By Victor O'Brien

Killeen Daily Herald

Twenty years of questions, uncertainty and lost time linger with the sisters of Deanna Merryfield.

She disappeared July 22, 1990, leaving behind a troubled family life and a mystery Killeen police need help to solve.

Despite time and odds against them, two of Deanna's sisters press on to find answers and closure to an unresolved agony in their lives. Meanwhile, a steady stream of leads is drying up in the renewed investigation led by Killeen police Lt. Reese Davis.

"I don't feel like she's dead. I don't feel like she's gone. … I just think I'd know if she was dead," Deanna's twin, Rebecca Welling, said in May.

The last night

The night Deanna, 13, disappeared happened like other nights for the rebellious teen. She snuck out of her grandmother's home on Alamo Avenue. Around 3 a.m., she arrived at her uncle's home, where Welling stayed, at Oak Springs Trailer Park on Dimple Street, about 2.5 miles from Alamo Avenue.

Deanna knocked on a window to wake Welling. The sisters talked until the chatter awoke the uncle.

Deanna fled, Welling said, in a bronze or brown four-door vehicle with two men, possibly white or Hispanic.

Recalling childhood memories, Welling described Deanna as a free spirit who blared Def Leppard, White Snake and Ozzy Osbourne.

"She was fun. She was loud, obnoxious, wild and only nice to me," Welling said. "She was always in trouble."

Unconfirmed leads leave questions

A suspicious collect call in 1992, a possible police stop in 1995 and an unconfirmed report that Deanna visited a relative dangle hope for her sisters.

Two years after Deanna's disappearance, Welling received a collect call from a person who identified herself as "Deanna."

When Welling accepted the call, no one answered. The phone bill listed the call's source as Cave City, Ky.

Possibly during a traffic stop, Deanna's name and date of birth were run through a Hurst police computer in October 1995, Davis said.

Between 2000 and 2002, an out-of-state relative reported that Deanna, sporting several tattoos visited and told the relative that she wanted to remain hidden.

"I'm 75 to 80 percent optimistic that she's alive. All of the odds, if you're an odds playing person, say she is not," Davis said.

"There's enough little bitty stuff floating around and enough people who haven't been talked to that I can't say it's a closed case," he added.

Reason to runaway?

A troubled teen who suffered sexual abuse from a family member and endured an alcoholic mother, relatives hope Deanna ran away to a better life.

A litany of family problems loomed over the Merryfields, forcing the girls to be shuffled between the homes of relatives.

Deanna grew up fast, became wise to the ways of the street, started smoking and spending time with boys at an early age, Welling said. She was a protector to her siblings, younger sister Melissa Merryfield-Twardowski said.

Starting from scratch

Before Davis renewed the investigation in 2007 at the urging of relatives, Deanna's case had been dormant since the mid-'90s.

Using new technology, he exhausted innumerable leads and searched records of Jane Does, Texas driver's license photos and DNA filings.

His current approach is to recreate Deanna's life by locating friends, neighbors, Manor Middle School classmates and anyone, he said, who might have known her.

Working off lists provided by her sisters, Davis has found all but three teenage friends: Rudy Longoria, Tony Longoria and Sylvia Martinez.

"We're up against faded memories. We're up against a very, very transient population. All we need is some help," Davis said.

Davis wants closure for Deanna's family, even if closure is her telling him she does not want to be found or discovering that she died.

"I'm not going to quit looking for Deanna until she is found. It's owed to Deanna. It's owed to the family," Davis said.

Anyone who knew or has information about Deanna Merryfield is urged to call Killeen Police Lt. Reese Davis at (254) 501-8922 or e-mail rdavis@ci.killeen.tx.us.

Deanna Michelle Merryfield

Missing: July 22, 1990, at age 13. She would be 33.

Birthdate: Feb. 2, 1977

Height and weight: 5 feet, 2 inches, 108 pounds

Features: Blond hair, hazel-blue eyes; fractured lower left arm a few years before disappearance; scar on upper lip

Unconfirmed reports of several tattoos: a cross, the words "Merryfield" with a date, and a rose with the words "Texas born."

• • •

Killeen police are asking for help locating Rudy Longoria, Tony Longoria and Sylvia Martinez. All are believed to have been teenage acquaintances of Deanna Merryfield in the months before her disappearance.

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