Van Zandt County man arrested in connection with California teen’s murder in 1986
VAN ZANDT COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - A Wills Point man has been arrested and charged in connection with the 1986 murder of a teenage girl.
Susan Robin Bender, 15, was last seen getting into a green van at a Greyhound Bus Depot on April 25, 1986 in Modesto, California according to the attorney general’s website. On Tuesday, Ray Lewis Stafford, 76, of Wills Point, was arrested by the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office on a charge of murder in connection with Bender’s unsolved case.
According to the records division of the Modesto Police Department, Stafford was arrested as the suspect in Bender’s murder. The man was staying at a home outside Wills Point on CR 3828, where the homeowner said he’d been living for the past five years.
The sheriff’s office was reportedly able to find the man due to a deputy response to his home in May in regards to an “incident,” the details of which were unconfirmed. According to Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Erin McLeaish, the sheriff’s office was alerted to Stafford’s connection to the Bender case by the Texas Rangers, who in turn were informed by the Modesto police.
Stafford is registered as a sex offender in the states of Texas and California under the alias of Gregg Tunningly. According to the site, the charge was given in 1994 for the assault of a 13-year-old victim.
Modesto Police Department made the following statement regarding the arrest of Stafford:
On August 10, 2023, the Modesto Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for Raymond Lewis Stafford in connection with the cold case of Susan Robin Bender, a 15-year-old who disappeared on April 25, 1986.
On August 15, 2023, members of the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department in Van Zandt County, Texas, successfully apprehended Stafford at his residence. He was taken into custody without incident and subsequently booked into the Van Zandt County jail on charges of Murder with special circumstances.
The Modesto Police Department would like to express their gratitude to the following organizations for their invaluable assistance in this long and challenging investigation: the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, the California Department of Justice, the Texas Rangers, the Rains County Sheriff’s Department (TX), the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Department (TX), the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department (TX), and the recently retired Texas Ranger John Vance.
The collaborative efforts of these agencies have been instrumental in bringing closure to Susan Robin Bender’s case.
From the Modesto Police Department’s Facebook page:
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