What happened to Bridgette?: Brutal murder in Galveston from 11 years ago still under investigation

Published 8:08 pm Saturday, July 14, 2018

Walking down the steps of the cabin at Crystal Beach, Bridgette Gearen was probably smiling as she focused on a midnight ride with friends.

She and her then 2-year-old daughter Kyra had been invited to stay at the cabin with friends she made while working as a legal assistant at a local law firm. They had taken Gearen, 28, of Orange, under their wing. Some of the others in the cabin had already gone to bed and Gearen was the first to head out the door.

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It was only about five steps from the bottom of the stairs to the street and about a 30 second walk to the beach itself. She knew her friends were not far behind her.

Two young females saw Gearen as an SUV pulled up near her then left. The second time the vehicle came up to her they took off with her.

She had no way of knowing her life would be taken in those seconds it took to get down the stairs to the beach.

Her lifeless body was found near the shoreline the next morning around 7 a.m. July 15, 2007. Lt. Tommy Hansen with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office still doesn’t say much about how Gearen was killed, even today, 11 years later.

“It was very brutal,” Hansen said. “I’ve been doing this over 40 years through hundreds of murders, and the brutality of the nature of this crime is high up on that list.”

Other media reports tell that Gearen had been tortured — beaten, strangled, raped and suffered blunt force trauma. She was found wearing only a red halter top.

Hansen is in semi-retirement of sorts and works a majority of cold cases. He has worked the Gearen case since the beginning.

“The investigation is pretty much narrowed to a conglomerate of four people,” Hansen said. “One of which is deceased, one in prison and the two others, we are still working on. I think we have enough for charges but there is new stuff pending.”

A lot of resources have been put into the case through the years but there are factors that have hampered the investigation.

“One, that’s a community over there (Crystal Beach) and with locals it’s hard to get anything out of anybody. Then the year after (hurricane) Ike hit and everybody we could or would have gotten information from are literally gone to the wind,” he said. “We’ve been chasing people all over the state of Texas and beyond. Ike sidetracked and derailed the case in a lot of ways.”

What’s also unique is that this happened in a coastal town. Hansen said it is not uncommon for agencies such as his to work major cases where many times the victims don’t live there or the witnesses make it a logistical nightmare.

Hansen has seen other high profile cases in his jurisdiction — Riley Ann Sawyers, known as “Baby Grace,” a 2-year-old Spring, Texas, girl whose mother and step-father killed her, stuffed her into a plastic tub and dumped her into Galveston Bay in 2007, Jayden Lopez, known as “Little Jacob,” 4, who was killed in Houston and his body dumped in 2017. Police have arrested his mother and her girlfriend.

Hansen, who next month will have been in law enforcement for 45 years, believes Gearen was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”  He also believes the case will be solved.

“With some cold cases, unless the key witness dies, time works for you,” he said. “Their lifestyle changes. They have kids. Grandkids. I had that before where I interviewed someone and they basically said go to hell. Then later on we had a positive conversation.”

For Pamela Gearen, Bridgett’s mother, the years have been understandably hard.

She has lost faith with the law enforcement tasked with solving the case. A mother to three children, she also lost a son who was hit by a car when he was 20. Her youngest son now lives in another state with his family. Bridgette’s daughter Kyra, now 12, lives with her father in Austin and she rarely gets to see her, she said.

Her pain and grief have stayed with her while questions about the killers consume her. She recalls bits of stories she has heard through the years — a woman was on the beach that night partying. There was a ton of people and a bonfire. The woman heard screaming and saw the vehicle that took Bridgette and the woman’s boyfriend was driving it. She looked closer and there were two guys running towards her. She saw their faces. She knew all of them. Then the SUV took off.

The woman went in the direction the SUV had left and saw Bridgette, bloody and beaten.

Over the next few days the woman realized that the men knew what she saw so she left the state. Several years ago she was picked up by law enforcement on an unrelated charge. Fast forward some more and the woman, now clean of drugs, changes her story.

Pamela will never stop wondering who killed her only daughter.

“The way I’ve coped with it? I’ve been in my house for 10 years,” she said. “Now, I’m trying not to do that. I was told you are going to have to force yourself to get out of the house and do something instead of… It’s not like I’m waiting for the day (anniversary of Bridgett’s death) to get here but I know it’s coming – and her birthday is next month.”

It would be nice to have some kind of closure and for them not to get away with murder, she said, adding that she just can’t live her life like that anymore. She plans to move out of state soon.

“I’m not getting my hopes up,” she said.

Persons with information about the crime or who may have been on the beach the night of the murder can call Galveston County Crime Stoppers at 409-763-TIPS (8477) or submit a tip online at Galveston.crimestoppersweb.com, or you may call Galveston County Sheriff’s Office at 409-766-2300.