Carolyn Ruth Killaby

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Above: Killaby, circa 1995

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: November 11, 1995 from Orchards, Washington
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth: October 2, 1961
  • Age: 34 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'6, 110 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, blue eyes. Killaby has a scar on her left forearm. Her maiden name is Lieb.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Killaby was last seen leaving Omar's Restaurant & Steak House in the 10400 block of northeast Fourth Plain Road in Orchards, Washington on the evening of November 11, 1995. She was accompanied by Dennis Keith Smith, a man she just met; he later told police she was very intoxicated (a statement supported by other witnesses) and he was helping her to her to her car. He stated a stranger accosted them in the parking lot and yelled at them, calling Killaby a name. Smith left the scene immediately afterward and drove away in his own vehicle. Just before midnight on the night of Killaby's disappearance, two witnesses called 911 to report hearing a woman screaming for help in a nearby field.

    Killaby has never been heard from again. She wasn't officially reported missing for several days. Her 1991 Toyota Camry was left in the restaurant parking lot with no signs of entry, although there was a handwritten note about wanting to fly from Portland to Los Angeles. Her purse was missing and was never recovered. Killaby's husband stated it was uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning.

    A photo of Smith is posted below this case summary. He had a criminal record dating back to when he was nine years old, and was on parole for a murder conviction at the time of Killaby's disappearance. He had served ten years of a life sentence for the 1982 strangulation killing of his sister. Her body was found a week after she disappeared. Authorities didn't believe his story about Killaby's disappearance, but when they tried to interview him again he had fled the state. He was charged with Killaby's murder in July 1996. He remained a fugitive until September, when he was located in Florida. He had been shot in a fight with the police and critically injured. He recovered from his wounds and was extradited to Washington to face trial.

    Following his arrest, Smith told investigators a second story: he said he and Killaby had consensual sex for 45 minutes in his pickup truck in the restaurant parking lot, then an unidentified man came up to the truck, hit Smith with a stick, dragged Killaby out of the truck by her hair and went away with her. He later identified Killaby's husband as the man. Blood traces matching Killaby's DNA were found in Smith's truck; at the trial, his defense claimed this was consistent with his story of sexual intercourse. The defense suggested Killaby was alive, or that her husband had killed her. The jury convicted Smith of aggravated murder, ruling that he'd committed the murder to cover up the crimes of rape and kidnapping. He received an automatic sentence of life in prison.

    In 2001, an appelate court reduced Smith's sentence to 70 years in prison, deciding there was insufficient evidence that he had committed rape and kidnapping. He was also serving 99 years for his sister's death and his nearest parole date was over 100 years in the future. Smith later admitted to the homicide and, in June 2004, attempted to lead authorities to Killaby's body, which he said was on Larch Mountain. A search of the site revealed nothing, however. Late that year, he committed suicide in prison.

    Killaby worked as a medical technician at the time of her disappearance. She was declared legally dead in 1997. In 2002, her family received a $2.8 million wrongful death settlement from the state of Washington; they had alleged Smith was inadequately supervised after his parole. Her body has never been found, but foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved.

    Smith
    Above: Dennis Keith Smith

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Clark County Sheriff's Office

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    Source Information
    Washington State Missing Persons Search
    The Oregonian
    The Columbian
    The Spokesman-Review
    The Pendleton Times-Post
    Find a Grave

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    Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated August 12, 2016; distinguishing characteristics updated.

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