Vanessa Dawn Smith

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3 AP
Top Row and Bottom Left: Vanessa, circa 1997;
Bottom Right: Age-progression to age 29 (circa 2010)


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: May 31, 1997 from Winton, California
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: December 26, 1981
  • Age: 15 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'6, 130 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Strawberry-blonde hair, blue eyes. Vanessa has a large birthmark on her right arm which extends from her shoulder to her elbow. She has a fair, freckled complexion and a scar on her left ear. Vanessa has Duane's Syndrome in her right eye; as a result, the third muscle in her retina is paralyzed and the eye drifts toward the inside.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A light blue dress with silver-colored metal buttons, a white belt, and an elastic waist; white hurache sandals with uppers of woven leather straps and flat heels; and a black head cover.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Vanessa was last seen leaving her family's residence on Winton Way in rural Winton, California at approximately 7:00 p.m. on May 31, 1997. She was planning to take her usual walk through the neighborhood at the time. She usually went with her mother, but this time she went alone. Vanessa was carrying her walking stick at the time of her disappearance. She has never been heard from again. Her family notified police when she did not return by dark.

    Vanessa's walking stick was discovered along the side of Mercedes Avenue in Winton shortly after she failed to return home that evening. The location was along Vanessa's normal route and was approximately 200 yards east of her residence. There was no sign of her at the scene. Vanessa left her purse behind; it contained her savings. She also left a cherished watch at her home.

    Vanessa does not have a history of running away and is described as being close to her family members. She belonged to a Mennonite church at the time of her disappearance. Authorities do not believe she left of her own accord. Vanessa's case remains unsolved.


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



    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    America's Most Wanted
    Merced County Sheriff's Department
    Vanished Children's Alliance
    Vanessa D. Smith Has Vanished
    California Attorney General's Office
    Child CyberSearch
    Child Protection Education Of America
    The Doe Network
    The Polly Klaas Foundation


    Updated 7 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated January 8, 2011; age-progression updated.

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