Details of Disappearance
Donna was last seen in Weaverville, California on November 10, 1980. She had been kept home from school that day for unspecified reasons, and told her grandfather she was running away from home. He believed she was only pretending and helped her pack her bags.
Donna disappeared afterwards. She was last seen near the Joss House Historical Museum on Main Street downtown at 2:30 p.m. Her mother reported her disappearance to police at 11:30 p.m.
In October 2008, Wayne Harvey Smith confessed to Donna's murder. He lived near her home and had known her family for years. He was a suspect in her case from the beginning, but he left the county a few days after her disappearance and investigators never had enough evidence to file charges.
Smith is presently serving a life sentence for another murder; he robbed and killed a young woman in Los Angeles, California in 1985. He agreed to discuss Donna's case as part of a plea deal for an unrelated third homicide, the shooting death of a Los Angeles teen in 1983.
Smith said Donna went to visit his house and refused to leave, and he became angry and strangled her. He stated he disposed of her body in the local landfill. In exchange for his confession, Smith won't face the death penalty in the 1983 case. Investigators think it's possible he was responsible for more deaths than he admits to.
Smith will not face charges in Donna's presumed death, as he is already in prison for life. Investigators stated they would not attempt to recover her body, because she's been missing so long it would be difficult or impossible to find her remains in the landfill.
In the aftermath of Smith's confession, Donna's family prepared to hold a memorial service for her. Her case is now considered closed, but her remains have never been found.