By DAVID MAY
Mineral Wells is a relatively small community. But it has been big enough to hold for four years a big secret.
Who killed Krishonda Townsend?
“It still makes no sense after fours years that in a small town that we haven’t uncovered the person or persons responsible for the the kidnapping and murder of Shonda,” said her aunt, Lena Rittenbury. “All I can think is either someone is keeping a huge secret or they left town so no one will find out they are responsible for this evil thing. Either way they will have to respond to one person, and that will be our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. That day will come, and I hope I am here to see that.”
So far, not even the offering of a $22,000 reward by the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office has been enough to entice draw someone out to produce the information investigators need to file charges, arrest the person or persons responsible, and forward a case to the district attorney for prosecution.
The case might not be deep freezer cold, but it is far from warm.
“We are still working it when something comes up,” said Sheriff Ira Mercer. “A few things have come up but nothing to the point we can do something.”
He still believes that because of the facts known to investigators that the person or persons involved are local individuals – or at least were at the time. He especially believed that when Townsend’s skeletal remains were found in October 2011 in a secluded area at the end of Sand Hill Road, southwest of Mineral Wells.
The discovery, by a man walking the property, came more than 15 months after her sudden vanishment in the early morning hours of July 5, 2010.
“This is somebody local who did this,” Mercer said at the discovery site that fall day.
19 years old and the mother of a son, Townsend, of Gibtown, a graduate of Perrin High School, spent that July 4th with a group of friends at Lake Bridgeport. They returned to Mineral Wells that evening, going to a friend’s house located on U.S. Highway 180 West. Their vehicle was reportedly seen at a nearby convenience store around 11:30 p.m. Back at the house, Townsend made a cryptic post on her Facebook page – “I got this” – and left there shortly before midnight.
She reportedly texted her mother that she was headed home to Gibtown. Investigators know there was activity on Townsend’s cellular phone until about 2 a.m. the morning of July 5. The phone’s signal bounced off of a cellular service tower in Peadenville, between Mineral Wells and Perrin to the north.
About three hours later, Townsend’s ransacked 1997 Toyota Camry was found in the 800 block of S.E. 3rd Avenue in Mineral Wells, with its stereo system missing and personal items strewn about.
The car was left in front of a known drug dealer’s house – which Mercer said he believes was done intentionally by Townsend’s killers as a deflection for law enforcement. It is another reason he believes her attackers are local individuals very familiar with the area.
The car was released that morning to a family member of Townsend’s, and Mercer thinks it is possible that investigators potentially missed finding a key piece of evidence since the car was not scoured for possible clues.
Mercer said the activity on Townsend’s phone, and different stories they have received through dozens of interviews and polygraphs – some people polygraphed and interviewed more than once – have given law enforcement a frame from which to work. They are just unable to connect the necessary dots.
“There are three different stories, but the same kind of activity,” Mercer said.
He also said while it has been four years, and investigators lack any tangible information to proceed with, he said, “It is not over. Not by a long shot.”
While justice eludes Townsend and her family, Rittenbury remembers her niece for who she was.
“Shonda was full of life and had a real future ahead of her,” Rittenbury said. “She was a loving person, mother, daughter, sister, niece and and friend to so many. She loved to dance. She belonged to two different church dance teams. There are so many thing that I remember about Shonda growing up.”
She said as a child, Shonda loved to take play dress up with jewelry and make up.
“When she was about 4 or 5 she was burned really bad and while she was in Parkland (hospital in Dallas) the doctors would have to scrape her burns, and when they started we would sing, ‘Jesus Loves Me’ over and over and it would help her from hurting as bad. I believe He healed her so she wouldn’t have any scars,” said Rittenbury. “We thank God every day to give her a hug from us and tell her we love her and see her soon. Hayden (Townsend’s son) will always know were his mommy is. There are all of Shonda’s photos in every room of the house and her grave is walking distance from him.”
Rittenbury became involved with a group dedicated to finding missing persons, and wrote a poem about Townsend. She helped organize the planting of a tree in Townsend’s honor at the Perrin school.
Rittenbury has a message for Townsend’s killers.
“If I can say one thing to the people that did this, look in the mirror and think to yourself would you like to have one of your family members go threw what Shonda went through? I hope not. No one should ever have to go threw that. God says ‘don’t hate,’ so for this I have forgiven you all, but will never forget.”
A Facebook page, “Honoring Krishonda Townsend Memorial Group,” was started by another aunt of Townsend’s, April Hambrick. The page began was a way of seeking information about Townsend and her disappearance, and has evolved into not only keeping Townsend’s memory alive, but to help others find people who are missing.
“It kind of became a page for other to help find their lost loved ones,” said Hambrick. “It’s hard to know what to do or how to handle it so we all kind of just share on the page to confide or help each other out.”
Anyone with information about the abduction and killing of Shonda Townsend can call Palo Pinto County Crime Stoppers at 940-325-0000, any time 24 hours a day. Callers can remain anonymous and information leading to the arrest and indictment of a person or persons responsible are eligible for the $22,000 reward offered in the case.