Detectives interview suspect in Doisy murder case

Friday, October 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:51 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 2, 2009

COLUMBIA — A renewed investigation is underway into the disappearance of Columbia resident Rebecca Doisy 33 years ago, and detectives from the Columbia Police Department should return this week from an interview with a man charged with her death.

Detectives traveled to Lawrenceville, Ga., to interview Johnny Wright, 65, who resurfaced Sept. 23 after eluding investigators for 24 years. Wright was arrested after attempting to apply for a job in an Atlanta suburb that required a routine background check.

Although Wright's whereabouts have been uncovered, prosecutors will face similar challenges to the ones experienced decades ago. For one, there is still no physical evidence that Doisy is dead because her body has never been found.

Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Richard Hicks said he has never prosecuted a murder case without the existence of a victim's body and said he knows few prosecutors in the state that have.

"If you don't have a body, then you don't have a certain cause of death," Hicks said.

Since Doisy has not been heard from or seen for 33 years, he said the "logical conclusion" is that she is dead.

Doisy was last seen Aug. 5, 1976, and was reported missing two days later when she did not show up for her job as a waitress at Ernie's Cafe & Steak House.

The night Doisy was last seen, witnesses said they observed her leaving her Price Avenue apartment with Wright. Others said they saw her drinking at the Heidelberg with him later that night.

After Doisy's disappearance, police said Wright was "deceptive" in his answers during a lie detector test, but authorities lacked evidence to file formal charges against him.

Second-degree murder charges were filed against Wright on Nov. 20, 1985, after police interviewed Harry Moore, a St. Louis resident who lived in Columbia with Wright at the time of Doisy's disappearance.

Police said Moore told them that Wright had showed him Doisy's dead body in his car and that Wright then drove away without saying where he was going.

Former Boone County Prosecutor Joe Moseley said Moore's testimony had adequately established probable cause to arrest Wright on suspicion of murder.

In Moseley's report, which charged Wright with murder, he wrote that Wright had caused Doisy's death by choking her. When Moseley filed the charges, however, Wright had not been seen for two years.

Columbia detectives are trying to locate Moore in St. Louis.

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