North Carolina man arrested in decades-old disappearance and death of South Carolina child

Published 6:08 am Monday, January 10, 2022

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A North Carolina man has been arrested in the 1986 disappearance and death of a 4-year-old girl in South Carolina, according to police.

Thomas Eric McDowell, 61, faces the kidnapping, murder and burglary charges in the death of Jessica Gutierrez, who disappeared from her family’s home in Lexington, South Carolina more than 35 years ago.

Police arrested McDowell Thursday at his home about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Raleigh, North Carolina. He is being held without bail in the Wake County Detention Center.

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McDowell was living in Lexington County when Gutierrez went missing overnight in June 1986, authorities said.

Police revisited the case in September, interviewing more than 125 people and reviewing more than 3,500 case files, Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said in a statement.

“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.

The case will be prosecuted by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.