Deadline For Justice

Two Cold Cases, Two Families, On 48 Hours Mystery

This story was first broadcast on April 19, 2008.

In 2002, a young television reporter named Jennifer Servo was found murdered inside her apartment just weeks after moving to Abilene, Texas. Police have not yet been able to make an arrest but have vowed not to give up until the case is closed.

That determination - not giving up - had a big impact in another case: the 1991 murder of Patty Scoville in Vermont. While police had DNA evidence, they did not have a database to compare their evidence to. As correspondent Harold Dow reports, it would take years, and intense lobbying by Patty's parents, to establish the database, which would eventually provide a crucial break in the case.

There may be no bigger job in television journalism than anchoring the evening news. It's the dream of every young reporter, one that often begins at a small-town television station, like Abilene's KRBC-TV.

But the dream of Jennifer Servo, who loved to report the news, ended tragically when she became the news.

Jennifer was a small town girl with big city dreams, growing up in the shadow of Montana's Glacier National Park. "She was always talking big. She was going to live in a penthouse in New York. And she was gonna be the next Katie Couric," remembers Jennifer's big sister Christa.

"She got interested in writing in high school and wrote some wonderful stories. And then she decided she wanted to do something with writing," remembers Jennifer's mother, Sherry Abel.

Jennifer knew her plan would have to include college, an expense her parents couldn't afford. But she got some help from Uncle Sam, joining the U.S. Army Reserve to finance her education.

Jennifer headed off to the University of Montana in Missoula, where she immersed herself in the school's professional journalism program.

It was clear to Denise Dowling, an assistant professor of radio and television, that Jennifer had that certain spark. "Everything that she did was focused on making television a career," Dowling remembers.

"She'd worked in college, I think three years, for both TV stations in Missoula, starting out behind the camera at five in the morning for the early show," Sherry remembers.

"In addition to that she was anchoring here on the radio station and she had her guard duties. So she was incredibly busy and pulled it all off, did it all well," Dowling adds.

So well in fact that it wasn't long before Jennifer ended up in front of the camera, reporting the news like a seasoned pro.

Jennifer's graduation in May 2002 should have been the start of a well-deserved vacation, but all she really wanted to do was get right to work.

After completing her final Reserve duty, Jennifer returned home with exciting news: she had landed a job with a small television station in Abilene, Texas. While it was still a long way from New York City, it was a start.

Jennifer came home with one more surprise as well: a new boyfriend, Ralph Sepulveda, a former Army Ranger and Reserve training instructor.

"It was unfortunate that she was moving, because they were crazy about each other, she said," Christa remembers.

But as usual, luck seemed to be on Jennifer's side: Ralph was also going to move to Texas.

Her plan was simple: Jennifer and her mother would drive down to Texas and Ralph would follow once she was settled.

"I said, 'Jen, do you really wanna do that? You know, you've just met him.' That was one side of me. The other side of me was saying, 'At least she'd know somebody there,'" Sherry remembers.

But in fact, Jennifer would soon discover she didn't know Ralph at all.