Calder Road Field, more prominently known as the Texas Killing Fields, became a subject of widespread fascination when it was revealed to be the site of horrific murders; the now-infamous killings, which total in the dozens, took place over 30 years. Netflix’s latest hit docuseries, Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields, shines a spotlight on the heinous crimes and the aftermath.
If you’re curious about the case but don’t necessarily want to dive into the gritty details of the series, here are 10 things you should know about the Texas Killing Fields:
How did Calder Road Field get its infamous name?
The term “killing fields” originally referred to the sites of mass genocide during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime. As more and more remains were discovered on Calder Road, locals began referring to the area as the “Texas Killing Field.” The deserted stretch of I-45 that runs 50 miles between Houston and Galveston has also been coined the “highway to hell" in some circles.
How many women were found in the Calder Road Field?
As of 2022, the remains of more than 30 women have been found, including 14-year-old Brenda Jones, whose killing kicked off the spree 1971. Netflix’s series also focused on the deaths of Heide Fye and Laura Miller.
What does the timeline of the Calder Road Killings look like?
There are three time periods in which the killer (or killers) was active. Eleven bodies were found between 1971 and 1977. In the ‘80s, a new series of murders begin to happen along a different stretch of I-45 in League City. In 1991, another woman’s remains were found in the same area of the killing fields.
Why was it so difficult to solve the murders?
The peak of the Calder Road Killings coincided with a spike in Houston’s population growth. NASA’s Space Center Houston opened in 1992 and a boom in the oil and construction industry led to Exxon building some of the nation’s largest refineries. An unsavory result of the vast economic growth? Criminals were able to float under the radar more easily. There were 11 different jurisdictions at the time, many of which were hesitant to share information between organizations. Technology like DNA identification and license plate readers also hadn’t come into the picture as resources.
Who were the main suspects?
Netflix's Texas Killing Fields mainly focuses on suspect Clyde Hedrick. He’d previously been charged with "abuse of a corpse" in connection to the death of another woman named Ellen Beason, whose daughter is featured in the docuseries. Beason had a night out with Hedrick in 1984 and her remains would be discovered sometime later. He was convicted of manslaughter in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Were there any other primary suspects?
A former scientist and engineer for NASA, Robert Abel owned the land where the Calder Road Killings happened. Speculation grew because Abel had a suspicious and violent past. Abel allegedly said he would kill one of his ex-wives and would beat the horses in his stable. Though Abel was never convicted, he committed suicide in 2005.
Who was Laura Smithers?
Laura Smithers was a 12-year-old ballerina who lived in Friendswood in 1997 with her family. Friendswood, which still exists today, was founded by Quakers and was regarded as one of the safest places to live—so much so, that residents wouldn’t lock their doors. One morning, she went out for a jog before breakfast and never returned. Her disappearance prompted a major search by local police and a contingent of Marines, FBI involvement, and a callout on Texas EquuSearch. Her body was found roughly two weeks later near a shallow marsh in the killing fields area.
Could there be multiple killers?
The timespan between murders is one of the main reasons the trail to finding the murderer has been a long and winding one. In fact, Texas Killing Fields director Jessica Dimmock told the Independent that she believes there were three serial killers operating in very similar territories, each in their own decade.
Are the cases still open?
A number of different suspects have been investigated over the years, however, the cases technically remain unsolved. While women from the killing fields have been identified, the FBI continues to search for leads. The FBI encourages anyone to come forward with any information that could help solve the Texas Killing Field cases.
What is Texas EquuSearch?
The Calder Road Fields prompted tragedy-stricken father Tim Miller to found the Texas EquuSearch in memory of his daughter Laura Miller, who went missing at the age of 16 in 1984. Today, the nonprofit organization is responsible for closing hundreds of cases across the nation for missing persons.