Tracking Lisa's Killer

Since 1982, Dogged Detectives Have Worked The Case

Houston homicide Sergeant Boyd Smith has helped bring hundreds of fugitives to justice, including notorious serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. By his own estimate, Smith has put 14 people on death row.

But there is one case the 58-year-old father and grandfather can never forget,48 Hours reports.

On July 1, 1982, 14-year-old Lisa Dawn Hoag was found raped and murdered in a Houston schoolyard. For almost 19 years, Smith has believed that he knows who killed her.

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"We've all got cases that stick in our craw somewhere, that we can't let go of," he says.

Lisa was Gaye Starkweather's oldest child. She remembers her daughter as a vivacious girl: "Bubbly, real bubbly - she liked to roller skate, she liked to bowl, she liked to go swimming. She loved swimming."

During the summer vacation of 1982, Lisa helped take care of her 3-year-old sister, Brandy, while Starkweather, a single mom, worked the night shift at a local restaurant.

On the night on June 30, Starkweather called Lisa at about 11:30 p.m. Lisa said she would wait up for her mother. When Starkweather got home, she saw that the front door was open. Inside, Brandy was asleep, but Lisa was gone. When she reported Lisa missing to the police, they told her she'd most likely run away.

"I knew my daughter," says Starkweather. "She would never've left Brandy by herself."

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Her fears were later confirmed when 3-yearold Brandy told her mom that a "mean man" had taken her sister away. "She said the guy came in and flipped on the light and grabbed Lisa off the bed," says Starkweather. Brandy herself, though, remembers nothing about that night.

Lisa was taken from her apartment, and dragged two blocks to an elementary school, where she was raped and strangled. Her body was found the next morning by a man who was mowing the lawn.

Coincidentally, Smith had talked to Lisa a few days before the murder while investigating the murder of another young woman - 20-year-old Mary Ann Castille - a friend of Lisa's. Three months earlier, Mary Ann had been raped and strangled. Her body had been dumped four blocks away from Lisa's apartment.

Smith and his partners, Tom Ladd and Ronnie Doyle, quickly focused their investigation on Michael Brashar, a 21-year-old fast-food worker who lived in the same apartment complex as Lisa.

"We felt quite sure who did it," says Smith. "His prey was girls in their early teens. Junior high school girls."

Police couldn't find Brashar, but they found his wife, who dropped a bombshell. She told detectives that she thought Michael was involved in the murder of both girls.


Brashar in 1987
Brashar's wife told police that on the day of Castille's murder, Michael didn't show up for work, and didn't have a reason not to. She told them that on the night of Lisa's murder, her husband was out most of the night; when he returned, he was "sweaty and nervous."

Six days after Lisa's murder, police picked up Brashar for questioning. Brashar was very willing to cooperate - agreeing to give police blood and hair samples. Although he failed a lie detector test, the blood and hair samples didn’t match with any from the crime scenes. With no hard evidence, Brashar walked.

After Lisa’s death, Starkweather and Brandy moved to a small town in Michigan. Three years after the murders, in 1985, Brashar was convicted for raping and strangling a 15-year-old girl in Irving, Texas. That girl survived the attack. Brashar was sentenced to four years, but served only four months.

"I was incensed about it. But the problem back then, was a lot of overcrowding," says Smith.

Despite the lack of leads, Houston police never gave up. “It’s just one of those cases that wouldn't go away in my mind, especially when you know in your heart who did it," says Smith.

Recently, Smith decided to see if DNA testing might shed new light on the case. Technicians retested Brashar’s blood to compare it to semen found at the crime scene. In Castille's case, the tests were inconclusive - the samples had been tainted. But Lisa’s samples were still good, and technicians got a definitive DNA match.

There was overwhelming probability that the sample was Brashar's. One in 287,00,000. When Smith told Starkweather that a suspect had been charged in Lisa's murder, she was ecstatic.

But now comes the hard part: finding Brashar, who disappeared several years ago. A warrant has gone out to police agencies across North America for the arrest of a man that even his own brother, Doyle Brashar, says is vicious and capable of murder.

Doyle has terrible memories of his childhood. “He tried to hit me in the head with a hammer when I was a baby,” he says of Michael. “He tried to pull my fingers off with a pair of plyers.” Doyle told police that his brother also raped him.

Boyd says that Brashar is a transient, and may have committed crimes all over the country. "He changes his name, he changes his Social Security numbers, his dates of birth. You never know who he's gonna say he is," says Smith.

If he is alive, Brashar is 41 years old. He has used his brother's name, and goes by the aliases Mickey T. Craft and Mickey Graft. He may have changed his appearance. "We don't know if has any hair, or what color it's gonna be," says Smith.

Starkweather hopes desperately that Brashar will be found. "I think he should get the death penalty because obviously, after all this time, he has absolutely no remorse for what he did," she says. "He took my first born child. Somebody I loved very much."

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