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Terlingua Woman Arrested on Felony Charges; her Father dead; her Mother missing

Judith Broughton sits in the West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, Texas, where she’s being held without bond. Earlier this month, she was arrested and indicted on federal felony charges for theft of public money.

She’s being accused of stealing more than $150,000 in Social Security benefits belonging to her father, Luther Broughton, from 1997 to 2011. She has pleaded “not guilty.”

Judith Broughton, age 49,  made a paltry living working for the National Psychic Network. She lived with her mother, Mary, on Terlingua Ranch.

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Ronnie Dodson, the Sheriff of Brewster County, knew them for the past four years. "Yeah, they lived in very very very poor poor conditions. Basically, just garbage and trash thrown everywhere. It's worse than the stuff you see on TV, inside their home, where they were living. The actual structure is a thrown-together lean-to type building."

On a cold night, in early 2013, Dodson was called to the Broughton’s shack. "I was contacted by one of my deputies in Terlingua. He advised me that a Social Security investigator and a Texas Ranger were at a house, looking for a man, and they couldn't get the people in the house to come out."

The man the investigators were looking for, was the father, Luther, but he wasn’t there. And Judith and Mary wouldn’t leave the house.

"So they called me," Dodson said. "I knew the people. I made contact by phone with Judith in the house. Well, I just explained to her there was nobody out there who was going hurt her. She didn’t want to talk to anybody from the government. And I eventually talked her out of the house to talk to the Social Security investigator."

At the time, the case didn’t go much further. And Dodson would see Judith and Mary again in November, when he encountered them driving on a flat tire causing sparks along the road. The case was resuscitated, though, when the original Social Security agent retired and was replaced by a more aggressive investigator.

"And this young lady, a new investigator, came in and she was kind of like a bulldog," explained Dodsom. "She went after it, kept checking on stuff. And finally did some good leg work, and went through some bank records. She found that apparently there had been checks paid to a storage facility in Kentucky. She followed up through that, with the authorities, who  eventually located her father."

They found Judith’s father. Luther. In a storage unit. He was dead. Mummified, in fact. According to Dodson: "the body wasn’t buried in a natural way."

That grisly discovery was in January of this year. But it took some time before the remains were identified and tied back to desert lands of Terlingua. Now, the father’s dead. The daughter is in jail. But the case isn’t over. Currently, the mother is missing. And a man hunt is on.

"Well, we've used some air support. We're trying to get a cadaver dog from Fort Bliss. And the ground search. That's all you can do. Their piece of land is about 30 acres. We covered most of it. There’s lot of crevices out there and places to look. Right now, we just want to find her."

The search continues, even though no Missing Persons report has been filed. In jail, Judith is allegedly not providing much information. Dodson explains that mother Mary Broughton doesn’t have a vehicle and is thought to be somewhere in the vicinity. His deputies are canvassing neighbors, who are wondering what the investigation may turn up next.

Former KRTS/KXWT News Director