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Who Killed 'Spitfire' Texas High School Cheerleader Carla Walker?
In 1974, cheerleader Carla Walker was abducted while on a date with her boyfriend, and her body was found days later. Could her murder be the work of a serial killer?
The case of Carla Walker has haunted her friends and family for 46 years.
On the night of Feb. 16, 1974, she was on a date with her boyfriend when she was abducted from a parking lot in Fort Worth, Texas. Her body was found three days later, but her killer remains a mystery.
Blonde and pretty, Walker, 17, was a popular student at Western Hills High School in Benbrook, a suburb on the southside of Fort Worth. Her older sister, Cindy Stone, described her as a “little spitfire” in an interview with “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes,” airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
Walker’s boyfriend at the time, Rodney McCoy, was starting quarterback for the Western Hills Cougars football team. Stone said the couple had “a great relationship” and never fought.
On the night of the abduction, Walker and McCoy attended a Valentine’s Day dance. Afterward, they partied with friends and later stopped by a local bowling alley to use the restrooms.
But the couple was attacked after returning to McCoy’s car in the parking lot of the bowling alley. According to McCoy, he was beaten unconscious, and when he came to, Walker was gone. He told police the assailant was a white male, approximately 5 foot 10 inches tall.
Walker’s body was discovered on Feb. 20, 1974, in a culvert beneath a rural road south of Fort Worth. Her clothes were ripped, and she had been strangled to death. Police said Walker had been beaten and sexually assaulted before she was murdered, and morphine was found in her system.
Cold case investigator Paul Holes said Walker’s murder could be a “sexually motivated homicide” that was “predatory” in nature, and not unlike those committed by serial killers.
Detective Leah Wagner, of the Fort Worth Police Department, told “The DNA of Murder” that suspects included Tommy Ray Kneeland. In April 1974, Kneeland abducted a teenage girl in nearby Arlington and tried to sexually assault her, but she escaped. Kneeland was identified by his victim, and he subsequently confessed to three murders, two of which occurred in Fort Worth, according to the news service UPI.
He was sentenced to life in prison, but he was paroled in 1987. He returned to custody, however, after violating the terms of his parole.
In reviewing the case, Holes spoke with McCoy about his memories of Walker’s abduction. McCoy said that after the Valentine’s party, the young couple was drinking and smoking pot. After using the restrooms at the bowling alley, they returned to his car in the back parking lot.
“From what I remember, we were talking, and we started kissing. And she was leaning up against the door, and the door just jerked open,” McCoy told “The DNA of Murder.”
The assailant then began hitting him from above, he said.
“Carla was screaming, ‘Quit hitting him,’ so my assumption, he hit me several times,” McCoy said. “Blood was just flowing down in my eyes and my face and everything, and it was like I was paralyzed.”
McCoy told investigators that the assailant stuck a gun in his face and pulled the trigger repeatedly, but it didn’t go off. McCoy recalls Walker screaming, “Go get my dad,” as he slipped into unconsciousness. When he came to, he went to Walker’s home, and the police were notified.
Retired investigator Jim Minter, one of the original detectives on the Walker case, told Holes her murder was similar to that of Becky Martin, whose death occurred a year earlier.
“Becky was a small girl, much like Carla was. She was thin. She had blonde hair, very attractive,” Minter told “The DNA of Murder.”
In 1973, Martin was kidnapped from a junior college in south Fort Worth. Months later, her remains were found in a culvert in the same general area as where Walker was found, near Lake Benbrook.
No evidence was recovered at the crime scene, and Minter said there were “no witnesses and very few leads.” Like Walker, her murder remains unsolved.
DNA testing is underway, and there has been “multiple sources of male DNA located,” Holes said.
Find out where the evidence takes him on “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes,” airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.