When 39-year old fashion designer Diane Hoelscher kissed her kids good-bye in 1986 she promised them she’d be back, but she was wrong, according to Episode 2 of Season 3 of the Cold Justice series on TNT network. Former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and former investigator Yolanda McClary teamed up to figure out who murdered Hoelscher who left on her trip to Houston on Feb. 4, 1986 and was not seen again until her body was discovered 11 years later in a field in Waller County, Texas.
Diane was a designer of high end furs and clothing in San Antonio when she reportedly set out on a trip to Houston that ended up being a rendezvous with death.
Siegler explains early on that complications often arise when three different jurisdictions are involved in one murder case. In this case the San Antonio Police Department, Waller County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department all were involved.
The reasons for this murder case stretching across these three areas were that husband Joe Hoelscher Sr. reported her missing to SAPD, her body was found in Waller County and her car was found in Harris County (Houston).
McClary says there are two primary theories as to who murdered Diane. Siegler writes out the list on the chalkboard in the Waller County Sheriff’s Office which includes the husband ( normally a suspect) Joel Hoelscher, Sr. and a random killer.
It will be a difficult puzzle to unravel since the skeletal remains of the victim weren’t found until 11 years later, McClary explains. Many clues will have disappeared from the crime scene during that time. Also, it may be impossible to tell whether some of the injuries to the skeleton were caused by animals roaming the field or the killer himself.
Diane’s mother, brother and sister-in-law all traveled from Florida to Alabama to meet with Siegler and McClary as part of the televised investigation. Diane’s mother Yvonne Davis said, “She didn’t have to go through this. She was a beautiful seamstress. She made all her own prom dresses.”
She further said of her son-in-law, “I always wondered where his money came from. He impressed me as being smooth.”
Don Davis, Diane’s brother, said, “I always thought it was strange that none of the family knew she was missing until four weeks later. My mother called to wish one of the children happy birthday and Joseph got on the phone and said Diane was missing for four weeks.”
Cathy Davis, Diane’s sister-in-law, went to the San Antonio Police Department to check on the status of the case. She said, “They thought Diane wanted to be missing. So they backed off the case. I thought maybe every Christmas I would hear from Diane.”
Cathy said that when she received the word that Diane’s skeletal remains had been found it was a big shock.
Kelly said, “At this point we don’t know who killed Diane. We have three things we need to check out first including Diane’s briefcase, her car and her body.”
Yolanda added, “The only thing found in her briefase was her driver’s license. ‘It almost looks staged. Not something a random killer would do.”‘
Yolanda further said, “There were no statements from mall security in Houston where her car was found. I don’t believe that car was in the parking lot for three months before it was found. That’s also against a random killer.”
Siegler and McClary then leave the mall in Houston and drive in the Cold Justice van to the field where Diane’s remains were found in Waller County. Yolanda said “the fact the body was found 25 yards from the road creates another hurdle for the investigation in addition to the 11-year time lapse.”
Kelly said, “This location was an easy place to hide the body. Travelers along this Farm to Market Road were few and far between. We still have a whole lot of questions.”
Retired San Antonio Police Department detective Pete Lopez met with the TNT team and recalled talking to Joseph in 1986 after his wife’s disapearance. He said, “Joseph was evasive. He’d filed for bankruptcy. We figured she was hiding until he could collect the insurance. He would start crying to avoid answering questions. I always thought she was alive.”
Larry Ott, Houston Police Department, said, “We checked every fabric place and hotel. We couldn’t find a trace of her. The fabric stores said they wouldn’t buy from an individual.”
Yolanda concludes, “It appears Diane’s trip never happened.”
A neighbor of the Hoelscher’s said Joseph remarked to him that, “The hotel said she left with a guy at the Galleria Hotel in Houston.”
The investigation took a dramatic turn when the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification matched the DNA from the skeletal remains to that of Diane’s DNA. That was when the missing case was transformed into a murder case.
Alan Brown, a former Houston homicide detective who appears frequently on the show, said he attempted to talk with Joel Hoelscher, Sr. as part of the TNT investigation. Brown reported that, “I talked to Joe for four hours. I would ask him a question and he would go off into right field and not answer the questions. He cried on command.”
Two years after Diane’s death, Joseph had her declared legally dead and collected the $500,000 from her life insurance policy, according to Kelly.
Diane’s brother Jeff said he received a call from her the week before she went missing in which she confided, “Joe’s having psychological problems. She then said her husband came into the room and they quit talking about him.”
When investigators visit with Joe’s ex-wife they discover more news. Kelly said, “She told us he was on top of her in the middle of the night when she woke up. He was choking me. When I said something he stopped. As soon as he went to work, I got a restraining order and never saw him again.”
When the TNT team interview son Joe Jr., who was only age 10 when his mother was murdered, he said he never knew his father to be a person who cried a lot. He said his father told him he’d hired a private investigator to look for Diane.
After the TNT team of sleuths investigate that issue, Yolanda says, “He didn’t hire a private investigator. It would’ve cost him $50,000, and he didn’t do it.”
The team also discovers he had filed a divorce petition in 1982 against Diane.
With the evidence collected by Siegler and McClary, Waller County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Heather Owens and Sheriff Glenn Smith present the case to District Attorney Elton Mathis for prosecution. Mathis reportedly said he would present the case to the Waller County Grand Jury and seek an indictment against the husband.
Mathis was reported on the show to have said, “He’s told way too many lies.”
Although there is no report yet as to what the grand jury will decide on the case, the relatives of Diane Hoelscher are grateful to the TNT team of Kelly, Yolanda and Alan Brown for moving this murder case further down the road in the direction of a final resolution.
Fans of Cold Justice may tune in to TNT each Friday at 9/8 CST for another episode of a real-life investigation into an unsolved cold case. There are approximately 200,000 cold cases leaving a trail of blood across the landscape of America.
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