Wednesday marked the 27th anniversary of the disappearance of Fort Smith teenager Melissa Witt.
Members of the public gathered outside of the Central Mall food court in Fort Smith to hear updates from the original detectives on the case and current law enforcement.
The mall was chosen because of its connection to the case — it is one of the last known locations of Witt on Dec. 1, 1994. She had grabbed lunch with a friend there before going on with her day and later going to Bowling World where she was kidnapped from the parking lot.
Witt’s body was found nearly six weeks later, Jan. 13, 1995, nearly 50 miles away in the Ozark National Forest by two trappers hunting near Turner Bend.
“We are here today to remind the community that we have not forgotten and we remain steadfast in our efforts to find justice for Melissa,” said Jay C. Rider, one of the original detectives.
Part of the efforts includes a billboard campaign that was launched Nov. 1, with new ones launching in December.
Chris Boyd was another one of the original detectives on the case and received the phone call about Witt’s body being found in 1995.
Since that time, and her initial disappearance, Rider and Boyd have continued to work on the case.
Attention is what it needs, Boyd said.
“It’s an anniversary you can’t celebrate, but it’s one that helps us recognize that we need to continue to work on this case,” he said.
It still can be solved, he said. Based on the investigation and what he has seen over the years, Boyd thinks the suspect is still in the five-county area. He does not think Witt’s murderer was a serial killer in the region as some have speculated.
“Twenty-seven years is too long without answers,” Rider said.
Rider encouraged anyone with information to call the hotline listed on the billboards (800-440-1922) or reach out to the Fort Smith Police Department.
Abbi Ross is the business and features reporter at the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at aross@swtimes or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Who Killed Melissa Witt team gives press conference on 27th anniversary of Witt's kidnapping