The disappearance of great-grandmother Pauline Diaz: South Texas Crime Stories

‘If she has passed, tell us where she’s at. If she’s alive, bring her back to us.’

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Pauline Diaz was last seen leaving work

63-year-old Pauline Diaz was walking out of the HEB she worked at on the Southeast Side off of Southeast Military Dr and Goliad.

It was about 2 p.m. on December 7, 2010, when Diaz was seen on surveillance video walking out of the grocery store and talking with a woman.

Diaz then went to Pedro “Pete” Ruiz’s home, her estranged husband to pick up a lawn mower.

KSAT reporter Courtney Friedman covered Diaz’s disappearance and spoke with us about the case.

“She was supposed to be going to his house. He did admit that he saw her that day, but there’s no proof that anything happened there,” Friedman said.

The search for Diaz begins

Diaz’s truck and car were found later on Highway 181 and F.M. 320, just down the street from Ruiz’s house.

The relationship between Ruiz and Diaz had been strained for a while, but Diaz was now officially filing for divorce.

Police never believed Diaz ran away. They quickly turned their focus to Ruiz, calling him a person of interest in her disappearance.

“We are at the point we just want her back... If she has passed, tell us where she’s at. If she’s alive, bring her back to us,” said Juanita, Diaz’s daughter, at the time.

Victim’s family hires a private investigator

The search continued but there was no sign of her, so her family took matters into their own hands.

“Her daughter Juanita has said, ‘I don’t think I’ll be giving up until the day I die,’” Friedman said.

Diaz’s kids hired a private investigator named Charlie Parker to start looking into her disappearance.

Parker has his own theory: He believes Diaz made it back to her house after visiting Ruiz because the shoes she was wearing that day were found inside of her home with sand on them — sand that is also found at Ruiz’s home.

Parker thinks someone could have surprised Diaz at her home.

“Then one of the main things he said was that her clothes [in evidence photos from inside her house] were just like thrown about. So he believes that’s why she was surprised, because she’s known to be very organized and orderly — her house was never a mess. Her clothes were never left on the floor,” Friedman said.

Unfortunately, this theory didn’t move the case forward. It would be eight years after Diaz vanished before law enforcement got another tip.

Dig in Wilson County

In June 2018, the Wilson County Sheriff announced they were digging for Diaz’s body on the former property of her estranged husband.

This sign of hope was quickly dashed when only a pig skull was found.

“This property was searched just shortly after she was missing. At that point, it didn’t look like there was any of the soil disturbed,” former Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said.

Dig in Bexar County

The case went cold again until last year when another tip came in, this time in Bexar County.

A man called investigators to say a few years earlier he had seen a mound of dirt that may have been a shallow grave around the 14400 block of Old Corpus Christi Rd. in Elmendorf.

Bexar County Sheriff’s Office spent two hours searching and digging but to no avail.

No evidence was found to help investigators.

”Nothing was found today (but) it shows the lengths that law enforcement will go through to make sure on any cold case that we try to find closure,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

Unfortunately, that’s where the cases still stands now, in late 2022.

Dedicated Diaz family still seeking answers

Diaz would be 76 years old now.

Each year on Pauline’s birthday, her family holds a balloon releases at the HEB where she was last seen.

“I’m just I’m really amazed at the condition that they keep themselves in, in terms of hope, in terms of determination. I just can’t imagine day-to-day what this is like,” Friedman said. “And I mean, when you see them and you go to these events and the birthdays and remembrances, they have joy. They’re living their lives, but they’re never they have not forgotten her.”

As others have disappeared in the area, the Diaz family has joined in their search efforts, sometimes in hopes that it would be Diaz.

“What stands out a lot to me, specifically in my coverage, is I was actually reporting years ago on another possible missing person,” Friedman said. “There was a body found and they believed it. We released that it was possibly related to a missing person. Her entire family showed up there. I mean, they were they are dedicated and they’re paying attention. And they just always show up just to make sure if it is her that they’re there.”

The only person of interest has been Pedro “Pete” Ruiz, their relationship had been strained for years, but some wondered if the divorce was the tipping point.

“Some theories say that you know, she left his house and he came back. But none of that, again, is there proof for any of it. So that’s what’s really difficult, I think because there are little pieces of information, but they really don’t add up right now,” Friedman said.

After 12 years, there are no more answers for Diaz’s family than the day she vanished.

“I don’t think fully that they will have closure, because I know that’s why they’re fighting. But I also have seen them celebrate with joy. I’ve seen them celebrate her life with joy,” Friedman said. “They will never stop looking for her, but they’ll continue living for her if that makes sense.”

This is still an open case – anyone with information is asked to call Wilson County Crime Stoppers at 888-808-7894 or the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office at 210-335-TIPS. Her family is also offering a reward of $25,000

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About the Authors

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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