More information on the 1986 slaying of a man found dead at Canyon Lake came to light Tuesday — not from local law enforcement, but from archived coverage from 1986 by the Herald-Zeitung.
The CCSO on Monday announced the arrests of Tracey Keith Loy, 56, of St. George, Utah, and Mark Gatten, 57, of Quaker City, Ohio, both charged with the 1986 slaying of Charles Robert Hardin, 56, whose body was discovered at a camping location in Jacob’s Creek Park, on the east end of Canyon Lake.
CCSO said Monday the case remains an active criminal investigation, and would not release any further information, but in 1986 the Herald-Zeitung reported Hardin was from Houston, and that campers reported finding his partially decomposed body inside a tent, “bound hand and foot with strips of a bed sheet around his neck.”
Rudy Rubio and Dennis Koepp were CCSO investigators on the case, which started with their discovery of the body at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, 1986.
“Because the body was bound hand to feet, we have reason to believe it was not a death by natural causes,” Rubio told the newspaper.
An autopsy confirmed Hardin’s death as a homicide by asphyxiation and that he had been dead between six and seven days when his body was discovered.
On Aug. 28, 1986 the Herald-Zeitung ran CCSO’s composite sketch of a suspect Koepp said was, “believed to be a Latin male in his mid-30s, weighing around 130 pounds, about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, with acne scars, receding hair and a thick moustache.”
On Sept. 18, 1986, the newspaper reported Crime Stoppers was offering a reward of $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in the case.
By then, investigators said they were seeking a blue, four-door 1983 or 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan seen near the campsite on Aug. 25, the day before Hardin’s body was discovered.
On Oct. 3, 1986, the Herald-Zeitung ran an article titled “Recent crimes spawn gun sales increase,” listing Hardin’s murder as among four recent slayings in the Canyon Lake area, including the stabbing death of a 14-year-old girl at a mobile home park that Sept. 28.
This spring Texas Ranger Joshua Ray took up the Hardin slaying, sending evidence to the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab in Austin for additional forensic testing that identified Loy and Gatten as suspects, with subsequent interviews with each man leading to their arrests in their cities and states of residence.
Loy was extradited and booked into Comal County Jail on May 31, where he remains under $80,000 bond. It’s unclear where Gatten was being held after his arrest May 26, though CCSO said he is still awaiting extradition to Texas.
Also unclear are the suspects’ connection to the victim, who was 35 years older than both of them at the time.
Efforts to reach the CCSO and Ray were unsuccessful late Monday and Tuesday.