Debra Barajas

Debra Barajas (Courtesy National Center for Missing Adults)

Debra Ann (Gutierrez) Barajas

Homicide

Debra Ann Barajas
44 YOA
Disappeared from: Omaha, NE
Date Went Missing: May 25, 2006
Remains found in 54300 block of 195th Street
Pacific Junction, near Glenwood, IA
Mills County, IA (jurisdiction)
Case Number: 41099G
Remains Found: November 14, 2006

Case Summary by Jody Ewing

Debra (Debbie) Ann Barajas was last seen on Thursday afternoon, May 25, 2006, heading to the Omaha vicinity of Park Avenue and Leavenworth in Omaha, Neb. When she didn’t arrive, she was reported missing to the Nebraska Missing Persons Information Clearinghouse.

Mills County, Iowa
Mills County in Iowa
Glenwood in Mills CountyGlenwood in Mills County

Nearly six months later on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, Barajas’ remains were discovered in a Pacific Junction ravine northwest of Glenwood, Iowa, near the 54300 block of 195th Street in Mills County, Iowa. The rural community’s population barely topped 500 people.

The Iowa State Medical Examiner’s office — with the assistance of a forensic anthropologist — used computerized tomography scans from Barajas’ medical history to verify her identify.

Barajas’ body was discovered just a few miles away from where the body of 25-year-old Brianne Smith — also of Omaha — was found five months earlier.

Both women were alleged to be prostitutes with crack cocaine addictions.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Mills County Sheriff’s Office are investigating Barajas’ death.

One Man, Many Women

In November, 2006, authorities announced they were investigating whether several Nebraska women who also worked as prostitutes were slain by the same man — a man who killed himself amidst an investigation into his ex-wife’s death.

Thomas Tomich

Thomas Tomich (Courtesy KCCI)

Thomas Tomich, 50, who officials said stuffed his ex-wife’s body into a barrel 23 years ago, came under investigation after links were discovered connecting him to Barajas. Tomich had bailed Barajas out of jail just nine days before she went missing.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, law enforcement records showed that on May 16, 2006, Tomich had spent $250 to bail Barajas out of the Sarpy County Jail, where she’d been incarcerated for a month on a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

The two also had another connection.

Any time Barajas wanted time to herself, she’d spend the night in an empty apartment at the Rorick apartments and condos near 22nd Street and St. Mary’s Avenue in Omaha; Tomich worked as a maintenance man at Rorick.

Debra, Lois and ThomasCourtesy WOWT Ch. 6 Omaha
Debra Barajas, Lois Tomich and Thomas Tomich.

Tomich was just about to be arrested for the 1983 slaying of his ex-wife, Lois Tomich, when he killed himself by jumping out of the 11-story building.

In an Omaha World-Herald article dated November 17, 2006, Barajas’ family said Debra hadn’t signed a lease and didn’t pay rent at the Rorick apartments, and they didn’t know how she got into the rooms. They began to understand once they learned of her relationship with Tomich.

Chief Deputy Marty Bilek of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Nebraska confirmed what many already had begun to suspect.

“Tom Tomich associated with prostitutes,” said Bilek in a Nov. 18, 2006 interview published by the Associated Press. “He’s a killer, who was also active in the 1980s, and we know now he might have killed again.”

A Nov. 19, 2006 KCCI story reported police were also looking at Tomich as a person of interest in the deaths of two Omaha prostitutes, Michelle Lamere and Stephanie Caldwall.

Barajas’ sister Dena Gutierrez told the media the family saw Debra about a week after she’d been bonded out, but then she had left.

Debra Barajas

Debra Barajas (Courtesy KETV)

“She would call and say, ‘Mom, I’m okay. I’m going to stop by,” Barajas’ mother, Mabel Gutierrez told WOWT-TV. “But that day, we never heard back from her.”

By January 2007, investigators in both Iowa and Nebraska said they believed it was unlikely Tomich killed Smith or Barajas, though they did feel the two women may have been killed by the same person.

“We are still calling Tom Tomich ‘a person of interest’ in Debbie’s death, but we are looking at others,” Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Dave Dales told the World-Herald. “There are still other people we have to rule in or rule out.”

In March 2012, Todd A. Mills, a 46-year-old father of five from Shelby, Iowa, accused of sexually assaulting at least three women in Council Bluffs, gave up his right to a trial and pleased to three counts of second-degree sexual abuse.

Mills, a volunteer fireman, was arrested in Omaha August 2010 after raping two prostitutes at gunpoint.

According to a Council Bluffs Nonpareil article dated March 22, 2012, investigators believed Mills was also tied to a string of sexual assaults in Council Bluffs between 2008 and 2010. In four sexual assault cases reported to the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, the women said they were abducted in Omaha and then driven north of Council Bluffs to a remote area.

The Nonpareil’s Chad Nation wrote in the story:

All four were left on River Road, near Interstate 29 north of the city, after being sexually assaulted. The May 14, 2010, assault appears to have been the most violent, officials said. Mills raped the woman twice – once with a gun barrel – and bit her several times.

Nothing concrete has positively connected Barajas’ death to Mills.

Debra Ann Gutierrez was born April 5, 1962.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Debra Barajas’ unsolved murder, please contact the Mills County Sheriff’s Office at (712) 527-4337 or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (712) 322-1585, or email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us.

Sources:
  • Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
  • Mills County Sheriff’s Office
  • Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Debra A Barajas, United States Social Security Death Index
  • Mills sentenced for three of four rapes of women in Bluffs,” by Chad Nation, The Daily Nonpareil, March 22, 2012
  • “Slayings frustrate investigators,” by John Ferak, The Omaha World-Herald, July 16, 2007
  • “Authorities doubt Tomich was serial killer,” by John Ferak, The Omaha World-Herald, Omaha.com, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007
  • “Authorities in Iowa Seek to Identify Body Found in Well,” Crime Library, Nov. 30, 2006
  • Police searching for connections in southwest Iowa women’s deaths,” The Dispatch-Argus, qconline.com, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006
  • Debra Ann (Gutierrez) Barajas (1962 – 2006),” Find a Grave Memorial
  • “COLD CASE CONNECTION?” KMTV Action 3 News, action3news.com, Nov. 21, 2006
  • “Omaha police say Tomich not suspect in Barajas’ death,” by Lynn Safranek, John Ferak and Tom Shaw, The Omaha World-Herald, Nov. 21, 2006
  • “Investigators Look Into Link Between Unsolved Murder Cases,” KETV.com, Nov. 21, 2006
  • “Authorities investigate Tomich for deaths of prostitutes,” The Sioux City Journal, Nov. 19, 2006
  • “Iowa Authorities Work On Multiple Deaths Investigation,” KCCI.com, Nov. 19, 2006
  • “Dead Man Could Be Linked to Neb. Deaths,” Associated Press, Nov. 18, 2006
  • “Body Identified: New Questions are Raised,” WOWT, Nov. 18, 2006
  • “Remains identified as Barajas,” by Lynn Safranek and Tom Shaw, The Omaha World-Herald, Friday, Nov. 17, 2006
  • “Remains Identified as Barajas,” WOWT, Nov. 17, 2006
  • National Center for Missing Adults
  • “Mills County Remains Identified As Barajas Guitierrez,” KETV Channel 7, Nov. 17, 2006
  • “Tomich Could Have Played Role In Remains Found,” KETV.com, Nov. 16, 2006
  • “Body In Barrel Belongs To Woman Who Disappeared in 1983,” KETV.com, Nov. 15, 2006
  • “Search for Missing Prostitute,” KMTV.com Action 3 News, August 3, 2006
  • “Woman’s Whereabouts Sought: Last seen by relatives in May,” WOWT.com, July 29, 2006
  • “Police Seek Woman Missing 2 Months,” KETV.com, July 27, 2006
  • “Woman’s Whereabouts Sought,” WOWT, July 26, 2006

 

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6 Responses to Debra Barajas

  1. I will be praying for her family and friends. My heart breaks for them.

  2. Jane says:

    Someone needs to keep investigating her “husband” seeing as how she was found so close to where he worked and the fact that he did everything to interfere with her search.

  3. Jane says:

    I remember the very first time I met Debbies husband. It was during her funeral planning period. Chills immediately ran up my neck. I wondered to myself right then if he had knowledge of how she was murdered.
    So many things have been unsettling to me and I often wonder how hard they have tried to solve her case. She had problems but she was still a human being.

    1.. During the search for Debbie, fliers were posted where she frequented and her husband took all of them down.
    2.. He was seen associating with other prostitutes who were never comfortable in his presence.
    3.. Her body was found very close to where he was employed.
    4.. He goes on a vacation during the search for her.

    Something isnt right about any of this.

    • Grey says:

      Everything about that guy was weird that’s why I move out of Roric because he used to come everyday at3:30 or 4AM to open my door and I was scare of him because I was single and living by my self and other black man was so closed to him too his name is Ed the other maintenance guy at the Roric

  4. Grey says:

    I feel sorry for thomic but I think many people are involved is this case. I reported him to the Roric office lady (Sharon) she say to me. He can come any time because he’s the maintenance. I replied to her but not every day. That’s why I moved out of there and they send me court papers because I bricked the leass because it was too weird for me because I was single and living by my self.That guys used to come every single day to my apartment at 3:30 or 4AM with out nocking just open the door to check my heater and AC but Ed the other maintance guy used to be with him Too at the baseman where They call me and I was scare but I never let them know I was scare of them. And Ed told me so many times that he was connected with some photographer and he want me to be he’s model at that time I was working at shop jo 6 am to 2pm and studying to be a cna at clarkson college and going to la roca de salvasion church so no time for me to do anything else.i still had trauma to live by my self in a place.i don’t feel safety.

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