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Do you know who killed 16-year-old Rayna Rison 20 years ago?

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July 15, 2013|By Kristin Bien (kbien@wsbt.com) | WSBT-TV

The Rayna Rison case has been like a puzzle with a very large missing piece. 

"Evidence, DNA, someone withholding information and willing to talk now," says 1st Sgt. Al Williamson with Indiana State Police as he describes what investigators are interested in getting from anyone with knowledge of the case, "anything like which can make this all fit."
The case of Rayna Rison is probably one you've heard of before today. Rayna was 16-years-old when she was murdered in 1993. At the time, the case garnered national attention, including appearing on "America's Most Wanted."
And in the years since her murder, the family has worked to keep Rayna's case in the minds of the public and investigators.
"I want to know why," says Rayna's father Bennie Rison.
"You never expect to bury your own sister who is two years older than you and you look up to and want to be like," says Rayna's sister, Wendy Hakes.
There is no question Rayna Rison had a bright future. The 16-year-old got good grades, studied hard, worked three jobs and was involved with school activities. She played 3 instruments in the band and had dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
"She was very determined with what she wanted to do with her life, and she was setting that path to reach those goals, and she didn't just sit stagnant; she was on the go, doing something," says Hakes.
While they didn't get along great at the time, Wendy, who was 15, has nothing but good memories.
"I remember coming home from school and pulling up to a stop sign, and she would stop and look and make a right hand turn and go right over the curb," laughs Hakes, "singing to the radio, over the curb she goes, sticks her head out, and yells "curbage!" and keeps on driving."
Rayna, a LaPorte High School sophomore, was full of life. That is until March 26, the day she never came home.
It was a Friday after school. A dense fog blanketed the area as dusk fell. Rayna was working at Pine Lake Animal Hospital. She had planned to meet her boyfriend at her house for a date after work. She never showed up.  Hakes recalls how worried her parents were because Rayna was such a responsible teen. Hakes says Rayna's boyfriend drove around and tried to find her while her father called all her friends. 
"It probably wasn't until 9:00 p.m. that my dad finally said, 'Okay, enough is enough; we are going to the police station.' And I'll never forget walking into that police station with my dad," says Hakes. 
Police began to investigate, and the family put together search parties. 
A number of witnesses said they saw Rayna talking to several people outside the vet clinic the night she disappeared. Some say they were arguing.
Then, the next evening, Rayna's car was found on rural, County Road 200 East, miles from the vet clinic. The hood was up, police say. Some media reports have indicated the keys were in the ignition and Rayna's purse was inside. Rayna's family insisted she would never have driven there alone on a foggy night and left her purse inside the car. 
"It was excruciating not knowing if she was alive or dead, if they were hurting her or she was cold, if they fed her. Wondering what she was thinking about, if she knew we missed her, that we were looking for her," says Hakes. 
And the family looked hard. Hakes says they never gave up hope that she might come home. Her mother even left the porch light on every night just in case.
The case got a lot of media attention, including "America's Most Wanted." The segment aired one week after Rayna went missing, and police say they did receive tips. Rayna's sister says the night the segment aired, police received an important tip. It led them to Fail Road. 
"I guess about 20 feet back off the road was where her jacket was found," says Hakes. 
That jacket was the letter jacket Rayna was wearing the night she disappeared. It was a wooded area already searched, and police say it appeared the jacket had been placed there.   All those clues, but still no Rayna. And no answers for her family. 
Then, about a month after she disappeared, the news came.
"I remember hearing footsteps coming up the stairs to my room," describes Hakes. "When the door opened, she didn't say a word. It was just a look on her face, and we both knew she wasn't coming home."
Rayna's body was found by fishermen in a pond along Range Road, not far from where her car was located more than a month earlier. 
The coroner ruled her death a homicide. The cause: asphixiation. 
5 years after her murder, Rayna's brother-in-law Ray McCarty was charged in her death. 15 months later, those charges were dropped. 
Police say more than one person was involved in her murder, and no one has been ruled out as a suspect.
Its been 20 years since Rayna was murdered, and while investigators have a lot of puzzle pieces, they still can't put it all together.
"I became angry," says Rayna's father, "because somebody took her life. And I don't know who it is. And that anger won't go away until I find out who it is."
"I hope they see her face every night when they close their eyes, especially the last time she looked back at them with fear in her eyes knowing what they did to her," says Hakes. "I hope that is what they see every night when they close their eyes."
If you have information about Rayna Rison's murder you can call:
Indiana State Police: Al Williamson 1-800-552-8917 1-219-696-6242 LaPorte City Police Department Det. Brett Airy 1-219-362-9446  ext:210
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