Alabama man arrested in 1987 killing of Illinois woman, 19

Published 2:16 pm Friday, November 20, 2020

An Alabama man has been arrested in the 1987 killing of a 19-year-old northern Illinois woman following his indictment by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges.

Jesse Smith Jr., 64, was arrested Thursday in Albany, Georgia, in the killing of Tammy Tracey, a Rockford resident who vanished in May 1987 after going to a park to wax her car.

Tracey’s remains were found in April 1988 at the Sugar River Forest Preserve. An autopsy found that she had been fatally shot and also suffered a stab wound that contributed to her death.

Smith was indicted Wednesday by a Winnebago County grand jury. He was being held Friday at the Dougherty County Jail in Albany, Georgia, on a $5 million bond, awaiting extradition to Winnebago County.

It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Smith is a resident of Tuscumbia, Alabama, said Rita Bravo, an executive assistant for Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross.
Hite Ross said Thursday that Smith was an associate of Tracey’s family and lived in the Rockford area at the time of her death. She did not elaborate on their relationship, except for saying “they were not strangers.”

“This murder investigation was never cold, as some may have called it, but there were leads that needed to be followed up on by law enforcement, and they did that,” Hite Ross told the Rockford Register Star. “They were relentless in following up on these leads.”

The details of the case against Smith have not yet been released to the public, but his grand jury indictment alleges that he kidnapped and robbed Tracey and shot and stabbed her.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea, adding that the Tracey family can now get closure 33 years after their loved one’s killing as the case moves through the court.