ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Law enforcement announced an arrest Thursday in the 33-year-old murder case of Tammy Tracey, who was killed in Rockford in 1987.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross, Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, and Illinois State Police Commander Christopher Endress announced the major break in the case at a press conference on Thursday.

Jessie Smith, 64, was arrested Thursday in Albany, Georgia.

Jesse Smith. Photo: Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office

Police say new evidence in the case led them to identify Smith as the suspect.

Smith lived on Willard Avenue as recently as 2001. Investigators said he knew the Tracey family.

19-year-old Tracey disappeared from Searls Park on May 27th, 1987, where she had gone to wax her car. Later that evening, she failed to meet a family member at Ingersoll Golf Course.

Her remains were found in the Sugar River Forest Preserve on April 15, 1988. Police said she had been shot and stabbed to death.

Stateline authorities searching for her killer but weeks turned into months, which turned into decades.

The Tracey family put up billboards around the Forest City as recently as May 2020, hoping to obtain new information on the crime.

“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,” said Hite Ross.


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