MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - More than 30 years have passed since an east Alabama woman’s murder, but investigators and her family have refused to let the case go.
Elizabeth Spence, 27, was reported missing from Lafayette, Alabama, on Jan. 2, 1991. Her body was found in Montgomery a week later.
Now, the reward for any arrests in Elizabeth Spence’s case has been increased to $35,000, Central Alabama CrimeStoppers announced Wednesday. CrimeStoppers is offering a $5,000 reward, while the state of Alabama is offering $5,000 and the Spence family is offering $25,000.
Montgomery police found Spence’s Daihatsu Charade sitting in an Atlanta Highway department store’s parking lot on Jan. 9, a week after her disappearance. Her body was found in the vehicle’s trunk, prompting a homicide case that has now spanned three decades without answers.
“It’s been a very horrific time for all of us,” said Elizabeth’s sister Chris Powell. “And even though it’s been almost 30 years, some days are good, and some days are bad, but we get through it because we don’t have a choice.”
“If we allow this to totally take everything away from us, then the person that did this would have won and we are not going to let them win,” said Elizabeth’s sister Mary Spence. “We are going to continue to fight, and we want to know who did it because they need to be held accountable, they need to be held accountable for what they have done.”
The investigation is in now the hands of the Montgomery District Attorney’s Cold Case Task Force. A unit whose job is to focus solely on cold cases.
According to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey, the task force has helped solve 11 cold case homicides since its inception about a year ago.
“These are homicides that were unsolved, where family members had no idea who killed their loved one and (in some cases) a murderer was out walking the streets,” Bailey said. “It’s successful. You are talking about almost once a month that they are solving cases, which is unbelievable.”
Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney Damon Lewis said investigators have been diligent in chasing down leads and gathering evidence in Spence’s case.
“We know what happened, and people need to come forward and talk to us as soon as possible,” said Lewis.
Over the course of several years, investigators have relied on old evidence and new evidence to steer them in the right direction.
“There are pieces of evidence that we are very, very interested in,” Lewis said. “Technology has changed. There are different ways to test and to look at that evidence now and I’ve worked cases in the past that just a small little piece of evidence turned out to be a turning point or something we could work with.”
Lewis said overtime there have been people developed as suspects in the case and that at this point, “we do have a very, very short list, and we are going forward from that.”
Also, with new DNA technology, technology that did not exist in 1991, they are hoping it will result in someone getting caught.
“You can be prosecuted successfully on a very, very small drop of blood,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he has been working this case for years, and that although there is no guarantee, he is confident that in the next couple of years the family will have a resolution.
“The family deserves justice, the family deserves answers,” Lewis said. “If there is any way possible that we can get those (answers), Daryl Bailey has set up the best unit that I could ever be involved in. We have access to information to other agencies that I’ve never had in the past. We will utilize each any everyone one of those and anything that pops up new to solve this case.”
Spence left behind a 5-year-old son at the time of her disappearance. She was the youngest of five siblings.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers using the 24-hour tip line at 334-215-STOP (7867). You may also use CrimeStoppers toll free number at 1-833-AL1-STOP.