LAPORTE, Ind. (CBS) –The former boyfriend of a young woman murdered two decades ago in northwest Indiana has been charged in her death.
Jason Tibbs, 38, of LaPorte, Ind. was arrested Friday in connection with the death of Rayna Rison, 16, who was reported missing on March 26, 1993.
Prosecutor Robert Szilagyi says the break in the case hinges on a statement from an eyewitness, 14 at the time, who saw Tibbs and another individual after the crime was committed.
“(The teen) was in a barn when Mr. Tibbs and this other individual backed a car in, and he thought he saw a body in the car and heard them discussing what to do with it,” Szilagyi tells CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez.
The boy hid, but days later recognized pictures of the missing Rison as the dead woman in the trunk, he says.
Rison was last seen outside a LaPorte animal hospital. At least one witness told police they’d seen Tibbs arguing with her in the parking lot.
Prosecutors say another man seen standing with the two that night is finally telling the whole story.
“We were able to track the second individual – he lives in another state — and were able to get a statement from him. In fact, we gave him immunity,” Szilagyi says.
Eric Freeman tells police Tibbs choked Rison to death as the two fought over her refusal to be his girlfriend. The girl’s body was found in a shallow pond a month later.
Tibbs, charged with one count of murder, is being held without bond at the LaPorte County Jail.
The victim’s father, Ben Rison, said there will be no closure, even with the dramatic development in the case.
“The best we can hope for is the satisfaction of knowing once this person is convicted and put behind bars he can’t do it to another family,” he says.
Raymond McCarty, a brother-in-law who had served time for molesting Reyna, was charged with her murder in 1998 after Tibbs pointed the finger at him.
But the charges didn’t stick, and McCarty was freed in 1999 after 15 months.
The cold case drew national attention, with the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” airing an episode focusing on Rison. State Police First Sgt. Al Williamson and LaPorte Police Detective Brett Airy have investigated the cold case for more than five years.
“You never expect to bury your own sister who is two years older than you and you look up to and want to be like,” Rayna’s sister, Wendy Hakes, told the station.
Rison had a bright future, WSBT reported. The 16-year-old got good grades, studied hard, worked three jobs and was involved with school activities. She played three instruments in the band and had dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
“She was very determined with what she wanted to do with her life, and she was setting that path to reach those goals, and she didn’t just sit stagnant; she was on the go, doing something,” Hakes said.
(Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)