Murder Investigation Underway

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA--After spending the better part of the day on the phone, we spoke to Odessa Police, Ector County Sheriffs and the FBI.

While none of the departments can openly comment on the investigation, NewsWest 9 did manage to trace, what appears to be, a complicated love triangle between two of the suspects and Robert Thornhill.

FBI Special Agent Matt Espenshade commented on the investigation, "This was an example of where this kind of cooperation allows the FBI to enhance what the local departments and the local sheriff's departments are already doing."

When Robert Thornhill went missing in May, Odessa police launched a full blown investigation.   Espenshade says, they found a way where they might be able to help out OPD, "We were paying attention to that particular case and happened to find an opportunity that we could apply some pressure, because there were some federal charges, that could potentially be charged against those particular persons that were of interest to the Odessa Police Department."

On Tuesday the 17th, the West Texas Major Offenders Task Force, or WAMO, executed a federal search warrant at 128 S. Tripp, in West Odessa, detaining eight people for questioning.

Tuesday Night, Odessa Police confirmed the arrest of the four suspects, in relation to Thornhill's murder, who happen to live at the same house where the federal search warrant was served, 128 S. Tripp.

Espenshade tells how the arrests came about, "We took the opportunity then, to draw up a search warrant on those individuals, ran those search warrants, and were able to have interviews with the persons of interest from the Odessa Police Department and then were able to solve the case from that opportunity."

But there's more to the relationship between Thornhill and his alleged killers.  A former co-worker tells NewsWest 9, Thornhill and suspect, Heather Mitchell, were involved in a relationship at one time.   We were also told about a relationship between Mithchell and Willie Hurst.   FBI investigators confirmed the relationships to NewsWest 9, Wednesday afternoon.

An exact motive or cause of death has yet to be determined, and it's not known if the love triangle had anything to do with Thornhill's death.

But Espenshade says he must give credit where credit is due, "I have to hand it to the officers who were involved in this, because they took the initiative to look a little deeper into these suspects that surfaced in the case and found an innovative way to apply some investigative methods that wouldn't necessarily been applied if you weren't looking at it from a different perspective."

All four of the suspects are facing murder charges.   As far as the federal charges go, FBI officials say that's up to the prosecutor's office, whether or not they want to enhance some very serious state charges, these four are already facing.