the search for mark scott
When we asked the ME’s office for an explanation for why this misidentification wasn't caught, we were told, in September 2010, that they had not fully investigated the cases that had been identified in 1973 and that they didn’t have any real questions about those identifications, so they had not gone back to look at those…yet.
Mark’s father, Walter Scott, knew back in 1973 that his son was one of the victims of the “Houston Mass Murders,” however, he was adamant in not accepting any of the remains without knowing 100% that they belonged to his son. Mark’s identification posed a problem for the ME because he didn’t have any dental records or x-rays of prior bone injuries
typically used to establish a positive identification.
Despite Henley’s confession that Mark was buried at High
Island, Dr. Joe continued to show the Scott family the remains of victims who were found in the boat shed which he believed belonged to Mark. One of the victims from the boat shed was Unknown # 12, who Dr. Joe believed with a 95% certainty were the remains of Mark. Mr. Scott refused the remains based on the fact that the victim had a healed collarbone fracture, which he knew Mark never had. This victim was later identified in 1985 as Willard “Rusty” Branch.
Then in 1991, when DNA was in it’s infancy, the ME’s office obtained a bone sample from another victim found in the boat shed (unknown #15) and forwarded it to the HPD DNA Crime Lab along with a blood sample from the Scott family in hopes of a match. The results were inconclusive based on the degraded quality of the bone.
Apparently, the unwillingness to consider victims found at High Island was attributed to the fact they had already identified or had evidence of having prior dental work.
Even though the body of “unknown 15” had physical
characteristics such as dark brown hair and 2-molars that had been extracted and Mark had blond hair and no teeth extracted, the ME’s office conducted another DNA test in their own lab. In a final report, dated Jan. 4, 1994, Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk concluded that the test conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Johnson proved "...that the DNA from the blood submitted by Mary Scott when compared with the DNA extracted from the bony remains of case number ML-73-3355 (unknown #15) is the same based on a 98.5% probability.”
The report also contained a list of other errors that were used
to support this conclusion, such as Henley stating Mark was buried in the boat shed and how the hair analyst was able to match the blond hair of Mark with the dark brown hair of the
victim. With those results, the Scott family had no choice but to accept the remains and pay for a funeral for the boy they were
told was their son.
It was heart wrenching for the Scott family to learn that a mistake was made but they were appreciative to know the truth and, more importantly, to submit another DNA sample to be added to the Texas Missing Person DNA Database or comparison.
The new DNA tests were performed in 2011, which proved Mark was misidentified and that the correct victim was Steven Sickman, 17, who was about 6 ft. tall with dark brown hair, who had disappeared on July 19, 1972, after he left a party near the Heights to walk home.
The search for Mark began and again we were expectant that the additional bones found in the common grave of Johnny Delome, 16, and Billy Baulch, 17, who were buried at High Island in 1973, would be a DNA match. They were not.
It appeared that Mark’s body was never recovered from the
2-mile stretch of beach in High Island, which has long been
under water since the hurricane of 1983.
Appearances can be deceiving. We continued digging for the truth and believe we have found the last “lost boy” of the Houston Mass Murders.
We shared our discovery, which was validated by Dr. Timothy Bradbury, a forensic dentist with over 30 years of experience, with the Scott family. The news was a bittersweet revelation for Mark’s brother, Jeff, who wept in frustration that his mother was
no longer coherent enough to comprehend and embrace the
news. Mrs. Scott had been lingering the past several months in a nursing home where her mind and physical health had
Jeff was encouraged to take their framed 8x10 photograph of his brother to Mary and tell her Mark was found. We trusted the bond between a mother and her child would overcome her debilitative state and her heart would receive the news.
A few days later, Mary Scott passed away.
Given that we had liberally provided the ME’s office with our
research that correctly concluded that Michael Baulch and Mark Scott were misidentified (which subsequently led to the identification of Steve Sickman and Roy Bunton, who would not otherwise been identified) we were denied access by the ME’s office in 2012, for our request to review select case file
photographs and dental films in our efforts to locate Mark. Had they cooperated, Mark would have been found while Mrs. Scott was still lucid.
We are optimistic that the ME’s office will facilitate the return of Mark’s remains to the Scott family to be buried along with his mother who will be laid to rest in mid-October