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33-year-old Rockford murder suspect to be extradited to Ill.

Tammy Tracey, 19, disappeared from Searls Park on May 27, 1987.
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 4:46 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A Mississippi man has been arrested and charged in connection with the stabbing and shooting death of 19-year-old Tammy Tracey in 1987 in Rockford. It’s a case that frustrated local police investigators for decades.

Jesse Smith, 64, who lists his address as Mississippi, was arrested Thursday by Georgia authorities, according to Chief Deputy Raymond Drennon with the Worth County Sheriff’s Office. Drennon says new evidence led authorities to track Smith to Georgia.

Following an indictment by a Winnebago County grand jury for first degree murder on Thursday evening, Smith appeared in the Magistrate Court of Dougherty County Friday morning and waived extradition to Illinois. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department will arrange for Smith to be taken to Illinois to appear in Winnebago County Court on a future date.

Tracey, a dental assistant, disappeared on May 27, 1987, from Searls Park in Rockford. She had gone to the park to wax her car and never returned home. Her remains were found on April 15, 1988, in the woods at the Sugar River Forest Preserve in Durand. The medical examiner said she had been stabbed and shot.

For years, investigators and her mother, Linda, say they knew who was responsible for Tracey’s murder, but even with advances in technology and DNA testing, they did not have enough evidence to make an arrest. The case was presented to a Winnebago County grand jury in 1989. No one was indicted in the case, but witness statements were gathered and preserved.

In May 2020, Linda Tracey said she scraped together a $15,000 reward for any information leading to charges against her daughter’s killer.

Smith is now being held in the Dougherty County Jail in Georgia on a $5 million bond. Our sister station, WALB in Albany, Georgia, assisted with this story.

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