Drug use mentioned, no details – time: 6:58-7:36
Discovery of a Body, no gruesome details – 11:09-11:37
Methods of murder mentioned, very vague, no gruesome details – 17:21-18:00
Cast of Characters:
Jim – Victim #1, owns house in Kyle, TX
Tina – Victim #2, mom of seven
Kyle, TX – NOT a person 😉
Randy – Tina’s first husband, father of her first four children
Jeremy – Tina’s fiance, father of her fifth child
Ryan – Tina’s last husband, father of her sixth and seventh children
Miranda – Tina’s oldest daughter, family spokesperson
Eric – Tina’s most recent boyfriend
Larry – Jim’s roommate
Elissa – Ryan’s girlfriend at the time of his divorce with Tina
Episode Notes (and Spoilers) After This Point
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School Has Begun and a New Podcast Feature
This week we’re starting school and it’s bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S. The most notable situation that happened is that my oldest son recorded a video and at the end he ended up telling his teacher to subscribe to HIS CHANNEL FOR MORE VIDEOS.
And that’s all I have to say about that this week because I think that about sums it all up.
I am a bit nervous to cover this week’s case because it’s the most complicated case I’ve covered to date with several moving pieces and people. Sorry to be a giant NERD, but I thought it would be super helpful to include a small “cast of characters” underneath the content guide this week. This mind sound extra, but I know I really start to zone out when there are a million different names so I thought this might be useful for anyone kind of “neurodivergent” like me.
On top of all of the different names, the town in question is the town of Kyle, Texas. At one point I got so turned around trying to remember everyone that I was like, “WAIT, who is KYLE?”
Ah, Kyle. WHO ARE YOU INDEED?
This random case just pulled at me and pulled at me and I ended up down a deeper scroll hole than I think I’ve ever been this deep in before. It’s just one of those real head-scratchers, and I almost can’t accept that it’s real. These victims shouldn’t be gone. It’s disarmingly REAL.
Who is Jim Wright?
Jim Wright lived in Kyle, TX and if I could describe him with a theme tune, I’d say he embodies the mood that is the Cheers theme song. I can’t read anything about him without some kind of nostalgic sickness in my belly. He was a pillar in his circle- he was outstandingly reliable and profoundly kind.
A friend in his circle brings up the cliché, “He’d give you the shirt off of his back” almost as if it’s not quite enough to describe how far Jim would go to radically support his people.
Another childhood friend of Jim’s says, “He’s the kind of guy who takes your call at 2am when he’s got to be up at 5. Your wife’s car’s broken down on her way home from work, so he gets out of bed to pick her up. Drives 25 miles to your house to drop her off, then calls a tow truck to bring her car back to his house. He’ll fix the car himself and not accept a dime.”
In fact, one time he met someone down on his luck and offered to allow him to stay in his spare room. He was just that kinda guy.
Jim was single and he worked long hours in construction. His rental home was a landing pad for him where he’d go to sleep when he wasn’t working and floating around from bar to bar. Each var he went to had their own qualities that he liked, and at each place he had his usual crowd that he’d hang with.
As a complete sucker for trying to really tap into the exact atmosphere in my mind, I pulled up the menu of one of the bars he used to go to. I kind of imagine Jim as a beer guy, but I got really stuck on whether I would order the Jack Daniels with Cranberry, Sprite, Lemon, and Lime known as the Crooked Crown or the Jack Daniels with Lemon and Honey known as the Gold Rush.
On the Sunday before he died, he spent the night barhopping and catching up with his friends. Now Jim was friendly but he was also held certain details about his life close to his chest. He often took phone calls from his family members and I imagine him being more of a listener than a talker, since there were so many things that people just didn’t know about his life.
He spent the night nursing a few beers and chatting the night away. He had a standing call with his niece which he wrapped up around 6 AM. He was meeting somebody, he said- just two hours later at 8 am, and he needed a nap.
You might be thinking what I was thinking at this point- oh, he met someone who wanted to buy a car from him and was never seen alive again, but this is not that. He was meeting a woman in person for the first time, and he was SO excited about it.
Tina, the Lady from Facebook
Tina was driving down from Arlington, between Fort Worth and Houston. She was driving down for a self-care break after a fight with her boyfriend and she decided to meet this guy she had just started. Things were really heavy in her life, and she was in one of those times of her life where she just couldn’t get out of the hamster wheel of trying to get on her feet.
Tina Combs was a gentle, kind animal lover and she was a mom to seven kids. SEVEN. Sometimes on my busiest days, I try to sit with that as an idea for a little bit and think about how full and wild her days were. Tina was deeply dedicated to her children but she found herself cursed with ill-fated relationships.
She had her first four children with her first husband, Randy. They had a roller coaster marriage where the thrills of the highs led into the dips of the lows and into hard times and dysfunction. However, Randy talks about this time in their lives as being really warm and fun. It was a big family who had big family meals and co-coached sports.
Even though Randy moved on and their relationship ended in divorce, he still speaks so highly of Tina. It reminds me of that Mark Twain quote, “Let us endeavor to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
If even your ex-husband speaks well of you? You’re some kind of magical person.
Tina and Randy ended their marriage in 2002, after Tina started a relationship with a coworker named Jeremy Adams at Delphi automotive, with whom she had one son before breaking off their engagement.
Tina did have some struggles with an addiction to methamphetamines throughout her adult life and she ebbed and flowed out of this dependence. I debated even mentioning this point because there is still so much stigma and misinformation surrounding addiction.
So many times, a victim is dismissed if they have an addiction and it’s like a more widely used “they were asking for it” if something bad ever happens to them.
I felt like it was important to not leave out this big part of Tina’s life and highlight the fact that addiction does not make automatically make for a bad person. It makes for a person who is going through a LOT with their body and their mind.
In 2008, Tina meets Ryan and they get into a serious relationship. Together, they have Tina’s youngest children and are married in February 2013. Less than a year later, while the family is in Indiana visiting Tina’s family, trouble arises.
Ryan, being the top-notch dude that he is, packs the two kids in his car and takes back off to Indiana, leaving Tina stranded in a hotel room. He files for divorce when he gets back to Texas, and though the two reconcile briefly, Ryan basically drops off the face of the planet and ghosts when Tina is back in Indiana.
By September 22nd, the paperwork is filed to make this happen, for real this time. According to the court’s records, the divorce splits assets evenly between them, each of them getting one vehicle, joint custody in their young children, though Ryan gets to keep the house that he purchases. At this time, they also both pass a drug test.
Shortly after this divorce is finalized, Tina meets someone named Eric and moves in with him.
So the question remains: how do Jim and Tina end up arranging this meetup?
It all started on Facebook with one mutual contact: a cousin of Tina’s grew up living next door to Jim in Indiana. This mutual friend asks about Blue Heeler breeders, someone suggests she look in Texas, Jim comments, Tina comments, and bam. The rest is secret history.
The two chat off of the platform and all we know definitively is that they decided to meet up, that they had one late-night phone conversation, and that when the dust settled…they were still essentially strangers.
It’s Monday on June 22nd when Jim wakes up from his nap and sets out to meet Tina for the first time at Casa Maria, a Mexican restaurant with a delicious-looking breakfast menu. They enjoy their breakfast together and send two beaming selfies to a friend of Jim’s, before heading back to Jim’s place. It’s really unclear as to whether or not there was any romantic interest but Tina did seem to be poised to stay a few days.
She and Eric had a big fight the night before she left because he didn’t like it when she brought her kids there. Eric’s a jerk, so there’s that.
Tina’s oldest daughter Miranda speaks with her on the phone around noon, but Tina ends the conversation a bit abruptly by saying, “I’ll call you back, Sis.”
After that? Chaos
And then quiet, and then darkness. The curtains are shut for four days.
The house settles, the sun rises, the sun sets. And on Thursday evening, June 25th, there is a rap on the door.
Neither Jim nor Tina answered any calls and this is especially suspicious for Jim. He’s a reliable employee who doesn’t just NOT show up to work.
He’s not like me, who no-called, no-showed at Starbucks because her boss wouldn’t let her quit.
Beyond that, he speaks to his family literally daily and he hasn’t taken anyone’s calls. His dad knows this is not like his son and can’t wait anymore before he calls the police in Kyle, TX.
The police have shown up for a welfare check and what they find completely shocks them. They find Jim inside, dead in the hallway from a gunshot wound. Deeper into the bedroom, they find Tina. Though most of the documents regarding Tina’s death have never been released, we know that she fought for her life, and there was an up, close, and personal stabbing.
They’ve been dead since Monday afternoon.
Their families are shocked, confused, and devastated. They are trying to pick up the pieces at this point and relying on the Kyle Police to solve this crime. However, murders don’t really happen here and the two that happened there in recent years had quick, obvious resolutions. This? With Jim and Tina? Is completely unprecedented.
This is where some valid criticism can arise in our current model of policing. Do we really want people who have no experience and few financial resources to be solving the most complicated murder a town has ever seen?
It makes me wonder how we can do more for small communities. In the case of Jim and Tina, their families cannot get any new information, even five years later, and the police often seem to forget crucial details they’ve been told about the case.
I got pretty into heavily into reading the police and the city pages because I really wanted to see what kind of awareness is being raised by these city departments for what is arguably the most gruesome crime their town has ever seen.
Try not to die of surprise: nobody is ever talking about it. Although, it may be worth mentioning that the park did have a $1 make-your-own-S’More event and that the library hosted a genealogy-research lock-in.
Team Larry or Team Ryan?
The family finds the police difficult to work with and non-communicative, and they have only released information that they had two possible suspects. I am so torn between these two possibilities, I’m hoping that you have an opinion to share:
Remember how I said that Jim invited a guy who was down on luck to stay in his spare room? That turned in to a more permanent living situation that did not go well. This guy’s name is Larry and he had been recently released from prison when he met Jim.
The problem was, Larry stopped paying rent and used his money on alcohol and Jim was getting fed up. He was about to give Larry an ultimatum. Suspiciously, Larry was also nowhere to be found after the crimes were committed and only sat by observing the police search, asking when he could get his stuff.
Larry seems like such an obvious contender for this crime, except there’s another name throwback who became a suspect.
Ryan, Tina’s most recent husband and the father of her two youngest children, had been causing Tina a lot of problems. They had an incredibly contentious custody battle in which things didn’t go Ryan’s way- Tina was granted joint custody with him instead of Ryan receiving full custody.
The divorce was finalized just over a month before the murders, and things were already not going well with visitation. Tina started to notice some weird things happening with her phone- she noticed text messages were being sent that she never wrote and felt it could be that they were being sent remotely. On top of that, she noticed that Ryan’s new girlfriend Elissa seemed to be showing up wherever she was and she was starting to feel kind of scared.
I think understandably scared.
So assuming it’s not some unknown third party which seems pretty unlikely, I go back and forth on who committed the murder: am I team Larry or am I team Ryan?
Larry would have had every single opportunity to commit this crime and he looks GOOD for it. He’s only living with Jim because he just got out of a long prison-stay for a violent crime and had nowhere else to go. He had access to guns which are now missing. He was having money conflict with Jim and he LIVED THERE but somehow wasn’t there from Monday-Thurs, only showing up to ask the cops about his stuff??
Then I dug into where Larry was today. Since the crime, he’s been arrested a few times for violent crimes and then some really WEIRD slash HILARIOUS articles started surfacing.
Headline: Intoxicated man arrested for slashing tires on 21 vehicles
RECORD SCRATCH – – WHAT?? LARRY DID THIS?? *OUR* LARRY?
Absolutely he did. On Valentine’s Day 2017, Larry got extremely intoxicated and slashed the tires on 21 cars. Maybe some of us get real mad on Valentine’s Day, but OBVIOUSLY this guy has some anger issues.
Okay, HE DID IT.
But hang on. I looked into Ryan more and found something kind of scary. For one thing, Ryan’s a total jerk who is forcibly keeping Tina’s two children from her older siblings, so there’s that. But here’s where things get really missed up.
Ryan ended up marrying that girlfriend, Elissa. Three months after the murder, they end up getting an incredibly quick divorce. Ryan files, no one contests. It’s over. He gets married AGAIN- this time. Not long after THAT, this woman files for divorce and gets a restraining order against him. It’s held in court and extended but the divorce is still hanging open with no progress since the end of 2019 because…the two are back together.
Where have we heard this before? Remember- this happened with Tina.
In the words of Whoopi Goldberg in ghost- you in danger, girl.
The only way Ryan could have done this is if he was tracking Tina’s phone to find out where she was which seems a bit like a stretch, but on the other hand, the way that Tina was killed was very upfront- very close, and very personal.
In theory, it’s more likely that it was Ryan IF it stands true that an up-close, stabbing death is more likely to come from someone the suspect knows. But then, it makes sense for Larry to be the perpetrator since Jim was simply just shot. But then TINA isn’t shot? It’s almost like two different people committed this murder.
I’ve even rolled around the wild idea that Larry and Ryan somehow did this but truly there’s no evidence to support this at ALL and it’s just some wild cinematic idea I like to chew on sometimes.
So where is this case today? There’s been no real progress on the case, and the families get more and more disheartened by the lack of progress as time goes on. They’ve all quietly complained to the media that they are frustrated with the police being what they describe basically as either incredibly rude or mind-blowingly incompetent or maybe even BOTH.
When they call for more information about the case they get none, and often they are dismissed. One family member even expressed a few years ago that they wanted to send it in to get more info out there but they were afraid that the case would be pushed even further to the back burner.
Folks, it’s a case that’s gone cold and it doesn’t have to be. I only ask one action step today:
Share. This. Story. If you don’t want to share it in the form of this episode, that’s okay. Share one of the amazing sources below. But this case needs to be hot and it can’t burn if it doesn’t even have a spark. No one knows this thing even exists, and I think that today is the day that we say: no more.
Justice hasn’t forgotten you, Jim and Tina. We’re coming.
Circulate Jim and Tina’s Story on Pinterest
Issues Mentioned in This Episode:
Public Court Records