, 2022-07-31 06:50:05,
There’s one unsolved homicide case that has stuck with River Valley detectives for nearly 30 years. In 1994, 19-year-old Melissa Witt went missing from the parking lot of Bowling World after an ordinary day of school and work. Six weeks later, her body was found in the Ozarks. To this day, the person who abducted and murdered her has not been identified or brought to justice.
LaDonna Humphrey hopes to revive interest in the decades-old case with her book “The Girl I Never Knew.” Released April 8, the book includes more details of Witt’s case than were made public at the time, but not so much as to impede further progress on it, since it’s still an open investigation for the Fort Smith Police Department.
“The Girl I Never Knew” is still floating at about #10 on Amazon’s list of top 100 books on Kindle and in paperback. The proceeds generated from book sales are going directly back to funding things designed to help solve the case, including billboards and a hotline for people to relay tips related to Melissa — anything they may have seen or known about her life and situation at the time.
We chatted with Humphrey for this “Hidden Gems.”
What initially inspired you to work on getting Melissa Witt’s story out when you started about seven years ago?
I had an organization called Let’s Bring Them Home, a national missing adults program that provided coordination among agencies and media, as well as resources for families of the missing. I did that about a decade until we saw that our services weren’t needed (in the same way) due to the rise of a program funded by the federal government called NamUs.
We wanted to finish our work off strong. … A lot of us on the board had a journalism background, so we talked about doing a documentary (to draw more attention to unsolved cases). During that meeting, they kept bringing up Melissa Witt’s case.
I agreed to call the (Fort Smith) police chief, who had worked with our agency, and set up appointment with Jay C. Rider, Chris Boyd and a few other detectives who had worked Melissa’s case. Meeting with the detectives, seeing their passion and how hard they had worked, I thought “That should be what we do.”
What was it about Melissa’s case that resonated with you and drove you to keep working in hopes of contributing to it somehow?
The detectives agreed to take me out … to where her body was found. Going out there that day was life changing. I have seven kids, five are daughters and my oldest was 19 at the time. That…
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