Details of Disappearance
O'Pry needed to run errands on July 19, 1996 in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Eric Dale Mickelson, a friend of her boyfriend, agreed to drive O'Pry if she paid for his gasoline costs. Mickelson and O'Pry were riding in his white 1971 Chevrolet Fleetside pickup truck. Photos of Mickelson and his vehicle are posted with this case summary.
O'Pry and Mickelson visited her sister's residence on Meriweather Road and departed at approximately 8:00 p.m. Mickelson told authorities that he and O'Pry stopped at the Circle K store on the corner of Walker Road and Mackey Lane. Mickelson stated that O'Pry used the pay phone at the store. Phone records did not show any indication of any calls O'Pry may have made from the location.
Mickelson claimed that he did not witness O'Pry make a call from the phone; he said that he was repairing his vehicle's stereo speaker wires at the time she was inside the business. Mickelson stated that he proceeded to drop O'Pry off at the El Chico entrance of the South Park Mall on Jewella Avenue in Shreveport at approximately 8:30 p.m. O'Pry has never been seen again. She was reported missing four days after she was last seen.
O'Pry's boyfriend of six years, Jerry "Todd" Dean, told investigators that Mickelson called him between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. on July 20, 1996, the day following O'Pry's disappearance. Dean said that Mickelson told him he dropped O'Pry at the mall the previous evening.
O'Pry lived with Dean and his friend, Wade Burnley, on Linwood Avenue at the time she was last seen. Dean did not inform O'Pry's family that she never returned home until July 23, four days after she initially disappeared. He stated he and O'Pry had a troubled relationship with frequent fights.
O'Pry did not take any personal belongings with her when she vanished. She also left behind her three-year-old daughter, something that her family said was completely uncharacteristic of her behavior. Security guards at the South Park Mall told investigators that they did not observe anyone matching O'Pry's description at the shopping center the night she was last seen. Authorities are not certain if she arrived at the location.
Both Dean and Burnley passed polygraph tests administered by law enforcement shortly after O'Pry's disappearance. Mickelson refused to take a lie detector test, saying that he considers the devices unreliable. He was considered the prime suspect in O'Pry's case, although for many years he maintained his innocence. He and his girlfriend, Susane "Beverly" Arthur, were charged with the unrelated murder of an elderly Shreveport man, Charles Martin, in 2007.
While in prison awaiting trial on that charge, Mickelson confessed to O'Pry's murder. He said he had strangled her and ultimately dismembered her body and threw the parts in dumpsters. Some months later, in August 2007, he was charged with second-degree murder in O'Pry's case. Authorities stated they found unspecified evidence in the pond that corroborated his confession, but her body has not been located.
Some law enforcement officers consider Mickelson to be a serial killer. There were unconfirmed reports that he admitted to involvement in four other homicides, but he has not been charged with any murders besides Martin's and O'Pry's.
Mickelson was convicted of Martin's murder in August 2011 and sentenced to death, but his conviction was later overturned. At a re-trial in Martin's case, he was convicted again and sentenced to life in prison. He is still awaiting trial for O'Pry's murder.
Extensive searches have not yielded any clues as to O'Pry's whereabouts. Foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved in O'Pry's disappearance.