MOUNT VERNON, Mo. -- A grand jury indicted a man investigated for the death of a Lawrence County woman in August of 1988. Detectives considered the case cold in the death of Cynthia Smith.
She was a mother of two.
“I remember her talking about her children so they mean a lot to her,” said Chris Calhoun, a co-worker of Smith. “She was a sweet person, she was caring,” said Calhoun.
From California, she lived in the Aurora area. She worked at a care facility.
She was last seen leaving an Aurora bar in 1988 with an unknown man. She never picked up her children from her babysitter. Investigators found her body weeks later.
“I hoped the person would be caught quickly. And as the years have gone by I just assumed he would never be caught, he or she would never be caught," said Calhoun.
Now 31 years later, Lawrence Timmons is behind bars for her murder. Deputies first arrested him for forgery after they got a tip he was leaving for Rhode Island in just a few weeks.
“While working this investigation we uncovered the fraud and we knew the seriousness of it and at that point we acted on that to make sure he was going to remain with us and under bond,” said Lt. Chris Berry of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office.
Neighbors in Pierce City didn’t want to speak on camera, but say Timmons was a social man, but they didn’t expect this. Now the Smith’s sons, who originally asked the department to reopen the case, feel some relief.
“They were very tearful and grateful that we had received indictment for the murder of their mother,” said Berry.
The sheriff's department is feeling a sense of relief now too. Some for the first time in 31 years.
“I received a text over the weekend that kind of felt in my heart when I received the text," said Lt. Berry. "One of the previous sheriffs that we had, this was a case that really weighed heavy on his heart. And he would go out to the cemetery where she was found and he would walk around the cemetery just wishing that someone had talked to him. Now I feel like somebody did. Somebody talked to us.”
Investigators say they hope this break leads to more breaks in cold cases.