Details of Disappearance
Ray drove from her residence in Atlanta, Georgia to Panama City, Florida during the early morning hours of August 12, 1992. She was accompanied by her children, ages five and twelve, at the time. They planned to take a short beach vacation before the school year started.
Ray was not able to locate a vacant motel room in Panama City upon their arrival at approximately 3:30 a.m. She parked her blue 1991 Plymouth Sundance in the parking lot of the former Wilhite Apartments complex on Front Beach Road for the remainder of the night. Ray was spotted by seven witnesses at the complex, including two police officers.
She locked her car and left her children asleep in the backseat at approximately 5:30 a.m. She also left her purse, traveler's checks and keys behind in the vehicle. She walked from the apartment lobby to the swimming pool area at that time and was apparently followed by an unidentified Caucasian man. The same man had been seen earlier in the morning, urinating in public. Witnesses heard a woman screaming for help from the vicinity of the pool at the same time Ray walked towards the area. She has never been seen again.
One of the police officers who saw her on the night she vanished underwent hypnosis shortly afterwards. He described the unidentified man who followed Ray as having light hair and light eyes. The suspect stood approximately 6'0 and weighed 150 pounds. He wore a shirt with alternating dark and light-colored horizontal stripes.
A man resembling the officer's description was arrested for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman from Chipley, Florida in March 1992 shortly after the hypnosis session. The attack took place five months prior to Ray's disappearance.
Charges against the suspect were eventually dropped due to conflicting descriptions given by the victim. He has never been connected to Ray's disappearance, but authorities searched the area where the woman had been attacked for evidence regarding Ray's case. Nothing was uncovered.
On a side note, a bank clerk in Georgia mistakenly wired approximately $400,000 into Ray's father's account in 1989. Ray was allegedly one of the family members who helped her father spend the money.
Ray's father pleaded guilty to theft of mislaid property in 1991. He repaid the majority of the cash, but prosecutors were frustrated with the lack of payment progress. Other family members, including Ray and her husband, were indicted in 1992 and released on bond.
The family reportedly purchased a condominium at the Gulf Highlands Beach Resort in Panama City under Ray's name. Investigators do not believe that the financial problems were connected to Ray's disappearance.
The suspected serial killer Mark Riebe confessed to Ray's murder. He murdered a woman in 1989 and was convicted in her killing in 1998, and has also confessed to the murders of almost a dozen other women who disappeared or were murdered. A photo of Riebe is posted with this case summary. He later recanted his statement about being involved in Ray's death, but her family believes he was her killer. In Riebe's statement, he said Ray was carrying a single key, something she was known to do.
According to Riebe's daughter, who was four years old at the time of Ray's disappearance, her family suddenly moved from northwest Florida to Warrensburg, Illinois, shortly after Ray went missing. They took two U-Haul trucks with them, and upon their arrival, Riebe forced his children to dig holes in the ground and he buried some bags in the holes. In 2019, the police in Illinois dug up the property where Riebe's family had lived. They haven't found any remains, however.
Ray's case remains open and unsolved. Foul play is suspected.