Amanda Anderson was a 19-year-old student at Tyler Junior College in 2010 when she was found dead by her younger brother in her family’s home near New Chapel Hill. Anderson had been shot in the head four times and the Smith County Sheriff’s Office began investigating her death.
Former Smith County Sheriff JB Smith, 76, and two former detectives Joe Rasco, 74, and Pamela Dunklin, 57, began interviewing friends, known criminals and every possible lead.
It was a detail spotted by forensics that led to the case’s conclusion. Anderson’s killer pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Anderson case is one of six cases that will be revisited on Investigation Discovery’s new true crime show “Lone Star Justice” featuring Smith, Rasco and Dunklin.
“I think they wanted a Texas touch,” Smith said. “I’ve been watching some of those shows and most are in Philadelphia and New York, but nothing from Texas.”
Smith said the show got started when the team was contacted and interviewed by the creators of the show a couple years ago.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Smith said. “They filmed us while we were talking. They told us they would call us back.”
Smith said he forgot about it until they called back and told him how great of a team they were and that they would be doing the show.
Dunklin said the show’s creators liked the way they (Smith, Rasco and Dunklin) communicated and decided to do the first episode to see how it would turn out.
“It took them about a year and a half to put it together,” Dunklin said. “They filmed in Tyler and mostly in a studio in Dallas.”
Rasco said it was an interesting process they went through to select them out of all the law enforcement in the country.
“They just like us,” Smith said. “They like the professionalism Joe and Pam bring.”
Dunklin said she was uneasy about it at first, but forgot the camera was there as the three talked about their work.
“The amount of emotion it brought back was unexpected,” Dunklin said.
Smith said he met Dunklin while she was working as a dispatcher for the sheriff’s office.
He said she was handling two 911 calls at the time and doing all this other stuff that came along with that.
“I asked her right then if she was planning on going to patrol,” Smith said.
Dunklin said she told the sheriff she most definitely was, but was a little busy at the moment.
“We moved her up,” Smith said. “She was outstanding. She was precise and thorough about everything she was doing.”
Rasco started working in the jail like most people do when they begin working at the sheriff’s office.
“My chief deputy was going through applications and told me there was a retired Air Force colonel working in the jail,” Smith said. “I called Joe over and asked him what he was doing.”
Rasco told the sheriff he wanted to do two things when he retired: one was to drive an 18-wheeler and the other was to work in law enforcement.
“He was so quiet and you didn’t even know he was there,” Smith said. “Here’s this former C-130 pilot who was very analytical, and a deep thinker who processed everything.”
Dunklin said Rasco would have never told anyone about his past unless someone would have asked.
“He (Rasco) would have never expected anything,” she said.
Rasco said the unique nature of the cases is what he believes generated the TV show.
“There were a lot of high profile Smith County cases during that time that made the national media,” Dunklin said. “We happened to get attention for those.”
Smith said he believes they got attention because they solved the cases and the people responsible went on to be prosecuted and sentenced to prison.
Rasco said no case is any more important than another one.
“You start out in property and work your way up the food chain,” he said. “The pinnacle of law enforcement is homicide.”
Dunklin and Rasco both said the show is not about them.
“One of the things we asked them to do was to not make the show just about law enforcement,” Rasco said. “It’s the bigger picture, the entire process, the court and the convictions.”
Rasco also attributes the team’s success to the good relationships the sheriff’s office had with the Tyler Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.
“Lone rangers don’t solve crimes,” Smith said.
It takes a village,” Dunklin said. “It starts with the dispatchers and the 911 call. It takes a lot of people to work to put the puzzle together and many of those people don’t get credit for assisting.”
Rasco said the work doesn’t stop when the case is handed over to the District Attorney’s office.
“They (the DA’s office) start their own investigation,” Rasco said. “And when they’re done they make a to-do list for the original investigator.”
Rasco said good detectives are always thinking about court.
“I used to sit in the courtroom to learn how prosecutors try a case,” Rasco said. “It made me a better detective.”
Dunklin said viewers also can expect to see how some of longtime Smith County Sheriff’s Office crime scene investigator Noel Martin’s work helped them in their investigations.
Lone Star Justice is scheduled to run the following shows at 9 p.m. Central on Wednesday for six weeks on Investigation Discovery.
• “She Had Everything,” June 5, recounts the 2010 murder of 19-year-old college student Amanda Anderson, whose body was found by her younger brother in her family home in Smith County.
• “Cold as Ice,” June 12, shows how a woman pleaded with Rasco to reopen her aunt’s 1982 murder case that had gone unsolved for 25 years.
• “Killing Fields,” June 19, depicts the murder of Calvin Fields whose death was originally ruled a suicide.
• “This One’s Yours,” June 26, reenacts the death of Jeff Joplin, a well-liked and popular resident of Tyler who failed to show up for a scheduled family dinner.
• “Driven to Murder,” July 3, recounts the 1999 murder of 18-year-old William Young II, whose case went unsolved for 13 years.
• “Long Arm of the Law,” July 10, shows the case of two unrelated murders that are traced to siblings.
Visit investigationdiscovery.com/schedule for more details.