Rayna Rison’s murder went unsolved for over twenty years until a tip led police to her alleged killer, helping investigators crack the case that stumped them for two decades.
On the evening of March 26, 1993, Ben Rison reported his 16-year-old daughter Rayna missing after she failed to return home from work at the Pine Lake Animal Hospital in La Porte, Indiana.
A day after Rayna was reported missing, investigators found her car in a rural area several miles north of her hometown.
Her disappearance made national headlines when the case was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” in April 1993.
Hopes of finding the missing 16-year-old alive ended when a fisherman discovered Rayna’s body in a pond a month after she went missing.
An autopsy revealed Rayna’s cause of death was “asphyxia due to cervical compression” and the manner of death was homicide, police said in a probable cause affidavit.
After years of searching for clues as to what happened to Rayna that night, finally, in 2008, an inmate came forward with new information that would crack the case wide open.
In March of 2008, Rickey Hammons, an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, told police to focus their case on Jason Tibbs, Rayna’s ex-boyfriend, and Hammons’ sister’s former boyfriend, Eric Freeman.
During a police interview, Hammons stated that one day in March of 1993, he was getting ready to smoke a marijuana joint when Freeman and Tibbs pulled into his family’s pole barn driving Hammons sister’s Buick Century.
“Rickey stated that Eric then opened the trunk and he saw someone in the trunk face up,” police said in the affidavit.
Hammons told police he didn’t know at the time that it was Rayna’s body in the trunk, but after he started seeing her picture in the paper he realized it was her, according to authorities.
Police questioned Freeman in 2008, but he denied Hammons’ account of what he allegedly saw that night in the barn.
It wasn’t until July 2013 when Freeman agreed to speak with police a second time after prosecutors offered him immunity from prosecution in the case, police said.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Freeman stated he received a call from Tibbs the night Rayna vanished asking Freeman to drive him to the animal hospital where Rayna worked so they could talk.
When they arrived, police say Freeman told them Tibbs and Rayna began to argue over Tibbs wanting to get back together.
Eventually, Freeman said he drove Tibbs and Rayna to a different location where the two got out of the car and continued to fight.
“Eric Freeman stated that Jason Tibbs killed Rayna Rison in his presence by strangling her, and that Freeman and Tibbs disposed of Rayna’s body in the pond,” police said in the affidavit.
“Freeman’s account also corroborated Rickey Hammons’ statement regarding Tibbs and Freeman driving into the pole barn on the Hammons’ property with Rayna’s body in the trunk of the vehicle,” police added.
Twenty years later, on August 23, authorities arrested 38-year-old Jason Tibbs for Rayna Rison’s murder.
At his arraignment Friday, a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and ordered him to be held in jail without bond.
Tibbs will remain at the La Porte County Jail until his next court appearance on September 13.
He has until his next court date to hire an attorney or have a public defender appointed to him.
"We can't hold her in our arms anymore, but maybe we can get some satisfaction out of this," Rayna’s father Ben Rison told HLN affiliate WTHR. "I made her a promise I would find whoever it was.”
Anyone with further information regarding the murder of Rayna Rison is asked to contact police at 1-800-552-8917.