By Sandy Bogovich and Jim Parks
Monday, December 7, dawned gray and ugly over Lake Whitney,
a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydroelectric project
completed in 1949 on the Brazos River in Central Texas.
The dam straddles the dividing line between the blackland
prairies, the cotton and grain farms of Hill County to the
east and the rocky flint and limestone hill country of
flatiron mesas, canyons and creeks, cattle spreads and
trophy game ranches to the immediate west.
It's as if Earth's creator scribbled a meandering pencil
line from north to south and thereby decreed that scrub oak
and cedar would stud the hilltops and plateaus of the rocky
west; thence, to the east, mesquite, bois d'arc and
hackberry would fringe the creek banks and cattle tanks on
the black land where they grow cotton and wheat, corn and
Here the Brazos, a lazy, winding river that cuts through
burnt-orange sands and black mud along its twin tributaries
far to the north - two streams that extend like "the spread
arms of Christ" as he was crucified, the Spanish mapmakers
remarked in naming it in the sixteenth century - cuts
between chalky white bluffs of limestone that jut up from
the river's bed far below. After many years of gradually
filling, the lake extends for many miles along several
tributaries. Communities of retirees and weekenders have
sprung up on both sides of river in the past fifty or sixty
years. It's a playland for boaters and fishermen, jet-skiers
and hikers who flood the area on weekends and holidays
trying to escape the crowded conditions of the Dallas-Ft.
The Spaniards mapped its creeks and its river system - The
Bosque, which meets the Brazos thirty miles south at Waco -
and called it that on the documents they sent back to
The day before, the weather had been decidedly cool, but not
so forbidding as Monday's anniversary of the attack on Pearl
Harbor. Around noon, the north wind began to blow in snow
clouds and the light sprinkling advanced across the hills to
soon become a line of driving, horizontal flakes flying in
near-whiteout intensity on some of the hilltops and in the
meadows above the canyons in the sub-freezing temperature.
A young, pretty Hispanic woman wheeled her neat, clean
little Dodge Neon into the gravel layby at the gate to the
Soldier's Bluff Corps of Engineers Park that overlooks the
dam on the west side of river. It offers a panoramic view of
the massive sluice gates that control the level of the water
and power the electrical generating turbines buried deep in
the huge concrete and steel structure.
Since it wasn't open yet, she parked outside the gate in a
little gravel area.
She left her keys in the car. Then she locked the doors. As
she took one last look at the ordinary elements of her daily
commute to a Czech bakery in West, located a fifteen or
twenty minute drive south of her home on I-35 in Hillsboro,
and walked away from her life, it was the last time she
would look at that part of her life.
There were few signs of the life she was leaving behind
forever. A partially consumed bottle of water nestled in the
cup holder; there were some coupons for SuperCuts, a chain
unisex barber and beauty shop with many local locations, and
a beaded cross swung hanging from the rearview mirror.
The next day, investigators would pinpoint her whereabouts
that Monday morning when they discovered streaming video
pictures of a lone Hispanic woman walking across the
sidewalk that runs along the top of the dam. The tape in the
surveillance cameras would fix the time at 7 a.m. on Monday,
Eira Escobar, 20, of Hillsboro, Texas, simply walked away
from family and friends forever - and she never told them
Her mother was the last person to see her alive at 5:30 a.m.
when she supposedly left to go to work at the Czech Bakery
in the Bohemian and Moravian enclave community of West.
When she never arrived there, her employer called her mother
to find out what had gone wrong.
It was so unusual for her to neglect to call in to say she
was running late or to announce she would absent for the
day. She was a very dependable employee. That's why they
thought it was such a remarkable thing that she never
arrived at work.
Mrs. Escobar called the Hillsboro Police, who put out an all
points bulletin to lawmen to be on the lookout for her
daughter or her Neon. Then she called all her friends and
family to enlist their help in finding her.
Before the end of the next day, the family and lawmen would
have put the pieces of the puzzle together.
It's a grim story.
The loneliness, fear, frustration and confusion that leads
to self murder always is.
But in this case, there was more than one murder.
Bosque Deputy Robert Bleything cruised along State Highway
22 on that raw, blustery and gray morning as his shift began
at 7a.m. As he approached the Soldier's Bluff Park, he
noticed the same Neon he had seen parked there the day
before was still in the same place.
The dispatcher confirmed that it was registered to a woman
whom Hillsboro Police had reported missing the day before.
He started a foot search of the area and soon Bosque County
Sheriff Anthony Malott, Texas State Troopers, Corps of
Engineers Park Rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Game Wardens and Texas Rangers joined him.
Within a short time, they had located the battered, deeply
bruised body of Eira Escobar floating in the water near the
rocky bluffs at the base of the dam.
When Justice of the Peace James Zander pronounced her dead,
everyone on the scene suspected murder because of the many
lacerations and huge bruises to the head and extremities.
Suddenly, every lawman there was deeply startled when a
young man pulled up in a red pickup and told them he was
looking for Eira Escobar, his ex-girlfriend.
They detained him and transported him to the Bosque County
Sheriff's Office in Meridian for further questioning.
During a brief relationship that had ended recently, they
had been there together on dates, he said.
He also had a letter she sent him marked, "Open after I'm
He had assumed she meant for him to open the letter after
she left for a planned move to Houston. Further questioning
revealed much about Ms. Escobar that other people did not
In the letter she thanked him for being there for her during
their relationship. She also mentioned her pregnancy.
She and another young man who lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth
area had broken off a relationship after she became
pregnant. That was seven months earlier.
He said she told him that neither of them, it turned out,
wished to reconcile to raise the expected child together. He
told investigators she could not face her parents with this
sad news. He and Ms. Escobar, too, broke off their
relationship when she planned her move to Houston.
Her mother had phoned him to ask him to help look for her.
That was why he showed up there.
Authorities released him without charges later in the day.
They transported her body to Clifton Funeral Home where they
summoned her parents to identify her. Then they sent her
remains to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office for
an autopsy and further tests.
A preliminary report stated that the examiner found the
extensive bruising and lacerations consistent with a fall
from a height to the surface of the water.
Further tests later revealed her pregnancy and confirmed the
finding of suicide by jumping off the dam. There was a net
decrease in the census by a number of two.
Both the mother and her child lost their lives as a result
of her rash act.
This report is based on the reporting of Sandy Bogovich,
a former staffer at "The Bosque County News."