North Carolina man charged in 1986 kidnapping, murder of 4-year-old girl

Posted at 11:02 AM, Jan 07, 2022

Authorities in South Carolina have charged a North Carolina man with the kidnapping and murder of a child from 35 years ago.

The Lexington County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that they arrested 61-year-old Thomas Eric McDowell in connection to the disappearance and death of 4-year-old Jessica Gutierrez.

Gutierrez went missing in June 1986.

McDowell, who lived in Lexington County at the time, was arrested Thursday at his home near Raleigh, North Carolina, by the Wake Forest Police Department.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said his department, alongside the FBI and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, began sifting through 3,500 case file pages in September.

"Because of the work we did, coming together as a team, we were able to sort and connect more pieces of the puzzle about what happened to Jessica all those years ago," Koon said in the news release.

Koon added that 10 FBI field offices participated in re-examining the cold case.

"Regardless of how long a child is missing, we will never stop searching for answers, and we hope that this arrest is a step toward healing for the Gutierrez family," FBI Columbia Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic said.

Koon said the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office would prosecute the case.