Minorities who go missing frequently receive less police and media attention than Causcasians do. This was was true 25 years ago when Jeffrey Lynn Smith disappeared while she was on her way home from school, and it is unfortunately still true today.
Jeffrey Lynn Smith vanished on December 4, 1985, from Hot Springs, AK, as she walked home from school. She was last seen a few blocks from where she lived, walking with her boyfriend. She never arrived home and has not been heard from since.
Jeffrey Lynn was born on October 12, 1969. Jeffrey is an unusual first name for a girl, and she went by her middle name Lynn. Lynn’s mother named her for President Bill Clinton’s stepfather, Jeffrey Dwire; she had worked for Clinton’s mother as a maid and babysitter while she was pregnant with Lynn. Clinton’s mother, Virginia Dwire, was a nurse anesthetist and helped during Lynn’s birth. Lynn’s mother remembers preparing a meal in the kitchen of the Dwire home while she was pregnant, and young Bill Clinton (at that time a Rhodes scholar studying in England) coming in and chatting with her.
Lynn’s older sister Lisa Murray remembers her pretty younger sister’s bright smile, her sweetness. She recalls that Lynn was very low-key and vulnerable, not the kind of girl to stand up for herself. Classmates remember her as a quiet girl that everyone liked. Just two months before Lynn disappeared, her family celebrated her 16th birthday with a party.
On December 4, 1985, Lynn attended school as usual. Friends remembered seeing her walking home from school with her boyfriend. According to Lynn's sister, the boyfriend was abusive and Lynn wanted to end the relationship. Somewhere between the high school and her home, Lynn vanished without a trace.
While other people were shopping for Christmas and attending parties, Lynn’s family was frantically searching for her, going from house to house, posting flyers, trying to find any shred of information about Lynn, filing a missing person's report with the police, and praying that she would come home to them. Lynn was close to her family and they knew she would never have gone away or left the area without telling them.
At first, the police believed that Lynn had run away from home although she had no prior history of running away, and they were slow to investigate her disappearance, even though she was a minor. The family felt that because Lynn was African American, the police paid less attention to her case than they would have had Lynn been Caucasian. The Hot Springs police actually harassed the family, at one point contacting Lynn’s mother and stepfather to tell them that they had news about Lynn, but when her parents arrived at the police station, they arrested Lynn’s stepfather for an outstanding traffic warrant. As time passed and there was no word from Lynn, police came to suspect that Lynn had been abducted and that foul play was involved in her disappearance.
Lynn always wore a gold ring with an opal stone, her birthstone, that she had received as a birthday present from her mother for her 16th birthday. Her sister said she cherished the ring and never took it off. Smith’s boyfriend pawned the ring shortly after her disappearance. The ring showing up in a pawnshop was the only real clue that police had to Lynn's disappearance. The boyfriend was later imprisoned for assaulting another girlfriend.
Lynn's sister Lisa, her mother, and her brother moved to Pennsylvania several years after Lynn vanished. In 2005, Lisa Murray and her mother returned to Arkansas in an attempt to get Lynn's case reactivated. Lisa had learned that Lynn’s former boyfriend had assaulted at least two other women, shooting one in the face and serving jail time for the assault. Lisa tracked down the two women and interviewed them by telephone. Both women told of being abused at the hands of Lynn’s former boyfriend. Lisa transcribed the interviews and turned them over to the police.
When they had the opportunity to examine Lynn’s case file in 2007, her family learned that Lynn’s boyfriend, the last person she was seen with, was never questioned in depth by the police. Police officers had gone to his house, stood at the door and asked him a few questions, and then left. Lynn’s parents know this is true because they were present at the time, waiting outside. The boyfriend was never re-interviewed. In 2010, on the 25th anniversary of her disappearance, a team coordinated by the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children and the Morgan Nick Foundation searched three heavily wooded areas with cadaver dogs. Police did not say what, if anything, was found during the search. They said those searches were based on information from a possible suspect. A person of interest in Lynn’s disappearance was identified but no arrest has been made.
Thanks largely to Lisa’s persistence, the Hot Springs police agreed to reexamine the case in 2012, with a new detective assigned to the cold case. Detective Lee Ann Clem, a compassionate and hard-working officer, reviewed Lynn’s case file, looking at every detail. She re-interviewed countless witnesses in an effort to connect the dots, even tracking down people in other states. Detective Clem has since been re-assigned to another case, but Lisa is hopeful that whoever takes over her sister’s case will continue to keep the case active. She feels the Hot Springs police department has a different mind-set now and if Lynn had disappeared today, her case would have been treated completely differently and her life would have been accorded the value it deserved.
Lisa volunteers with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. She says that while she still seeks justice for her sister, she and her family are at peace with the fact that Lynn is deceased and have forgiven the person who took Lynn from them. Lisa wants to bring her sister’s remains home, to be buried beside her other sister who passed away as a baby.
Jeffrey Lynn Smith was 16 years old at the time of her disappearance; today she is 43 years old. She is an African American female, with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes and a medium complexion. She is 5’3” tall and weighed around 110 lbs. when she was last seen. She has pierced ears and a mole on the right side of her chin. She was wearing a brown jacket, pink pants, and brown shoes when she was last seen.
Jeffrey Lynn Smith’s family has been looking for her for a long time, almost 27 years. Her sister fears that if the case remains unsolved much longer, those who know what happened to Lynn will all be dead. Lynn’s mother is in her 80’s and fears that she will pass away before learning what happened to her daughter.
If you have any information about her, please contact the Hot Springs police department, 501/321-6789.