Murder Mystery: Detectives hope you can help solve teen’s murder that shook small town almost 30 years ago
MASON COUNTY — The murder of a teen girl shook the town of Shelton almost 30 years ago.
Mason County detectives have never given up the search to find her killer and now they’re hoping you can help them crack the case.
“Everybody kind of knew everybody. And certainly anytime anything like this happens it kind of rocks that foundation. You lose a little bit of your innocence,” says Detective Jeff Rhoades with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.
He’s talking about the murder of 17-year-old Tracy West. “The day Tracy went missing was October the 20th, 1988. Her residence is not too far from where we are right now,” Rhoades continues. The teenager left her home for work around 4:00pm and jumped on her bike for a ten minutes ride. “She would commute every day to work via this trail that we’re on right now on her motorcycle. She could ride it back here, she wasn’t required to have a driver’s license and essentially ride this all the way across the highway to the restaurant,” Rhoades says.
But when she never showed up for work, her manager alerted Tracy’s parents that night and the police department went out for a search. Rhoades recalls, “It was about 15 minutes after the time it happened, they actually spotted her motorcycle off in the brush, off on the side of the trail.”
Tracy’s motorcycle was turned upside down. Police believed it was staged to look like a crash. Her helmet was found with marks on the side, and her glasses were also discovered nearby. But Tracy was nowhere to be found. “It wasn’t until October 17th, 1994 that a hunter, hunting across the woods came across a skull, brought it into the sheriff’s office and just down the ridge from where he found her, they found a bunch of personal items, matched personal effects that we were told Tracy had with her when she disappeared,” Detective Rhoades explains. It was almost six years to the day that Tracy’s remains were discovered in a wooded area a few miles away. And for the past two decades, police have been trying to figure out how she got there. “That’s the million dollar question. If we answer that question, I think we get a lot closer,” Rhoades says. Police believes she was abducted on this trail, but because it was a busy area, that brings challenges to the investigation. Rhoades explains, “It’s not uncommon at all to be driving any of these roads and encounter vehicles at some point on them; brush pickers, mushroom pickers, or it could have been somebody back here if this was a targeted incident.”
This case has haunted detectives for years and has sparked a reunion of former detectives, a former sheriff, and an administrator to review the files and ask the public for help.
Nick Patterson is a retired detective with the department, but has come back to assist with the case and says, “We’ve had at least one every day. With people that remember and say hey, have you looked at this. I was there or I knew her or something like that.”
Tracy’s step-dad passed away years ago and her mother moved back to Canada.
Her uncle, Tom Randall, lives just a few miles from where this tragedy took place and says, “I would really like to find out who did it and maybe that would end the agony of what took place…I drive by that road. Sometimes I drive by that house to go to a ranch down further and it’s just devastating.” He remembers Tracy as outgoing, but has a warning for parents saying, “One thing you’ve got to think about as a parent is this could happen to you and to watch your kids.”
The police have a request from anyone living around here at the time. “Maybe somebody who has been sitting on a piece of information and they didn’t know it or twenty-five years have passed and maybe now they’re more willing to talk about things,” Rhoades says.
If you know anything at all you think could help solve Tracy's murder, call an anonymous tip into:
CRIME STOPPERS: 1-800-222-TIPS
You must call the Crime Stoppers hotline with your tip to be eligible to receive a cash reward for information leading to a fugitive’s arrest.