When Kevin McElroy looks back over the past 4½ years, he feels anger - anger at unanswered questions, anger at a woman whose face he's only seen on ``Wanted'' posters and anger that his son never lived to see 19.
McElroy, owner of injection molder McElroy Plastics Inc. in Troup, thinks of March 10, 2000, the day his son, Kyle, was kidnapped from his job as night-shift supervisor at the firm. Authorities found Kyle's body the next day, after the family had received a demand for $200,000 in ransom.
``You talk about after everything that had happened ... it was tough,'' McElroy said.
Three men were arrested within a week of the crime.
Ernesto Baylon, then 17; Daniel Rios, then 26, who worked at McElroy Plastics; and Alfredo Ramero, then 23 - all were convicted of kidnapping and murder.
But closure never came for McElroy, because Desiree Dawn Lingo-Perkins - wanted for capital murder in connection with the crime - stayed at large for 4½ years.
On Oct. 7, though, Lingo-Perkins finally was caught after her profile aired on America's Most Wanted and a tip was phoned in.
``I'm doing a lot better,'' McElroy said Oct. 9. ``The FBI called us and told us ... they had caught her on the other side of the border in Nuevo Laredo.''
There are often long pauses as he talks about Kyle and the events that led to his death. He first learned his son was missing when he received a ransom call Friday, March 10, 2000.
``All kinds of things went through my mind. It was very difficult,'' he said.
The caller - allegedly Lingo-Perkins - told him to travel south from Troup on Highway 110 and find Kyle's truck, which was parked on the side of the road.
Her most emphatic instruction, McElroy said, was not to involve police.
``I had to really think about what was best,'' McElroy said. ``I realized just from what I had heard about kidnappings, there's a possibility that if you didn't turn it over to the authorities and get them involved that you may not ever - you know - catch the criminals, and you may not ever find your loved one. These guys are naturally more experienced in dealing with kidnappers.
``Probably about five to 10 minutes after I got the call ... I called the police chief here in Troup, whom I know personally.'' An officer followed him to Kyle's truck.
``I realized then it was not a prank, when I saw his pickup, and then I called his mother and asked if he had come home the night before, and she said no.''
Since the truck was locked, McElroy said he broke out the window and found the ransom note under the seat. By then, Troup Police Chief Chester Kennedy had called the FBI.
``I met the FBI back in Troup, and I gave them the ransom letter,'' which said ``if we called the police they would ... kill my son and then come kill me.'' The kidnapper had told McElroy she would call him back at the plant that evening.
As they worked to get the money together, McElroy and authorities went back through company records checking for possible suspects from among past and present employees.
``The FBI was checking everybody out. They asked me if I had any enemies - question after question after question.''
According to multiple reports, the kidnappers may have been motivated by McElroy Plastics' recent sale of a plant. The kidnappers may have thought McElroy had extra money on his hands.
The second ransom call came as planned, and the kidnapper told McElroy to go to a Mexican restaurant in New Summerfield, but would not allow McElroy to speak with his son.
``About 10 minutes later or five minutes later - it seems like an hour - she called back and she says, `Listen to me real careful. You got 15 minutes to be out here at La Azteca. When you get to the pay phone, you'll have a message.' ''
McElroy and several FBI agents left immediately.
``It was a horrible night. The weather was rainy and bad and thundering and lightning,'' McElroy said. ``We got out there to the little restaurant, but there's a guy on the phone ... for 30 minutes or longer.''
McElroy finally asked if he could use the phone, and found a note buried under some trash in the phone booth.
The note directed McElroy to a laundromat, where he was instructed to leave the money beside an old washing machine behind the building, then return to his plant in Troup to wait for another call.
It never came.
The next night, police discovered Kyle's body behind an abandoned house east of New Summerfield.
Chance for answers
Now that Lingo-Perkins is in custody, McElroy said he wants answers.
``I find it odd that they asked for $200,000. Why was it $200,000? Why wasn't it $1 million?' '' McElroy asked. ``I think that this woman has the answers.''
Another question is whether the abductors ever intended to return Kyle alive.
McElroy has his doubts.
He's always suspected, he said, that Kyle's voice in the first ransom call was taped.
``She put him on the phone, and he begged me to do what they told me to do. And you know, there wasn't a pause for her handing him the phone to tell me that. It was almost like she pushed a tape button, and it played his voice. ... I wasn't able to ask Kyle anything.''
It was the last time McElroy ever heard Kyle's voice.
McElroy never stopped searching for Lingo-Perkins, adding he thought he saw her last week while driving near Nacogdoches.
``Here's a woman sitting at a four-way stop. I look right at her, and she looks right at me, and when she saw me, she tore off,'' he said. The sheriff's department followed up, but the woman was not Lingo-Perkins.
``I can stop looking now,'' he said.
Though he is relieved, McElroy wishes he could get rid of his anger. ``I hope that justice can be served and maybe [I can find] some closure. There may not be closure for me, but at least it might be closure for Kyle's mother. I know she's had a hard time. It's been a great loss for us.''
This story is reprinted with permission from the Jacksonville, Texas, Progress News.