On November 18th, 1987 Russell Dardeen had not shown up for work, concern about his welfare his work called the police and asked them to do a welfare check. When police arrived at Russell’s trailer home they found his pregnant wife Elaine gagged with duct tape and son Peter brutally murdered, they had been beaten with a baseball bat. Elaine had been so brutally murdered that she went into labour and had given birth to a baby girl who had also been beaten by the murderer.
Since police couldn’t locate Keith he became the first suspect but the next day after the discovery of his family’s bodies a group of hunters discovered the body of Keith, he had been shot three times and his penis was severed. Keith’s car was also discovered out the front of the police station with blood splatter inside the vehicle.
A team of 30 detectives worked full time on the case, they interviewed up to 100 people and followed all possible leads but they came up empty-handed. The Dardeen family were involved in their local Baptist church and the townspeople had positive things to say about the family.
Eventually, detectives had to put more time and effort into other cases in the area as there had been an alarming number of murders and rapes in the area over the previous two years. Two FBI profilers decided to review the evidence and even though they were able to make some suggestions as to what to look for in a perpetrator, in the end, it didn’t bring detectives any closer to catching the killer.
Over the years there were a couple of different suspects including serial killer Ángel Maturino Reséndiz who had a history of travelling around the United States by train-hopping and then picking out victims that live close to the train tracks and he would beat them to death. Detectives were never able to official link him to the murders.
The second suspect was serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells who had been charged with numerous murders and before his trial, he began confessing to detectives what other murders he had committed. Sells would tell detectives that he murdered the Dardeen family but he couldn’t remember any of the details. Some people still to this day believe that Sells was the Dardeen family killer but others believe he lied about being the killer because he was unable to provide any information on the murders that hadn’t been released to the public.
Tommy Lynn Sells was eventually found guilty of the murder of 13-year-old Kaylene Harris and sentenced to death. He was suspected of committing at least 22 murders but he was never charged with any other murders. Sells was executed on April 3rd, 2014. He was never charged with the Dardeen family murders but he is still the number one suspect.
Still to this day, there have been no further developments in this case.
Rest In Peace Russell, Elaine, Peter and their baby daughter who they never got the chance to name.