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Crime News Snapped

Did The River Valley Killer Kidnap A Teenage Girl From A Bowling Alley Parking Lot And Murder Her?

Melissa Witt was killed in Arkansas in 1994. Some theorize she may have been the victim of a local serial killer, "The River Valley Killer."

By Becca van Sambeck

It's been over 20 years and people are still looking for answers in the murder of Arkansas teenager, Melissa Witt.

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Melissa Witt was abducted from a bowling alley parking lot in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1994. Over a month after she went missing, her body was found in the Ozark National Forest. No suspect was ever identified. Some, however, have since theorized she was the victim of local serial killer Charles Ray Vine, also known as "The River Valley Killer."

Vine's disturbing and vicious rape and killing spree is further explored in the Oxygen special "Snapped Notorious: The River Valley Killer." He ultimately raped and murdered two elderly women in the River Valley, Arkansas area: Juanita Wofford in 1993, and Ruth Henderson in 1995. He was caught in 2000 when he attempted to rape and kill a 16-year-old girl in her house. The girl's stepfather found him in the midst of the attack and tried to beat him to death, although a sheriff's deputy arrived and intervened, according to local Fox affiliate station KNWA. 

DNA evidence then connected him to the other crimes. But could he have been responsible for another murder?

Witt disappeared after arriving at Bowling World in Fort Smith on December 1, 1994. The 19-year-old had stopped by to get a hamburger from her mother, according to a 2021 report from local station THV11 KTHV. However, she never made it inside. Her car was found in the parking lot, but she was nowhere to be seen.

A trail of blood was later found in the parking lot. JC Rider, a retired Fort Smith Police Department detective, said investigators believe Witt was struck in the head and then kidnapped. 

She was later found dead by trappers, who spotted her by a logging trail in the Ozark National Forest, about 50 miles from where she was abducted, the KTHV reported.

After Vine's arrest, the possibility he killed Witt was considered. He was active in the area at that time, and he had attacked another teenager in Arkansas. Her death differed from the attacks on the other three women, though: She was not beaten in the same way.

Vine himself repeatedly denied having anything to do with Witt's murder, even after his conviction, local outlet Today In Fort Smith reported in 2020.

An FBI profiler also concluded Vine was not the killer, Rider said, according to Today In Fort Smith.

The hunt for answers continues to this day, as the case remains open,THV11 KTHV reported. Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact the Fort Smith Police Department.

For more on Vine's crimes, watch "Snapped Notorious: The River Valley Killer."

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