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Rita Salazar and Kevin Key
Rita Salazar Kevin Key

On November 5 1978, Rita and Kevin went out on a date to a movie at Highland Mall Cinema in Austin. They’d only been dating a few weeks. Kevin was driving his brother Steve’s Ford Grand Torino, which was low on gas. Steve had warned Kevin about the fuel situation in the car before he left on the date.

The movie Rita and Kevin were seeing let out at 11:35pm. Tickets for the movie were found on Kevin’s person. It is believed Kevin neglected to fill up the car, as it was found abandoned and out of gas on a northbound I-35 service road just south of Round Rock late that night or early the next morning.

Steve Key’s Grand Torino
Steve Key's Grand Torino

Kevin’s body was located in Williamson County off CR 150 just north of Georgetown near mile marker 266 (highway 195). A local resident found his wallet 3/8 of a mile away from his remains near CR 150. Three .22 cal. casings were found at that scene. It was estimated his time of death was approximately 11:35pm.

Historical Google Earth image of vicinity where Kevin Key’s remains and wallet were found in 1978. This image is from 1995, the oldest image available for this location.
Historical Google Earth image of vicinity where Kevin Key’s remains and wallet were found in 1978. This image is from 1995, the oldest image available for this location.

Rita’s body was found in McLennan County in a ditch along I-35 at Hewitt, south of Waco. At 2:20am a citizen called Waco DPS dispatch to report hearing gunshots in the vicinity. PD was dispatched and located Rita’s remains. She was found 59 miles north of where Kevin was found and 75 miles north of where their car ran out of gas. The bullets and casings recovered from the crime scenes and victims were fired from the same .22 ca. weapon.

A witness reported the suspect vehicle may have been a “dark standard-sized vehicle with four headlights and relatively wide-apart tail lights”.

Benny Tijerina Jr.
Benny Tijerina Jr.

No significant progress was made on the case until 2010, when Benny Tijerina Jr.’s DNA was matched to male DNA found on Rita’s panties. Tijerina was indicted in June 2010 and convicted of the double homicide in 2012. It is believed he did not do this crime alone.

If you think you may have any information about this case, please contact Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit.

 
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