"Today I'm happy to stand here and tell you that we know who killed Ruth and we will make sure that justice is served."
Chief of Law Enforcement Operations Armando Tello acknowledged the Majewski family had to wait a very long time, but said today the Sheriff's Office has some answers for them.
Seventeen-year-old Ruth Majewski died in 1994 from a gunshot wound to the chest at her boyfriend's parents' house in northwest Houston. Although he was with her at the time of the shooting, Ruth's boyfriend, Christopher Stoernell, was never charged in her death – until now.
Sgt. Eric Clegg is an investigator with the Sheriff Office's Cold Case Unit. He says Stoernell told police that Ruth shot herself.
"Immediately after the shooting, he made conflicting stories to everybody in that house in regard to what happened in that bedroom, which did not support what he told law enforcement in 1994. There's also physical evidence in this case that does not support a self-inflicted gunshot wound of any type."
Clegg said he can't comment on the original investigation and why Stoernell wasn't charged at the time, except that the teenage witnesses in the house weren't exactly forthcoming.
"Some of the information they provided was somewhat sheltered and guarded. We were able to re-interview four of those five witnesses – one of the witnesses has passed away since this shooting – and we were able to develop a lot more information in regard to the conduct, basically, that was going on in that house."
Stoernell, who now lives in Michigan, was charged with felony murder and is free on a $50,000 bond.
Sgt. Clegg says this marks the 18th time the Harris County Sheriff's Office has solved a cold case since Sheriff Adrian Garcia reinstated the unit in 2009.
"And thus far we have a 100 percent conviction rate. Not all of them have been adjudicated but the ones that have been adjudicated, there's a 100 percent conviction rate."
He says the original cold case unit had been disbanded for budget concerns, but Sheriff Garcia changed that after he was elected.
"And he has ties to HPD Homicide and he saw that, you know, any agency our size needs a cold case unit."
Clegg says investigators usually look into cold cases when family members of a victim approach them – never on their own initiative. Which is why the Sheriff's Office encourages others who feel like a case needs to be revisited to come forward.