AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thirty years after the unsolved murder of four teenage girls at an Austin yogurt shop, federal legislation will be considered on Capitol Hill that could affect how that case, as well as other homicide cases that have gone cold, will be handled in the future.
Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) reintroduced the Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act earlier this year. It’s scheduled for markup on Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee. That’s a step that could push the bill toward a vote before the full House.
“I’ve talked to the victims’ families in this case and they want us to not only solve that particular case but make it something so that those four teenage girls who were brutally raped and murdered and burnt down in the yogurt shop, that maybe something positive will come out of this,” McCaul said.
McCaul and Swalwell, both of whom are former prosecutors, reintroduced the legislation on May 19, 2021, after originally introducing it in September of 2020. The bill lays out steps for the reexamination of federal homicide cases that have gone cold for more than three years. If a federal investigator finds probative leads, a full investigation would then take place.
The 1991 unsolved murder in Austin is part of a growing issue. According to the Murder Accountability Project, the number of homicide cases that led to someone being charged decreased from 90 percent in 1965 to 61 percent in 2019.
“With more and more ‘cold cases’ piling up, we can and must do better for victims’ families,” Swalwell said. “Our bill offers another chance to have their loved ones’ cases reviewed, and to get some justice and closure.”
McCaul believes that re-examining cold cases after a certain number of years is also necessary because technology has become increasingly capable of solving such cases.
“With the advent of DNA, there’s so much that can be done now with these cold cases,” McCaul said.
The representatives hope that their proposed legislation encourages states to pass similar bills so that justice can be served at every level of government.
“We can never bring them back. But if we can pass this federal legislation, at least something good could come out of it,” McCaul said.