Real Name: Carolyn Ruth Killaby
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Orchards, Washington
Date: November 11, 1995
Occupation: Medical Technician at Portland Military Induction Center
Date of birth: October 2, 1961
Weight: 110 pounds
Characteristics: Caucasian female with brown hair and blue eyes. She has a scar on her left forearm.
Details: On November 11, 1995, Carolyn Killaby's husband Dan left their home in Vancouver, Washington. While they have been described as 'like newlyweds,' there had been some marital strife and Carolyn had discussed the possibility of a divorce with friends. The couple had had an argument recently and planned to make up for it with a romantic evening together at home. As Dan was leaving work, his brother invited him over and instead they ended up drinking in a local tavern late into the night. Neither contacted Carolyn until 1am, when Dan left a message on their home phone, informing her that he was staying at his brother's house for the night. When he returned the next day, Carolyn was gone, the message not played. Dan assumed that Carolyn was deliberately unreachable as payback for last night, but began to worry by nightfall. When she failed to show up for work the next morning at 6am, he and his brother drove around Vancouver searching for her.
On November 13, Dan found her car in the parking lot of Omar's Steak House and Lounge, a local bar in in Orchards, Washington. The establishment was notorious for drug deals, earning it the nickname 'Sno-mar's.' The car was a 1991 Toyota Camry, and it had no signs of forced entry; her purse was missing and there was a handrwritten note saying that she wanted to fly from Portland to Los Angeles. Dan stated that it wasn't like her to leave without warning. Family also said she didn't have a habit of heavy drinking.
Omar's was a popular local nightclub. The bartender and witnesses told detectives that they had seen Carolyn on the night she disappeared; she sat alone at a table, appeared to have been crying, danced occasionally, and was very inebriated. A man named Dennis, a regular, had been watching her all night long, commenting to the bouncer that she would meet with 'trouble' before the night was out. At around 11:30pm [another source says 10:45], he approached her; a witness said that Dennis tried to make a move on Carolyn, but she was too drunk to realize what was happening. She left the bar with him, escorted by Dennis into his truck, and was never seen or heard from again: her body has never been found.
Just before midnight on the night Carolyn disappeared, two people had called 911 after hearing a woman's cries for help coming from a nearby field in Five Corners. Dennis was later seen in a Four Corners convenience store at 1:30am wearing a blood-stained shirt.
Dustin Johnson was living with his grandparents in the same house as his uncle, Dennis Keith Smith, who was on parole for the murder of Dustin's mother Patricia and who had a criminal record dating from when he was just 9 years old. In 1992, the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board had written "It is very clear this man cannot, under any circumstances, consume alcohol or drugs, and if he does the public safety is clearly at risk," but he had recently been discharged from the drug testing program as he had tested negative for 6 months.
While his grandparents believed that Patricia's death was an accident - because cocaine-fuelled accidents are clearly much more ethical than murder - Dustin believed differently. Upon hearing of Carolyn's case, and how a man named Dennis had helped the drunk woman into a car, Dustin called her husband Dan to tell him his suspicions. Only when Dan asked detectives did they inform him that Smith, the man Carolyn was with when she disappeared, was a convicted murderer.
Smith had stated that, as Carolyn was drunk, he was in the parking lot helping her to her car - because, while she couldn't walk unaided, she would of course have been perfectly safe driving home by herself - when a stranger assaulted them, yelling and calling Carolyn a name. The stranger took Carolyn and Smith then left in his own car - presumably because drunk women can defend themselves against strange, angry men and the police did not need to be called or help sought.
Smith was taken in for questioning on November 14 after witnesses claimed that they had seen Smith escort Carolyn into his own truck, and his past made him highly suspect. His story had changed. He now claimed to have had consensual sex with Carolyn in the cab of his pick-up truck in the nightclub's car park for 45 minutes, but that a man had come across them, broken into the truck and threatened them - by swearing at Carolyn and hitting Smith with a stick - before dragging Carolyn out of the vehicle by her hair and abducting her. He explained the blood on his (now missing) shirt as being his own. He later identified Dan Killaby as the man.
Police were skeptical of his story for a number of reasons, not least because of the suspected evidence tampering. When authorities looked at Dennis's brand new truck, they found a giant hole burned into the passenger seat, which Dennis explained as being caused by a cigarette. The upholstery and the carpeting had been completely removed and the passenger seat cover was missing. Witnesses would later testify that Smith had asked them how to destroy DNA evidence.
Detectives believed that Carolyn was raped and killed by Dennis in the truck and that his story was an attempt to explain any semen and to cover up his role in her rape and murder. However, as they hadn't managed to prove that Carolyn was dead, they did not have enough evidence yet to keep him in custody and he was let go.
Blood was found on the steering column of the truck and on Smith's wristwatch band. This was later confirmed as belonging to Carolyn by matching mitochondrial DNA. However, when detectives did have enough evidence to charge Dennis with murder, he had vanished; on November 20, Smith saw police officers waiting in the hall outside his parole officer's office and fled.
Suspects: Dennis Keith Smith
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the April 18, 1997 episode. Carolyn's case was also profiled on Forensic Files, which explicitly references the involvement of Unsolved Mysteries in the capture of Dennis Keith Smith.
Results: Unresolved. Smith was watching Unsolved Mysteries with two people he had met while he was under the alias David Sanborn and was arrested by the New Smyrna Beach Police in Florida after a traffic stop on February 4, 1997 following a tip-off. During questioning, he tried to escape with police pursuing and capturing him after a violent struggle. In the scuffle, he reached for an officer's gun and was shot in the neck by another police officer. After dying and being revived twice, Smith survived and went to trial, which became the first trial in Washington to use mitochondrial DNA evidence.
In May 1998, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment with no hope of parole. The following September, evidence that he violated 7 conditions of his parole was presented, and he received an additional ninety-nine years for parole violation. He appealed his life sentence, and in 2001, on the logic that as Carolyn's body had not been found, it was impossible to prove that she had been raped and murdered. His sentence was changed from life imprisonment to 70 years.
In May 2002, Smith pointed out a logging road in the rugged terrain of Larch Mountain in central-eastern Clark County to authorities where he had allegedly dumped Carolyn's body. However, despite numerous searches, Carolyn's remains have not been found. In November 2004, Smith committed suicide in his cell at the Washington State Penitentiary by hanging himself with a bedsheet attached to an air vent. He was 42. His mother has stated that she does not believe him to be guilty.
So far, Carolyn's body has never been found. Her sister had said that they would keep searching and that she didn't want Smith to decide her final resting place, but with Smith's suicide, her family abandoned the hope of being able to finally bury Carolyn's remains. Carolyn has a memorial marker at Lincoln Memorial Park on Mount Scott in Portland, remembered as a responsible and honored medical technician and a loving mother and wife. Her sister, Susan Sheppard, recalls Carolyn as being vibrant and fun-loving for painting her nails orange with black cats for her last Halloween and for driving away from one of her last visits with her daughters Gina and Jenny, all of them singing along happily to the car stereo.
- Charley Project Page
- State settles with murder victim's family
- Disappearance Case Page
- Carolyn Killaby at Find a Grave