November 30, 2003 - Posted at 4:41 p.m. CDT
KNOBEL, AR - The case of farm laborer Earnest Lonnie Earles is 16 years old and the initial state police investigator has since retired.
Now, special agent Phil Carter of the Arkansas State Police suspects Earles was killed, but no one has been arrested and it would be hard to get a murder charge to stick.
Even so, Carter feels he and Clay County Sheriff Ronnie Cole may be getting close to asking the prosecutor to bring charges.
Last year, Carter developed information while working on another criminal case in a nearby county. After reviewing the old file, Carter and Cole developed a number of new leads.
They searched a rural area on the Black River on two different occasions, using dogs trained to detect cadavers. And they now believe Earles was shot and killed after being lured to an area near the river.
A family member reported the 25-year-old man missing from his home in Knobel on June 21, 1987.