‘We’re not giving up’: Search still alive years after Arkansas woman’s disappearance and death

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — December 1st marks 27 years since the disappearance and death of Melissa “Missy” Witt of Fort Smith. It’s a cold case that rocked the River Valley Community and still haunts people today.

“It’s shocking, how is this not solved by now,” said Captain Daniel Grubbs, Special Operations Captain with the Fort Smith Police Department.

“The team’s goal is to get justice and I’m ready,” said Ladonna Humphrey, advocate for Melissa Witt. “She deserves it, we’d love to see this put to rest.”

On December 1, 1994, 19-year-old Melissa Witt disappears from the Bowling World parking lot in Fort Smith.

“I remember it stuck with me,” said Capt. Grubbs. “You see a young girl disappeared and up until then I had never really heard of anything bad happening in this city.”

Two trappers hunting near Turner Bend in the Ozark National Forest found Melissa’s body six weeks later. She had been strangled to death, and her killer has never been found.

“We have a cold case that’s 27 years old, we have a 19-year-old girl who deserves justice and we’re not going to stop until we get it,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey and the ‘Who Killed Melissa Witt’ team helped get billboards up this month urging people to speak up if they know anything about her case.

She said her team is also working on a documentary about Witt’s case that’s in the final stages. She thinks these efforts can only help.

“I do think that they are still out there,” she said. “I do think that the information out there saying that we are heating up the case again is making them nervous.”

Humphrey said she is in regular contact with the Fort Smith Police Department. Capt. Grubbs said they also haven’t given up.

“When you become a police officer it’s hard not to take some things personal,” he said. “You’re not supposed to, but part of it is you are passionate about this job, you want justice and you want someone who does something evil like this to answer for it.”

He said they have several generations continuing to work on the case, and that having fresh eyes and perspectives looking at it is a good thing. However, he said there are challenges they have to overcome.

One being that technology and police report filing wasn’t as good back then as it is now, making it hard to keep reports in chronological order.

“If you’re familiar with Bowling World and how busy it was and how popular it was, you didn’t have iron-clad witnesses to give you a really good description of who this person was that did it,” he said.

He added that the timeline was very specific and unique. He said the crime had an organized air to it, leading him to believe that the killer had experience doing this before.

Despite all the roadblocks, Capt. Grubbs and Humphrey both still have hope.

“I believe he’s out there and I believe that it’s going to make him nervous,” said Humphrey.

“It is completely possible that the person responsible for this is still out there,” said Capt. Grubbs. “We’re not giving up.”

If you have any information about Witt’s death, contact the Fort Smith Police Department at 479-709-5000.

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