BOONEVILLE • A man arrested Thursday in Georgia in connection with a 33-year-old Illinois case used to live in Prentiss County.
Jesse Smith, 64, was recently indicted in Illinois for first-degree murder in the 1987 death of Tammy Tracey, 19, in Rockford, Illinois, located about 50 miles west of Chicago. He was arrested Nov. 19 in Albany, Georgia, but not before law enforcement checked in with all his former addresses.
Smith once lived in Prentiss County and still owns a house and property just north of Booneville. Federal agents working in conjunction with Illinois law enforcement reached out to the Prentiss County Sheriff's Office to see if he was still living there.
"We determined Smith didn’t presently live at the Prentiss County address but was living in Alabama," said Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar. "He would come back to his Prentiss County property on County Road 8021 occasionally to check on things.
In 1989, Smith was in his early 30s, lived in Rockford and knew the Tracey family. According to the Rockford Register Star, Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said "they were not strangers" but did not elaborate further on their relationship.
In May 1987, Tracey went to a local park to wax her car and was never seen alive again. Her remains were discovered 11 months later in a nature preserve by a bird watcher, An autopsy showed she had been stabbed and shot.
The case stymied investigators for years. Authorities believed they knew who was responsible, but needed more evidence to prove it before charging anyone. The state attorney refused to address any possible new evidence during a press conference this week, saying that information would come out later in open court, the Register Star reported.
Smith remains incarcerated in Worth County, Georgia, until he can be extradited to Winnebago County, Illinois.