Suspect in decades-old cold case arrives in Boone County

Thursday, October 15, 2009 | 4:52 p.m. CDT; updated 11:24 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 15, 2009
Undated mug shot of Johnny Wright.

COLUMBIA — After a long trip and an even longer time at large, Johnny Wright is in custody in Boone County.

Wright, 65, arrived shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Boone County Jail. He was extradited from Georgia earlier the same day, according to the Gwinnett County, Ga., Sheriff’s Department.

It’s been 24 years since a warrant for second-degree murder was issued for Wright. In that time, Columbia police had no idea of his whereabouts.

Wright is suspected in the 1976 death of Becky Doisy. The 23-year-old Doisy was an MU student and waitress when she disappeared. Her body has never been found, and Wright is believed to be the last person to have seen her.

Police in Lawrenceville, Ga., arrested Wright on Sept. 23 after he applied for a job with a company that required a criminal background check.

Columbia Police detectives traveled to Georgia to interview Wright, but he declined to make a statement. Sgt. Ken Hammond said police would not interview him again.

Police also have located and interviewed Wright’s former roommate, Harry Moore. In 1985, after being charged with involvement in Doisy's death, Moore told police he saw a body in Wright’s car on the night of Doisy’s disappearance. The charge against Moore was dropped, and Wright was later charged.

With Wright located and the case reopened, Moore is a key witness. Investigators began their search for him in St. Louis but found that he had already moved.

"But we were able to locate him and interview him," said Jessie Haden, public information officer for the Columbia Police Department.

Haden said Moore's location would not be disclosed so police have time to talk with him and build a case.

"Mainly, we're in such a game of catch-up because it's been so long" since the investigation was active, Haden said.

Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks would not comment on developments in the case.

Boone County was responsible for the extradition, and it hired a prisoner-transport service to handle the trip, Maj. Tom Reddin said. With long-distance extraditions, the county sometimes will use a private contractor because it is more cost-effective, Reddin said.

Wright has an arraignment scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday in the 13th Circuit Court for Boone County. He was being held in Boone County Jail on $100,000 bond.

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