Missing persons reminders of other cases

Missing persons reminders of other cases

April 18, 2008
SWVA Today

The disappearances within a month of Justin Martin of Smyth County and Israel Smith of Wytheville and formerly of Marion have renewed awareness of two other active missing person cases in the county.

Barbara Jean Pauley Hunt went missing Jan. 17, 198,5 at the age of 25, according to records from the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office and the Smyth County News posted by the Doe Network, the International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons, online at http://www.doenetwork.org.

According to reports, Hunt’s sister last saw her walking down Marion’s Main Street in Marion the day she disappeared. Hunt was said to be crying. She was to report to jail that day and said police wanted her to give information about friends, but Hunt opposed serving as an informant.

Reports said Hunt went to the Club Cafe on Main Street and that four girls took her out of the club and that Hunt “was pretty doped up.” One of the women had a flat tire, so they borrowed a car. A couple of hours later they returned the car and Hunt was not with them. On June 9, 1995, Roger Dale Dunford of Chilhowie was charged with killing Hunt, reports said. Hunt was seeing Dunford at the time of her disappearance. However, a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case.

No height or weight or physical characteristics other than “white female” is given for Hunt. “We’ve worked on that case a lot, off and on,” said Smyth County Investigator C.C. “Chip” Shuler, who monitors the private organization’s missing persons database and provided the photo of Hunt included there. Shuler said there is no information “that I can talk about” in the Hunt case.

There’s nothing at all to be said about the case of Donald Ray Billings, according to Shuler. Billings was last seen walking away from the scene of a car wreck on Feb. 14, 1997. Billings crashed his car on Highway 16 near Hungry Mother Grocery. He told a man at the scene he was all right and did not appear to be injured, the witness told the sheriff’s office. Billings started walking down the road toward Mitchell Valley had has not been heard from since. He was 30 at the time. “I’ve sent his dental records to a lot of places,” Shuler said, drawing out the word lot for emphasis. “There’s been nothing.”

That case stands out in the sheriff’s mind. “It was a cold day, snowy, icy, came on quick,” Bradley said. “He went missing off of Route 16. That was the last we had any contact with him.”

When he disappeared Billings stood between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 8 inches and weighed 150-160 lbs. He had brown hair and brown eyes. Distinguishing characteristics include a distinctive gap between his upper front teeth, the Doe Network reported.The Doe Network requires a person to be missing for seven years for inclusion in its database, Shuler said. Not so with a sister organization, the North American Missing Persons Network, where Shuler listed Justin Martin just days after he disappeared.