Oak Ridge North police announce new DNA testing on 2002 murder case
For 11 years, the city of Oak Ridge North did not see a single homicide — then came a chilly, overcast February day in 2002.
Local businessman Subir Chatterjee, 58, was found gunned down shortly after noon inside the business he owned in Oak Ridge North. More than 16 years later, Chatterjee’s murder remains unsolved.
On Monday, lead investigator Lt. Kent Hubbard of the Oak Ridge North Police Department reported to the Oak Ridge North City Council that the department would be using month from a combination of seizure funds, funds from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office and the case’s reward fund to purchase DNA testing of evidence found at the scene.
“In the last 16-and-a-half years, there have been tremendous advancements for DNA testing,” Hubbard said.
The new method of testing, which Hubbard told the council was developed within the last four to five years, will cost $5,830. The cost will be divided equally between funds acquired from the district attorney’s office and the city - Oak Ridge North’s portion of $2,915 will be covered by the $1,880 reward fund and seized funds currently available in the city’s general fund.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Donna Berkey said the funding was a big part of the decision.
“(District Attorney Brett Ligon) was very willing to provide assistance,” Berkey said.
Chatterjee was found dead by a fellow employee. He was shot twice — in the head and neck at close range. The store, Coastal Service Station, served as a convenience store and check cashing business where Chatterjee often had tens of thousands of dollars on hand.
When police arrived on the scene in 2002, investigators found that $160,000 was missing from the store. The money was kept inside a brown briefcase that customers said Chatterjee would often use to bring funds to the store on Fridays in order to cash checks.
The suspects in the crime, two males with one described as a white, possibly Middle Eastern male and a second man with reddish-brown hair, were seen leaving the store after spending around 40 minutes in the bulletproof acrylic security booth where Chatterjee would often sit during his shifts. According to police reports, officials believe the vehicle used in the crime was an unknown year and model Oldsmobile Alero with a red paper temporary license tag bearing “020802.”
Oak Ridge North Mayor Jim Kuykendall said the case was,“Just sad.”
“This would be a way of using (the reward money) for a very good purpose,” Kuykendall added.
The case, Hubbard told a reporter from the Courier of Montgomery County in June 2002, was “fascinating” in its complexity, calling it at the time a “true murder mystery.”
“Chatterjee would let people in the booth if he knew them and felt secure,” Hubbard told the Courier at the time. “In that respect, we feel it was someone he knew and trusted.”
Oak Ridge North Chief of Police Andrew Walters told the council that law enforcement fficials interviewed more than 200 family members, friends and suspects, searched dozens of cars and consulted the Texas Department of Public Safety DNA database hundreds of times in the ensuing investigation into Chatterjee’s death.
“They killed him because he knows who they are,” Walters told the Courier in 2002. “This is strictly one of those things where they exchanged a human life for money.”
More than a decade and a half later, Hubbard told the council he would not give up finding the killer, or killers, of a man who friends and neighbors described as selfless and caring.
“This case has taken us all the way to Virginia and Atlanta,” Hubbard said. “I’ve been to restaurants, I’ve been dumpster diving. I’ve tried about everything.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Oak Ridge North Police Department at 281-292-4762 or the Montgomery County Crime Stoppers: 1-800-392-7867.