Mary Darlene Howard

Mary Darlene Howard cold case homicideMary ‘Darlene’ Howard, 15, was last seen 04/15/80 at Mike’s Trailer Park in Leesville, Louisiana. She left home around 10:00 am to mail a letter For her grandmother. Her remains were found 04/27/80 in Sandy Hill.

She was known as a sweet girl, who loved to cook and sing in the church choir. Darlene is survived by her mother Wanda Jo Howard Busbee, father “Cuz” Howard, and brothers Junior, Harland & James Howard. She is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery.1

Crime Scene

Mary Darlene’s remains were found 04/27/80 in a wooded area on West Boundary Road in the Sandy Hill area.2 She was stabbed multiple times and suffered defensive wounds in her fight for survival. Her clothing was found strewn about the forest, and sexual assault has not been ruled out.3

Due to the state of decomposition and exposure to the elements, forensic analysis of DNA was difficult at the time. However, with advancement in technology investigators are hopeful a link to her killer(s) will soon be established.4


Authorities theorize Samuel Galbraith, former Ft. Polk soldier who was sentenced to 70 years in Hill’s death, is a viable suspect in the death of Darlene.4 However, as of this writing, a link has not been proven.

Limited Information

My research revealed very little about Mary Darlene’s background or the crime. If you have a reputable source of information for either, please let me know so it can be incorporated into this summary.


Mother’s Desperate Plea

Mother's PleaWanda Jo Busbee provided the following handwritten plea:

“My mother Gladys Collins sent Darlene out to mail a letter the morning she disappeared. My mother grieved herself to death and died one year later. Please if anyone has any information concerning my daughter, please help…so my family can finally have closure.” 5

Have Information?

Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office is working to bring Mary Darlene Howard’s killer to justice.  If you have information about this crime, please contact:

Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office
(337) 238-7248

Please submit corrections/updates here.


Submit corrections/updates here.

  1. The Times of Shreveport-Bossier: Deaths, page 10-A, published 05/05/80. []
  2. Alexandria Town Talk: Cold case of murdered teen girl first focus of new Vernon Parish unit, page 4A, published 12/15/17. []
  3. Shreveport Times: Evidence in 38-year-old case to be re-examined, page A2, published 05/05/18. []
  4. Shreveport Times: Vernon Parish forms task force targeting cold cases, page A3, published 02/16/18. [][]
  5. Handwritten letter, image to left. []

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