Jacksonville man arrested in 26-year-old cold case

Thompson Ward Stricklen Jr.

Courtesy photo

After 26 years, the person responsible for the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl in Odessa is behind bars.

Thompson Ward Stricklen Jr., 52, of Jacksonville, was arrested July 23 in Cherokee County and charged with murder and sexual assault, according to Ector County Sherrif's Department jail records.

Stricklen was processed through the Cherokee County Jail on his way back to Ector County, according to officials.

“He was arrested on the 23rd, transported here for only a few minutes for arraignment by a judge for transport, and then they loaded him up and took him back to Odessa,” said Captain John Raffield of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department.

On Monday morning, Stricklen was being held on a $350,000 bond for the two felonies in the Ector County Jail.

According to the Texas Sex Offender Registry, Stricklen's last reported address was at aCounty Road 1512 residence in Jacksonville.

"We have never dealt with this guy other than a ticket in 2002. His address showed he lived in the county. We have no other records on him," said Sgt. Daniel Franklin of the Jacksonville Police Department.

The registry said Stricklen received 10 years of parole and was required to register as lifetime sex offender after an indecency with a child by sexual contact charge in December 1989. The female victim was reportedly 11 years old at the time of the offense.

In February 1989, officials found the body of 15-year-old Wendy Burdette in an Odessa field. According to reports, she had been raped and her throat was cut.

The Odessa American reported that a Texas Department of Public Safety report matched Burdette's DNA with a sample taken from Stricklen as part of his sex-offender registration.

It was this evidence that allowed Odessa police to place Stricklen at the crime scene. Officials said Stricklen had been a suspect all along, but there was too little evidence to arrest him.

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