Murder Under the Friday Night Lights is examining a decades-long murder mystery involving the death of Natasha Atchley, a former cheerleader who was found dead after attending a party in Shepherd, Texas, in 1992.
On the morning of May 3, 1992, a man and his son were returning from a fishing trip when they came across a smoldering Camero hatchback on a dirt road in San Jacinto County, not far from Shepherd.
In the trunk of the car were the remains of 19-year-old Natasha. The teenager’s body had been burned down to the bones.
There have been many theories about who killed Natascha and why, but after over 30 years, the case remains unsolved.
Natascha was last seen at a friend’s party in Shepherd the night before. According to the now-retired chief deputy of the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office, Tom Branch, the party was attended by a large number of people, and a high quantity of alcohol and drugs was consumed by many in attendance.
The large number of heavily intoxicated witnesses meant the police struggled to get accurate and clear statements about Natasha’s last movements, which hampered the investigation.
Branch said the party was attended by some powerful people from this small-town community, including family members of elected officials in San Jacinto County and the neighboring Polk County. This led to unsubstantiated rumors of a cover-up.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
The cops never expected Natasha Atchley murder case to go unsolved
The cops initially thought they would solve the case quickly. A witness came forward to say he saw two men beating up Natascha shortly before she disappeared. However, this so-called witness later admitted they had made up the story.
Natascha’s body had been burned using an accelerant identified as drip gas. Branch suspected that this substance was extracted from a nearby oil and gas well, which only a limited number of people could do. The retired cop believed this significantly narrowed the number of suspects.
In 2023, Kelly Siegler, a former prosecutor turned presenter and investigator for the crime series Cold Justice, suggested a new theory. She said she could find no evidence that anyone was involved in Natascha’s death, arguing it was likely a tragic accident.
Siegler speculated that Natascha left the party by herself but was high on drugs, and when her car became stuck, she panicked. The former prosecutor explained, “I think that whatever was going through her mind that night, whatever was happening in her mind in that car that night, caused her to panic or freak out and try to get away or get out.”
However, Siegler admitted she could not account for why the fire started.
Family and Texas Rangers offering cash reward for info on Natasha Atchley killing
Family and friends of Natascha are offering a cash reward of $15,000 for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the killer.
The case has been taken over by the Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation Team, who have offered a further reward of $3,000.
Anyone with any information should call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477).
Murder Under the Friday Night Lights premieres on Wednesday at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.