BELGRADE — “Everybody loved her." That’s how Stephanie Houchins describes her older sister, Danielle.
“She had this crazy, dry sense of humor and you knew she really loved you if she started playing tricks on you. That’s just who she was”.
Stephanie, now in her 30s, has been without her big sister for two-thirds of her life.
On Saturday, September 21st, 1996, 15-year-old Danielle Houchins left her home in Belgrade and drove out to Cameron Bridge Fishing Access.
“Someone was out there with my sister. And someone did this to her.”
When the teenager did not return home, her mother, Sheryl Houchins, went to look for her. She found Danielle's truck parked at the fishing access - unlocked and empty. The keys to Danielle's truck and her water bottle were laying in the middle of the trail, a few feet away.
Sheryl began frantically searching for her daughter, but with no luck. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue were called in but had to eventually stop when it became too dark to search the area safely.
Several hours after she went missing on Sept. 21, 1996, Danielle Houchins was found by family friends, murdered, in a marshy area of Cameron Bridge.
What happened to Danielle? Detective Matt Boxmeyer, currently working the case, and Cindy Botek, a retired detective who worked the case several years after the murder took place, both share their experience.
Danielle was found under a willow tree. The position of her body and other evidence told detectives she was dragged and hidden there.
Danielle’s body was sent to the Montana State Crime Lab for an autopsy. Evidence of sexual assault was discovered, along with foreign DNA.
Now, nearly 25 years later, DNA technology is cutting-edge. The foreign DNA found on Danielle has been sent to a private lab and is currently pending results.
The family has had no closure, but they have not given up on finding justice for Danielle. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office is actively pursuing leads and is fully dedicated to solving this crime – if you have ANY information about Danielle’s case, the tip line specific to this story is 406-582-3636.