ROCKFORD, Ill. — An arrest has been made in the killing of Tammy Tracey more than three decades after her death.
Jesse Smith, 64, was arrested Thursday in Albany, Georgia, after he was indicted by a Winnebago County grand jury on charges of first-degree murder in Tracey's 1987 death.
Smith was a Rockford resident and associate of the Tracey family at the time of her death, Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said. She did not elaborate on their relationship, except for saying "they were not strangers."
"This murder investigation was never cold, as some may have called it, but there were leads that needed to be followed up on by law enforcement, and they did that," Hite Ross said. "They were relentless in following up on these leads."
Tracey, a 19-year-old Auburn High School graduate, went to Searls Park to wax her car on May 27, 1987, and was never seen alive again. Law enforcement searched for her for nearly a year until her remains were found by a birdwatcher on April 15, 1988, in the Sugar River Forest Preserve in Durand. Dental records were used to identify her body, and an autopsy showed she had been fatally shot. She had also sustained a stab wound that contributed to her death.
The case had frustrated investigators for decades, and for years they've said they were close to being able to make an arrest. Earlier this year, Kurt Whisenand, an assistant deputy Rockford police chief, said authorities believed they knew who killed Tracey but were still working to accumulate the evidence needed to prove it.
"It’s just a matter of having that one little piece of information that puts us over the hump that we could prove it in court," he said in May.
Hite Ross said it would be inappropriate to comment on any new evidence that may have led to an arrest or on a motive for the killing.
"As the case proceeds through the criminal process, all of those answers you will find in open court, and they will be presented at the appropriate hearings in court," Hite Ross said.
The Tracey family never gave up hope of an arrest in the case, placing billboards around the city near the anniversary of Tammy's death to keep her memory and hopes for the arrest of her killer alive.
“I want to make sure they get him before I’m dead," Linda Tracey, Tammy's mother, told the Register Star in 2018.
Billboards went up in 1987 and asked for help in the search of Tammy Tracey. Tracey's skeletal remains were found Friday night, April 15, 1988, in the Sugar Rive... keep reading on reddit ➡
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