WESLACO, Texas – A former Oklahoma man who was a suspect in the 25-year disappearance of a Grove woman took his life, Texas authorities confirmed on Thursday.
James Lee Sweeten, 79, died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday, said Mark Wall, Delaware County Cold Case detective. He was considered by Delaware County authorities as a “person of interest” in the disappearance and presumed death of his first wife Peggy A. Sweeten.
Wall said Jim Sweeten called Weslaco, Texas police threatening to harm himself.
“Police found his body in a shed close to the residence,” Wall said.
It is unknown if Jim Sweeten left a note.
The Weslaco Police Department confirmed they received a call at 8:05 a.m. at Southern Comfort RV Park located at 1501 South Airport Drive, lot 187, in Weslaco, Texas.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Weslaco Police Criminal Investigations Division.
The manner of death will be determined by the Hidalgo County Coroner’s office. said Weslaco Police Public Information Officer Miguel Martinez.
Peggy A. Sweeten, was last seen on Jan. 13, 1998. The 52-year-old former special education teacher and grandmother disappeared from her Grand Lake residence without a trace, leaving her car, clothing, photos and personal mementos behind.
Jim, a former Kansas superintendent, was having an affair with Debra Hammond, a teacher in another district, according to a 2011 search warrant.
He told authorities he returned from a conference and found a note he said Peggy left saying she had left him.
Investigators said there has been no digital footprint of Peggy Sweeten since Jan. 1998.
That search warrant notes that Jim refused to submit to a polygraph test and a non-invasive property search. Officials said Jim told them he thought “he should consult an attorney,” when questioned in 2011.
“James appeared to be deceptive and evasive” and “appeared to be attempting to find out how far the investigation had progressed and what [the investigator] knows and what direction the investigation was headed,” the search warrant stated.
Within weeks of Peggy Sweeten’s disappearance, Jim filed for divorce. Debra Hammond also filed for divorce and moved into the Sweeten residence. The couple were married in Las Vegas within 11 months of Peggy Sweeten’s disappearance.
Weslaco, Texas is five miles from the Mexico border.
This is a developing story, and we will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.