In 1985, 31-year-old Beverly Douthit would walk to neighborhood watering holes to enjoy a drink and company.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, 1985, she visited Brother in Law’s Bar on Independence Avenue in Kansas City. She left around 10 p.m. Some people reported seeing her later that night, around 11 p.m., at another bar nearby, the Lost Weekend Bar.
She was never seen alive again.
A passerby on U.S. 69 Highway noticed what he thought was a black bag laying in the Little Blue River near the highway exit to 179th Street in Johnson County.
“He thought it was a black bag,” said Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Becky Crabtree. “He had seen the bag a couple of days before, and then that morning, Aug. 21, 1985, he thought, wait, that’s not a bag. He looked closely, and it was her.”
Douthit had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head and dumped in the Little Blue River.
“She was obviously transported from Kansas City, whether dead or alive, to the Little Blue River,” Crabtree said. “She was brought to our area.”
The single, Kansas City, Mo., woman didn’t have a car.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department convened the first metro squad, comprised of law enforcement agencies from around the area, to investigate Douthit’s murder.
“A lot of people were spoken with, and a lot of people had their names crossed off,” Crabtree said. “There are still a lot of people whose names are not crossed off – (the metro squad members) weren’t able to rule them out or rule them in.”
Douthit’s whereabouts the night she went missing are a little murky. Investigators have no doubt that Douthit was at Brother in Law’s bar, but they aren’t absolutely positive she was in the Lost Weekend Bar.
“The reason I say she was last seen at Brother in Laws, is that the people there were able to give much more detailed descriptions,” Crabtree said.
Police released a sketch composite of a man they believe Douthit left the bar with. Witnesses described the man as a white male with Hispanic features. With a stocky build, he stood approximately 5-feet 8-inches tall and weighed between 175 and 180 pounds. He had matted dark hair, and a mustache, an unkempt appearance and witnesses said he had noticeable body odor and breath that smelled of tooth decay.
Thirty years later, the case is colder than December in Siberia. Investigators are still hoping to talk to the man witnesses described.
“Maybe he’s got grandkids. Wouldn’t it be horrible if someone did that to one of his kids?” Crabtree said.
She said police can’t say that the person Douthit left the bar with was responsible for her death, but he may have information that would lead investigators to that person.
Though it’s been 30 years, Crabtree said the investigation continues to this day.
Police have considered Douthit may have been the victim of a serial killer. Details of Douthit’s case have been run through the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program or VICAP. The program analyzes serial violent and sexual crimes to determine similarities.
At the time of Douthit’s death, the bodies of at least four women had been found dumped in the Missouri River in Kansas City, Mo.
Federal investigators believed at the time that two of those murders were connected, but Douthit’s was one of two that federal investigators said was unconnected.
Three of the four women were prostitutes. Douthit was not. Throughout the 1990s, police retrieved the partially nude bodies of several women in the Missouri River.
Some have been solved. Others that may be connected have been solved, though police in 1999 arrested a man, Gregory Breeden, for the death of one of women found in the Missouri River between 1982 and 1994. Charges against him were eventually dropped when a witness refused to testify. Breeden died in 2014.
Crabtree hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Douthit died at the hands of someone who may have killed again, however.
“The good thing about putting the information in VICAP is they’ll keep it there,” she said.
Douthit’s case remains cold, but Crabtree is hopeful technology may one day improve enough to solve the mystery of Douthit’s death. In the meantime, she is still looking for the man in the 1985 sketch.
“Investigators never talked to anyone who said, I left the bar with her,” Crabtree said. “If they could call, that would be great.”