'Tenacious' cops arrest man for teen's 'murder' after 33-years

Brianne Tolj
·3-min read

A man has been charged with the alleged murder of a teenage girl more than 30 years ago.

Police announced on Thursday (local time) that Jesse Smith, 64, was arrested in Georgia this week over the death of 19-year-old Tammy Tracey, who went missing in Rockford, Illinois, in 1987, according to local publication 13 WREX.

Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said during a press conference that Smith will be extradited to Illinois to face the charge after being indicted by a grand jury.

Tammy and Smith were known to each other at the time she disappeared, Ms Hite Ross said. She declined to detail the nature of their relationship.

Tammy Tracey, who went missing in 1987.
Jesse Smith, 64, was arrested in Georgia this week over the death of 19-year-old Tammy Tracey, who went missing in 1987. Source: Kristen Zambo/Rockford Register Star File

The 19-year-old was last seen on May 27, 1987, when she went to Searls Park in Rockford to wax her car, according to the publication.

She didn’t return home and her mum Linda Tracey called the police, who found Tammy’s car at the park but there was no sign of the teen.

Almost one year later, her remains were found by a bird watcher in Sugar River Forest Preserve - a 20-minute drive from where she was last seen.

"I thought once Tammy was found that it was gonna be cut and dried and they would bring this person to justice," Linda Tracey told 13WREX in May of this year.

Mum says teen ‘wouldn’t go with anybody’

Local police told the publication at the same time that they knew who had allegedly murdered Tammy but didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest.

Officers declined to discuss any new evidence since the case has yet to be presented in court.

"They always said that it was somebody that she knew because, she just wouldn't go with anybody. She just wouldn't," Linda said.

Jesse Smith.
Tammy and Smith were known to each other at the time she disappeared. Source: 13WREX

"I have to see this person punished and know why he did it before, you know, I die."

Ms Hite Ross this week thanked Tammy’s family for their patience and detectives for their hard work for the past 33 years.

“The filing of these charges is the culmination of the tenacious efforts of all of the law enforcement agencies who worked on this murder investigation,” she said.

"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.

"They were relentless in following up on these leads."

Smith is being held on a $5 million bond.

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