11 years later: GCSO still working Ballou, Ritchie killings

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Cassandra and Misty Ballou (courtesy photo)

Eleven years ago on Sept. 20, 2010, firefighters pulled up on a scene that would rival any in a made-for-television crime thriller. A house on Reynolds Road was on fire. Inside authorities found the bodies of sisters Cassandra Dawn and Misty Yvonne Ballou and their friend Brian Ritchie.

Each were found with several gunshots wounds and other signs of assault.

The home was outside the city limits of Sherman and seemed to have been intentionally set a blaze. The Grayson County Sheriff's Office was called in to investigate.

That investigation continues to this day.

No arrests have ever been made. But that doesn't mean GCSO is not closer to solving the case than they were back then.

"Captain (Harvey) Smitherman who recently retired was the case agent on it and has been continually working on it throughout the years,"  GCSO Lt. Kevin Cheairs said.

Cheairs and Capt. Marty Hall recently sat down for an interview about the case. 

In the time since the deaths, Smitherman developed people of interest. Murder cases have no statute of limitations so they are not up against a clock in the case, Cheairs said.

"There is still recent information coming in, things that we have to follow up on and rule in or rule out," Cheairs continued.

That includes tips from the public that they have to run down.

Larry Ballou, father of Cassandra and Misty Ballou, at a memorial service held on the 5th anniversary of their deaths. (Herald Democrat).

"We've had so much information come in and it is our duty to follow up on anything that comes in," he said. "The game plan for us is we are reviewing the case. We are going to go back through it start to finish."

The end game is to provide the Grayson County District Attorney's Office with a case that will not only lead to an indictment but a conviction of the person responsible for the three deaths.

Hall said they have had to spend just as much time ruling people out as suspects as they have as designating people as such. 

Cheairs couldn't release any additional information at this point in time about the people of interest.

"We don't want to do anything to jeopardize getting justice in this case," he said that the killings have sparked all kinds of speculation from the involvement of gangs and drugs.

All of those aspects have been investigated.

Cassandra Ballou was 28 when she died, and her sister was 25. Ritchie was 30. 

"Pretty young people," Cheairs said.

Ritchie and Cassandra Ballou both had children and Cassandra Ballou was pregnant. 

GCSO hears from the victims' families periodically and gives updates when it can. 

While they are still actively working the case, Cheairs said GCSO doesn't have a set or even one officer who assigned specifically to work older unsolved cases. 

"TV cop shows kinda ruin the perception of what our job really is. It would be wonderful if we just had one case at a time. Crime doesn't work that way. We have new cases coming in daily and you can't dedicate every hour of every day to just one case," he said. 

Of course, it was the main focus of most of the department in those first days after the crime was discovered, but it just couldn't remain that type of priority as new cases continued to roll in. 

"But like I said, we are sitting down to review everything and we do have some people of interest that we are following up on and we want to make sure that we have all of the evidence that we need to file a really strong case with the district attorney," Cheairs added. 

There is not a timeline for that to happen. 

Capt. Marty Hall said the case is part of the Crime Stoppers program that the GCSO entered into a few years back and people can provide information, through that program, anonymously. 

"That's only been active for about three years. The way it comes in it remains completely anonymous. The way it works is people are assigned like numbers and different things like," Hall said.

That hopefully allows people to call with information about cases like this if something has just been really been weighing on their conscious or heart.