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In the 1990s in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Charles Ray Vines lived a double life. Around the community, the divorced father was known for being helpful and well-liked. But he had a dark side. He raped four women, killing two of them. He also had sex with their bodies after they were dead.
Most of his victims were elderly and vulnerable, but he was caught in March 2000 after assaulting a 16-year-old girl.
By then Vines had terrorized the River Valley region — the area that inspired his notorious nickname — for seven years. The viciousness of the murders shocked seasoned detectives, who described the slayings as the work of a “monster.”
“Snapped Notorious: The River Valley Killer,” a two-hour special streaming now on Oxygen, retraces the shocking crimes through bracing interviews with detectives, psychologists, and victims’ family members. So, where is the killer now?
Vines’ crimes began with the April 10, 1993 brutal beating and rape of 89-year-old Lilly Jones, who was legally blind. She is believed to have survived the attack because Vines thought she was dead.
Two months later, Vines attacked and killed 58-year-old Juanita Wofford, whose body was discovered at least a day after she was killed. The crime scene was called “horrific” by police who worked the case. Analysis showed that Wofford had been sexually assaulted post-mortem.
Vines, whose parents ran a mortuary in the community, seemed to be just a nice guy next door, so he flew under investigators’ radar. In fact, another man, Danny Bennett, who actually confessed to the crimes, was charged with the murders and incarcerated.
Then, on August 10, 1995, 74-year-old Ruth Henderson was brutally assaulted and killed. The crime scene was a “mirror image” of Wofford's, an investigator who worked the case told producers. “It was a vicious, vicious attack. So many stab wounds you could just stand there and count them.”
Bennett, who was locked up at the time, was released and police resumed the search for the killer. It would take five years to find him.
In March 2000, parents of a 16-year-old girl came home to find her being raped and stabbed by 36-year-old Vines, a family friend. The victim’s father beat and confined Vines until police arrived.
Vines was charged with the murders of Wofford and Henderson and the rape of the 16-year-old.
In exchange for telling police details of the rapes and murders, which included his confession about assaulting Jones, Vines was able to forego the death penalty. Vines was convicted and sentenced to three life terms without the possibility of parole.
Vines died in prison in September 2019 from natural causes while incarcerated in the state’s Maximum Security Unit, reported InsideFortSmith.com at the time.
To learn more about the case, watch “Snapped Notorious: The River Valley Killer,” steaming now on Oxygen.
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