- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Only about four officers are still with the Odessa Police Department since the brutal stabbing death of 15-year-old Wendy Burdette 26 years ago, and Capt. Jesse Duarte said he still remembers the investigation.

Thompson Ward Stricklen, 52, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder and sexual assault in connection with Burdette’s death after his DNA matched evidence found on Burdette.

Duarte said he was with the department for four years when Burdette was killed, and although he worked in the narcotics division, all the divisions attempted to pitch in to solve the case.

“We were contacted to talk to our informants about the murder,” Duarte said. “I know there was a lot of interest in this case.”

Not much came out of interviews with informants, Duarte said, and the department wasn’t working on very many leads at all in a time where they relied on leads to solve cases.

Even with the increased use of DNA as a tool to solve cases, Duarte said police still go back through the old cold cases at least once a year.

The Burdette stabbing still stood out in his mind, he said, even with all the other cold cases.

“This is different in my opinion,” Duarte said, noting that it wasn’t “bad person on bad person,” but instead the death of a teenage girl.

Memories will have faded in the past 26 years, but Duarte said this case is more of a forensic case, and won’t rely as much on testimony from witnesses.

Duarte said while Stricklen was a suspect originally, it’s not so simple to just arrest him.

“You’ve got to prove it’s the individual,” Duarte said. “Just because you think it’s the individual, that’s not enough.”

Duarte said he’s glad someone was arrested, and hopes the case will go on to provide peace for Burdette’s family.

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(c)2015 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

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