Region 8 Cold Case: Stella Patterson

POINSETT COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - It's a story that sounds like something out off Hollywood.  The case comes out of Poinsett County and over two decades old.

A woman's body was found in the St. Francis River with a bra tied around her neck.  The murder is one retired Poinsett County Sheriff Jimmy Carter says the department had never seen before or has seen since.  It initially started as a Jane Doe, but the face of the victim is one investigators on the case say they'll never forget.

"It maybe one of those that never gets solved," said retired Poinsett County Sheriff Jimmy Carter.  Carter says to this day the case remains a mystery.  It happened on June 13th, 1987.
"It was very different from a normal crime you would see in a rule county.  It was very unusual. I don't think it had ever happened before or even happened since," said Carter.
A woman's body was found in the St. Francis River between Payneway and Marked Tree.  "The victim was not clothed.  Her bra was tied around her neck," said current Poinsett County Sheriff Larry Mills.
The cause of death was listed by the medical examiner as ligature strangulation.  Sheriff Mills was an officer in Harrisburg at the time, but can still recall the case.  "I do remember her temporarily having the title Jane Doe because we did not have a positive identification," said Mills.
Nearly two weeks later, the State Medical Examiner determined the body was 20-year-old Stella Patterson of Poke County, Illinois.  The body was found by a fisherman.  According the retired Sheriff Jimmy Carter, from the way the body looked, it didn't appear that the murder happened in that area.
"Her body didn't sink like a normal drowning.  So she was dead before she was put in the water," said retired Poinsett County Sheriff Jimmy Carter.
After some investigating into Stella Patterson's past, Carter discovered she had been a drifter.
"She traveled from truck stop to truck stop, got rides with truckers.  That's the reason why we thought it was someone that drove a truck because that's how she traveled the country," said Carter.
It was a scenario that made it hard to trace family members, almost as though she'd been written off.
 "There never was a push from the family or relatives to help with the investigation or do anything.  Almost like she was forgotten.  I mean, we didn't forget her.  We keep her picture and case file on the bulletin board for gosh almost a year maybe more," said Carter.
Carter says a person of interest did develop early on.  
"We couldn't get a confession out of the person and couldn't get enough evidence then to tie it.  Of course, we didn't have access to a lot of the things we do now," said Carter.
But to this day, Sheriff Mills says while it's a cold case, it's not a closed case.
"To whoever did this, we are not going to forget about it and we're going to pursue it and we're going to continue to pursue it and at some point we are optimistic that we are going to make an arrest," said Mills.
Sheriff Mills says they are trying to bring this case back to the surface and asking anyone who may have information to contact the Poinsett County Sheriff's Department at (870) 578-5411.  Mills says it could be that evidence or knowledge that will help close the file in this case.

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