Cold Case: Julia Critchfield's surviving daughters seek closure

Published: Jul. 7, 2016 at 6:55 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2016 at 1:49 AM CDT
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SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - It's been 38 years since some young men stumbled across the nude body of Julia Critchfield in a wooded area of Saucier. No one has ever been arrested for her death, but Critchfield's daughters believe they know who did it.

Julia Critchfield was a Gulfport native. In 1959 she married Wayne Critchfield, who was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base.  He was raised in Kansas.

They would have four children, three girls and a boy. I met with two of Critchfield's daughters Coyce Blair and June Leueeberger and her daughter.

"My mother and I were very very close," Leueeberger remembered. "She was so sweet. She had a heart of gold."

June was 15-years-old when her mom died and Coyce Blair was 16. Thirty-eight years later they still get emotional and teary-eyed when talking about their mom and the empty hole it left in their hearts when Critchfield's body was discovered in a dirt pit in Saucier.

"Your children got robbed because she didn't deserve to die the way that she died," Blair said.

"She never saw my beautiful children, my grandchildren," Leueeberger added. "She was robbed of the memories we could have had, should have had and needed and I think that she left me when I needed her the most."

Leueeberger was so upset when her mother died she said she felt like her life also had ended.

"I really thought I had no purpose in life to go on, because she was my world, and to this day I would give anything, anything to her to be here," Leueeberger said.

Five years before their mother died, Julia Critchfield left her husband when she learned that both Coyce and June were abused, physically and mentally, by their dad, starting at the age of four. They still have scars on their bodies that remind them every day of the abuse. They say their mom was also abused by their dad in harsh ways.

Leueeberger said, during an investigation of the child abuse allegations, all four children were placed into child care services.

An emotional Blair said her mother couldn't afford to raise them, so Leueeberger and Blair were placed in foster care and later in a children's home. They would see their mother as much as possible.  Five years later Julie Critchfield was killed.

During the interview, I asked Coyce if she had any idea who may have killed her mother.  She didn't hold back.

Blair said, "I always thought it was a member of my family that did it."

Why does Blair think that?

"Because. I don't know how they cleared him or anything like that, but he was a very abusive person."

Was he related to them?

"It was my father," an emotional Blair said. "He always told her that if he couldn't have her, nobody would have her."

Blair said her dad left in the middle of the night for Kansas shortly after Critchfield was killed.

The Harrison County Sheriff's Office is now investigating the claim made by Blair. But Wayne Critchfiled is no longer living. He died a few years ago.

On the day Critchfield's body was discovered, Leueeberger said she received a letter in the mail from her mom. So what did her mom write about?

"How much she loved me, how much she loved being the mother of four children," said Leueeberger.

Leueeberger said when she reached a low point, she prayed to her mom.

"Where are you? Come back and I promise you," Leueeberger said remembering that prayer. "I opened my eyes and looked at the foot of my bed and there she stood, because I kept telling myself I didn't want to live without her. And there she stood. And she said, 'June Bug.' That's my nickname. She said, 'Please, I'm okay. Things are so much better. Be happy. I'll see you one day.' And from that day forward, I had a little peace with her."

Blair and Leueeberger agreed to do the story for their mom.

"She knows we're trying," Leueeberger said. "We didn't give up on her and never will."

The Harrison County Sheriff's  Department is actively working to solve this cold case. If anyone has information on the murder of Julia Critchfield, call Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898.

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