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'Cold Justice' recap: Diann Hoelscher

Season 2 | Episode 2 | “Death by Design?” | Aired June 27, 2014

This week we travel to Waller County, Texas, to investigate a cold case involving the 1986 death of Diann Hoelscher.

A fashion designer, Diann was last seen on February 4, 1986, when she left her San Antonio home to travel to Houston to sell some high-end fabrics. She never returned.

Her remains were found in Waller 11 years later but remained unidentified until 2014, when the University of North Texas was able to match Diann’s missing-person case to the remains through DNA.

Now Kelly and Yolanda are meeting with Lt. Heather Owens of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office to see what they can do to solve this case and get justice for Diann.

Diann’s husband, Joseph, reported his wife missing on February 13. That same day, Diann’s briefcase was found in Waller County. In May, her car was found in a mall parking lot in Houston. So one of the big questions is whether Diann made it to Houston or if someone drove the car to Houston sometime later.

The fact that Diann’s husband waited over a week to report her missing is suspicious, so he’s the first suspect. Additionally, while the couple seemed to have money, it turns out they were having financial issues and Diann’s life insurance payout was $500,000. Joseph Hoelscher had Diann declared dead only two years after she went missing and collected on that payout.

It’s also possible that Dianne was killed on the road by a stranger. The fact that her briefcase was found in one place and her car in another could mean she was attacked somewhere on the way to Houston.

It’s time to get out and start investigating. Our heroes meet with Diann’s mother, brother and sister-in-law. They talk about what a lovely person Diann was, and it’s very clear how much they miss her, especially her mother, who still has a hard time talking about her.

When Kelly asks what they thought of Joe, Diann’s mom thought he was sort of smooth and didn’t really trust him, but her daughter was happy with him so she didn’t say anything. Her brother mentions that Joe didn’t even tell Diann’s mother that Diann was missing until four weeks later, when she just happened to be calling to wish her grandson a happy birthday.

They also confirm that around the time Diann went missing, they’d heard from Joe’s mother that Joe was having financial issues.

From here, Kelly and Yolanda hit the road to start investigating three key locations in the case: the road where the briefcase was found on February 13, the mall parking lot where her car was found, and the field where her body was found 11 years later.

When they look at the location where the briefcase was found, Yolanda is suspicious. The only identifying item in the case was Diann’s driver’s license, and she feels like the briefcase may have been left there deliberately.

Next up, the mall parking lot. Yolanda is suspicious again, because there’s no way the car could have just sat there for three months, abandoned, without security noticing or having it towed.

When it was discovered, it also turns out that while Diann was taking fabric to Houston, there wasn’t any fabric or luggage in the car. Plus, while Joe initially told police he hadn’t spoken to Diann after she went missing, he told the cops who found the car that he spoke to her once, but didn’t know where she was staying.

I’m thinking this is two strikes against the “random stranger” theory, and two points for the “husband did it” theory.

Finally, they go to the field where Diann’s body was located. Due to the skeletal nature of the remains and where they were found, there’s no way to determine how Diann died, or whether any damage to the remains was due to the murder or just a result of the elements. Given the remoteness and amount of brush at the locale, the killer picked a perfect place for a body dump. Someone thought this through.

Now it’s time to look at Joe Hoelscher, so they bring in retired missing-persons investigator Pete Lopez, who originally worked on the case and interviewed Joe. While he’s been retired 23 years, he still remembers Joe vividly. His perception of Joe was that he was playing them, that perhaps Diann had gone missing as part of  a scam to avoid financial issues and problems — and that Joe was in on it. He also notes that Joe never really answered his questions. Instead, he started crying as a way to avoid questions.

When they talk to one of Diann’s former employees, they find out that it’s unlikely that Diann would have had high-end fabric to sell in San Antonio. Her business was strapped for cash, and the employee hadn’t heard about Diann making any plans to go to Houston.

There’s another hole in Joe’s story: Kelly and Yolanda talk with retired Houston homicide detective Larry Ott, who says he and his partner checked all of the hotels near the Galleria. But while Joe said Diann was staying in Houston, they can’t find any record of her staying anywhere or selling fabric to anyone in the area.

When they meet with a neighbor Joe asked to drive him to Houston to recover Diann’s car, they hear that Joe told a story about how Diann was staying by the Galleria and, after being seen with some guy, just disappeared.

Are we on story #3 or #4? I’m losing track.

As the “random stranger” theory fades, it’s time to talk to Diann’s friends to learn more about the Hoelscher marriage. Things were definitely rocky, and Joe seems to have struck a lot of people the wrong way.

We also find out new information that really looks suspicious. It turns out Joe filed for divorce in 1982, but it was never finalized. He then bought the $500K life insurance policy in 1983.

So did he figure that instead of getting a divorce, he’d get insurance on her and then take the payout? It’s looking that way.

Detective Owens even goes to talk to one of Joe’s exes to see if there is any behavior that would tell them if he’s the kind of guy who would do something like this. That would be a yes. The ex tells them about one night when she was sleeping and woke up to find Joe on top of her, choking her. She left him the next day.

Creepy, and things are definitely pointing toward Joe. But the detectives still need more information, so they talk to Joe’s son. The son recalls that his mom told them close to the day she disappeared that she was going to sell the business, and she needed to leave for a little while but she’d be back. However, while his mother would call every night when she was away on business, she didn’t this time, and his dad sort of blew that off. His dad also told his son that he’d hire investigators to look into his mom’s disappearance — and the son was also told that they found blood in the car.

He also says his dad told him that the fabric that Diann was selling was Swarovski fabric and it was actually registered, but it somehow ended up in New York when someone there tried to have it appraised.

Joe’s son also remembers Joe as being very in love with his wife and not being much of a crier, which is definitely different from what we heard from the detective earlier. He’s shocked by the news of the divorce filing, and you can tell he’s thrown. But when Kelly asks him if he wants them to look for the truth — even if it might mean his father killed his mother — he tells her that he’s committed to the truth more than anything.

Which means it’s time to talk to Joe.

We don’t get to see the interview, but Lt. Owens, Yolanda and Detective Alan Smith give Kelly the rundown.

Joe was very hard to pin down. Any time they asked him a question, he’d cry or he’d patronize them and tell them to let him finish. He also says he notified Diann’s family immediately. He can cry on command — Kelly called them strategic tears.

He also changed his story on what time Diann left that day. He said he looked into a private investigator, but it would have cost $50,000, so he opted not to.

With all of the stories told and the changes, toss in the divorce filing and the insurance policy, and you’re looking at a very strong circumstantial case.

Lt. Owens and Kelly present the case to the Waller County District Attorney, and he agrees to take the case.

All that’s left is for the Cold Justice team to talk to Diann’s family and let them know that they finally have answers. Kelly tells Diann’s mom that if there’s a trial, she’ll be sitting in the front row with her.

I hope that happens very, very soon.

On a personal note, I wanted to give a shout-out to the Cold Justice Facebook page. It’s awesome to see so many fans of the show, and the CJ social team is top-notch. Plus, you can see updates on previous cases, which is great.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you next week.

Cold Justice airs Fridays at 9/8 C on TNT.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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