FORT MYERS, Fla. Photos of Verna Marie Richardson still hang on Shavon Johnson’s walls nearly 27 years after her disappearance.
“She always wore that smile,” she said.
The 48-year-old grandmother vanished on July 7, 1990.
She left her South Meadow Court home to taker her boyfriend, Alexander Smith, back to his house after an argument — and never returned.
“I never saw my grandmother again,” Johnson said.
Smith drove Richardson to Okeechobee that night.
She managed to escape and call her best friend, who alerted her family, from a pay phone at the Eastend Service mart off State Road 70.
“Our grandma had been beaten and tied up and put in the back of the trunk by Alexander,” Johnson said.
A week after the two were spotted in Okeechobee, Smith was involved in an accident on Interstate 75 in Fort Myers while driving Richardson’s car.
Smith was arrested for drunk driving, and although Richardson’s purse was found on the front seat, he was released a few hours later.
“They let him out because they say they didn’t have enough evidence because they didn’t have a body,” Johnson said.
Smith changed his name to Marion Williams and eventually moved to DeSoto County, where he spent the next several years in and out of prison, according to Johnson.
However, he’s never revealed where Richardson is and authorities have yet to find her, leaving Johnson and her family still searching for closure.
“We will still never know that last minute, second, hour, what happened,” Johnson said.
Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers haven’t received tips on Richardson’s case in years, but it only takes one small tip to finish the investigation.
“It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, there’s someone out there or multiple people out there that have information that could make all the difference in the world to this family,” Crime Stoppers coordinator Trish Routte said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at 239-477-1000 or Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).