ROCKFORD — A man has been arrested in the death of Tammy Tracey, who disappeared from a Rockford park 33 years ago.
Jessie Smith, 64, was taken into custody Thursday in Albany, Georgia.
Tracey, 19, vanished May 27, 1987, after stopping at Searls Park to wax her car. She was reported missing the next day after she failed to show up at Ingersoll Golf Course to meet a family member and then did not return home. Her remains were found April 15, 1988, at the Sugar River Forest Preserve in Durand. The coroner determined she had been shot and stabbed.
The case sparked several rumors and hit numerous dead ends over the years. For a time, police had a suspect but lacked evidence to make an arrest. It is not known if Smith was the initial suspect investigators believed killed the 19-year-old dental assistant but Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said during a press conference Thursday afternoon that he and Tracey knew each other.
“They were not strangers, is what I would say,” Hite Ross said. “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. The patience of the Tracey family during this time period is to be commended.”
The three-decade investigation involved the Rockford Police Department, Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois State Police.
Smith is awaiting extradition to Illinois. When he arrives at the Winnebago County Jail, he will be booked on charges of first-degree murder and held on a $5 million bond.