After 28 years, investigators have a new lead for a person of interest in the 1995 murder of Maria Telles-Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s body was found on May 24, 1995, by an employee from the South Carolina Highway Department in a drainage ditch on Cottonhall Road in Yemassee, South Carolina.
She was found wearing only underwear, with nothing at the scene to identify her, and was believed to have been violently strangled, according to Bob Bromage, the lead cold case investigator.
Bromage has been the lead investigator since she was found in 1995. Now, he works for the Sheriff’s office on a volunteer basis, stating, “I’m not being paid for the work for the cold cases, and I wouldn’t take the money if they did.”
“She was discarded on the side of the road as if she never existed,” Bromage told WUFT.
After much investigation and few results, the case grew cold.
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe Gonzalez was murdered in Kissimmee, Florida, and her body was transported to South Carolina.
“A forensic autopsy was performed at the Medical University of South Carolina. Pathologists deemed the woman’s violent death a homicide,” Bromage said in a 2022 press conference. “It was clear she was murdered somewhere else and transported and dumped at that location. She had been dead 24-36 hours, maybe more.”
“It was a violent death, up close and personal,” Bromage said. “She was strangled.”
“It’s clear she was not murdered in Beaufort County,” Bromage said in a video provided by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. “And it probably occurred in Florida.”
“Maria was 36 years old at the time of her death, a wife and mother of three,” a Florida Department of Law Enforcement press release said.
She remained unidentified for the next 27 years.
Over the years, her DNA was tested against many other potential matches, but nothing returned.
In October 2022, Bromage received a lead on a possible biological son of the then-unidentified victim; after establishing contact, the son agreed to send in his DNA profile, and the two were compared using advanced genealogy testing.
“Within minutes, Parabon reported a parent-child match between the unidentified victim and the son,” according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office website.
The case finally had a break — after more than 27 years of nothing.
“You have to move forward,” Bromage said in a 2022 press conference. “You have to look at existing technology, new technology, what’s emerging and be conservative because there’s only so much DNA in this case.”
In December 2022, after it was announced the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office identified Gonzalez and interviewed the family, they announced they were looking for two individuals, her best friend, only known at the time as “Patricia,” and an unidentified man.
After finding and interviewing Patricia, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office determined the unidentified man, “Carlos,” as a person of interest — no last name was given.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement news release described Carlos as “a person closely connected to Maria; a male friend or boyfriend.
“He had been seeing Maria for a few months, at least,” Bromage said in the video, referring to his interview with Patricia.
Carlos is believed to be a Hispanic man who stands about 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-10, speaks Spanish and English very well. He may be living in the Orlando or Kissimmee area, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“Finding Carlos is of critical importance to furthering the investigation at this point,” Bromage said. “Carlos may have information on the circumstances of her disappearance and death.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is working in conjunction with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office to help solve the Kissimmee woman’s murder.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office now seek public help in finding Carlos.
“This is far from over,” Bromage said during a press conference. “This is an active murder investigation, but we have focus at this point.”
Gonzalez hwas been reported missing from her home in Kissimmee, Florida, by the family or anyone — adding to the difficulty in identifying her.
In May 1995, Gonzalez returned home from a trip to Puerto Rico visiting family, the night before her disappearance.
On the day of her disappearance, investigators learned that, as usual, Gonzalez’s children had gone to school that morning.
Gonzalez and her husband stayed home — alone.
When the children arrived home, she and the suitcase she came home with from Puerto Rico were missing, but her car was still parked in the driveway, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
“The children thought she left,” Bromage said in a press conference.
After multiple attempts to contact Gonzalez’s family, they never responded to WUFT’s requests for comment.
It was later learned that the family, following interviews with the police, acquired a lawyer and is only communicating through them.
“There’s no such thing as the perfect crime, and I know there are those out there in our world who think they are capable of doing that,” P.J. Tanner, The Beaufort County Sheriff, said during a press conference. “It’s not capable. It’s not possible.”
Anyone with information about Maria Telles-Gonzalez’s disappearance and murder is urged to contact cold case investigator Bob Bromage at 843-816-8013 or by email at email@example.com