Melissa Witt died nearly 23 years ago, but the town of Fort Smith, AR, is still searching for answers to this unsolved mystery. On Dec. 1, 1994, the 19-year-old parked in a lot outside local establishment Bowling World, planning to head inside to surprise her mother, who was in a bowling league. She never made it. Investigators found her vehicle abandoned, blood in the parking lot, and evidence of a struggle.
A month and a half later, two hunters in the Ozark National Forest found Melissa’s body. She was nude and positioned close to a headstone-like rock. The case has remained open ever since.
Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, who works in the Fort Smith Police Department’s Evidence Division, told local news affiliate 5 News the case haunts him to this day. “As a father of three daughters…I just can’t fathom what the mother went through,” he said. “And my wish would be to see the case solved before I leave police work. I just wish the right person with the right information would come forward.”
Former prosecutor Ron Fields believes investigators should consider Charles Ray Vines a suspect in the case, 5 News reported. Vines, who was profiled recently on the Investigation Discovery show Murder by Numbers, is spending life behind bars for multiple rape and murder charges.
“A rapist who murders and does it over and over again is incredibly rare, so you've got to look at him in other cases,” Fields said.
Meanwhile, a documentary crew investigating the Witt case has their eye on Larry Swearingen, a man currently on death row for the rape and murder of Melissa Trotter, another 19-year-old. She too was abducted in December and found dead in January, and her body was dumped in a national forest, as well, the crew points out.
Was it Vines who killed Melissa Witt? Was it Swearingen? Or is the killer still at large? Unfortunately, Fort Smith residents may never know unless these investigators crack the case soon…