Suspect Arrested in 1987 Cold Case Killing of 19-Year-Old Dental Assistant Tammy Tracey

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The cold case of a 19-year-old dental assistant’s 1987 killing is finally seeing a break. Authorities in Illinois tracked and arrested a man in Georgia they say is responsible for the murder of Tammy Tracey, whose body wasn’t found until a year after she disappeared.

Jesse Smith, 64, was arrested Thursday by authorities in Georgia. Smith is being held at the Dougherty County Jail in Albany, Georgia awaiting transport to Winnebago County in Illinois.

Authorities said t was all thanks to new evidence that they were able to track Tracey’s suspected killer to Georgia.

The recent high school graduate had disappeared on May 27, 1987 after leaving the home to have her car waxed. She never made it home. A year later, her remains were found at the Sugar River Forest Preserve by a bird watcher, according to WREX. Officials said she had been shot and stabbed.

At the time, the case and lack of evidence surrounding it baffled the community. ”Poor Linda Tracey (Tammy’s mom) has said on the record many times, she feared that she would pass away before an arrest was made,” Rockford Register Star journalist Ken Decostar told WIFR. He had covered the case extensively at the time.

He said that Linda had her suspicions of who the killer was at the time, but authorities never gathered enough evidence over the years to make an arrest.

"The family finally has closure," Decostar said.

A Winnebago County Grand Jury indicted Smith on a first-degree murder charge Thursday and Smith waived extradition to Illinois when he appeared in front of a judge Friday morning, the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office said.

He remains the in custody of Doherty County Jail as of Monday morning.

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