Houston resident Troy McWhorter was scheduled for release in October from a Texas prison to which he was sent this year for stealing truck equipment. Now he faces capital murder charges in the 2004 killing of a Houston woman who had served in the U.S. Army and helped raise six children.
The new charge, which could carry the death penalty, was filed today by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit, which was resurrected by Sheriff Adrian Garcia when he took office in January 2009. Since then, the unit — investigator sergeants Bobby Minchew and Eric Clegg and research assistant Rebecca Sweetman — has brought charges against 13 killers who took the lives of a total of 15 people in cases that had been considered dormant and unresolved for several years.
“Why there was not an active Cold Case Unit before, I have no idea. But (on taking office) I considered it a total disrespect to the surviving victims in these murders,” Sheriff Garcia said. “I am proud of these crime-fighters who have been working tirelessly to help bring closure to the extent that we can to these families and the memories of the victims.”
Texas prison officials routinely obtained a DNA sample from McWhorter this year after he violated probation and was locked up in the theft case. A DNA database matched his genetic material with the DNA found on the abandoned body of Shonda Alexander, 36. She was killed July 21, 2004, in northwest Harris County.
McWhorter had not been among the original suspects in the initial investigation of Alexander’s murder. But after the DNA match, the investigators found that McWhorter had lived in the neighborhood where Alexander and other prostitutes were frequently seen. Alexander, after an honorable discharge from the Army, had separated from her husband and become addicted to crack cocaine, the investigators said.
Minchew and Clegg followed up by interviewing McWhorter in prison in Edinburg, Texas, and filed the charges as a result of information they obtained there as well as the DNA match. Minchew recently called Alexander’s survivors in Oklahoma and told them the cold case had been solved.
“There’s no better feeling in law enforcement that I think of,” Minchew said of making such a phone call. “Maybe they can sleep better at night.”