Real Name: Jesslyn Ann Rich
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Frontera, California
Date: November 11, 1984
Occupation: Prison Guard
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Divorced
Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes.
Details: Thirty-five-year-old divorced mother of two Jesslyn Rich was a security guard at Frontera Penitentiary in California, one of the largest penitentiaries for women in the United States, when she vanished in 1984. Some former employees believe that she may have been silenced because of what she knew about a prison drug ring run by other guards.
She was last seen at a country-western bar with friends on November 11, 1984. Her friend Marilyn claimed that she had looked straight at the door with great fear and soon after excused herself to the bathroom. Marilyn saw a man walk behind her as she went to the bathroom. This was the last time Jesslyn was ever seen.
Her family believed that she may have been kidnapped and murdered because she would have contacted her family and friends after being gone for a certain amount of time. She also would not have left her two children behind. Jesslyn's brother Gary found several clues in her house that made her family suspect that she knew about the illegal activities, that she was receiving several threats by other guards, and may have been murdered because of that. One clue was a torn up note that she had written to a co-worker. She wrote that another guard stated that "anyone interfering with my drug activities will be taken care of".
The case went cold until three years after she vanished, when a prison inmate named Terry Lucas told prison guard Betty Thompson that she had been threatened by guards to keep quiet about what she knew. Another guard had tried to enter Terry's cell, but Thompson prevented him. Terry then told her that she knew what had happened to Jesslyn.
Terry turned up dead herself the next day. Thompson told the nurses about her death. Disturbingly, her body was ignored and left in her cell for three days. She had been brutally beaten and suffocated. Blades of grass were in her hair. Originally, the medical examiner claimed that the death was a homicide. However, after the examiner met with high-ranking prison officials, her death was ruled complications to diabetes.
Thompson was subjected to threats and intimidation for six hours after trying to get Terry's death to be investigated as a murder, and was told "what happened to Jesslyn Rich could happen to her." One of her superiors demanded her to change her report on Terry's death. Eventually, she did change the report, but typed at the bottom that the information was not true. The report was later changed and her signature was forged.
Following a threatening phone call to her office, Thompson received the same veiled threat from another prison official. After seven months of similar calls, Thompson was shot at from a moving car in front of her home in June 1988. As the police at her home were taking a report, she got a phone call saying "next time, we won't miss."
The resulting scandal covered several front page articles in the Orange County Register over insider accounts of drug-dealing and corruption. Betty Thompson and five other guards testified in State Senate hearings over the alleged offenses. When Unsolved Mysteries were taping their segment, prison officials declined to comment. A spokesman for the California Department of Officials claimed that there was no evidence for the incidents described. Jesslyn Rich remains missing and Terry Lucas' death remains unsolved.
Suspects: The Frontera Prison Guards who were suspected of being involved with the illegal activities are suspected in Jesslyn's disappearance and Terry Lucas' death.
Extra Notes: This segment originally ran on the November 4, 1992 episode.
Results: Unresolved. In June 1992, Jesslyn's remains were reportedly identified; the dismembered remains were found in San Bernadino in 1985. Police believe that Jesslyn was murdered. Surprisingly, Jesslyn's daughter, Leslie Grace, recently wrote on a forum that the remains supposedly identified as her mother's were not actually that of Jesslyn. Leslie claims that she gave police DNA that later confirmed that the remains were not Jesslyn Rich.
In July 1992, the Orange County Sheriff located a suspect that as part of a "deathbed confession" revealed he had killed Jesslyn. In 1984, the person worked at the saloon where she was last seen. In his confession, he claimed that he had taken her to his home, then took her to a remote area in San Bernadino, shot her, and dumped her body. This person has not been identified and died of a heart attack in 1990, making it difficult to pursue more details.
In 2009, the case was officially closed and a headstone was made for Jesslyn. However, the case has many unresolved questions, including whether or not her remains have been found and whether or not her killer has actually been identified.
- Jesslyn Rich at Unsolved.com
- Mystery: What Happened to Jesslyn Rich?
- Orange Police Link Man to Woman's '84 Disappearance
- Justice for Jesslyn and Terri Facebook Group
- Jesslyn Rich at Find a Grave