Community reacts to arrest in Tammy Tracey murder case

While those who worked closely on the case say they always suspected Jesse Smith committed the murder, there was not enough evidence to prove it - until now.
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 9:29 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - An arrest is made in the murder case that grabbed the attention of many in 1987, and some still remember the day Tammy Tracey went missing.

“33 years later, the mother, Linda Tracy, ... the family finally has closure,” journalist Ken Decoster said.

Decoster currently works for the Rockford Register Star, but back in 1987 when Tammy Tracey went missing from Searls Park, he worked at WROK. He still remembers the day she vanished.

“Her disappearance generated interest. A 19-year-old woman, Auburn High School graduate, waxing her car at Searls Park, and she just vanished,” Decoster said.

He says the case caught the attention of all who call the Stateline home and remembers how the lack of evidence frustrated many.

“We [think that] we know who did this. We just don’t have the evidence,” Decoster said. ”Poor Linda Tracey has said on the record many times, she feared that she would pass away before an arrest was made.”

Paul Logli is very familiar with the frustration. He was Winnebago County State’s Attorney from 1986 until 2007. Current state’s attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross prefers details come out in court. Logli says investigators must have found something new.

“Clearly some new evidence had to be produced. Somebody or something had to come forward and give them that additional evidence,” Logli said.

Logli spent many days working on the Tammy Tracey case. He cannot remember if Jesse Smith was the lead suspect during his time, but he says that should not be the focus.

“If they have enough evidence right now against this individual - that’s what’s important,” Logli said.

Logli says the arrest brings a certain amount of closure for the entire region and says this was a case that stuck with him even after his time as state’s attorney.

We did attempt to speak with some members of the Tracey family, but they could not be reached for comment.

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