about the case can call the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office at 979-968-5856.

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