LAPORTE | Police on Friday went to the door of Ben and Karen Rison to inform them an arrest was made in the murder of their 16-year-old daughter, Rayna, more than 20 years ago.
Karen Rison said she was overcome with relief, but the pain of her loss always will be there.
"I don't believe there will ever be closure because nothing can bring her back," said Karen Rison, who thanked the police for letting her family know before news of the arrest went public.
"We were very appreciative of that," she said.
Jason Tibbs, 38, was arraigned Friday in LaPorte Circuit Court on a murder charge in a case once was featured on the TV show "America's Most Wanted."
According to court documents, Tibbs and Rayna Rison once dated and remained good friends up until her death on March 26, 1993.
LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi said the arrest stems from Indiana State Police Sgt. Al Williamson and LaPorte Police Detective Brett Airy giving the case a fresh look about five years ago.
According to court documents, the first major break came when Rickey Hammons, while housed at the Wabash Correctional Facility in 2008, called investigators with information about the case. Hammons said he was 14 and hiding in a pole barn when Tibbs and Eric Freeman drove inside the building.
He said the trunk lid on the car they were in opened and he saw a body covered by a cloth or blanket with the face exposed. Hammons said he didn't realize it was Rayna Rison until he started seeing pictures of her in stories about her disappearance and death in the newspaper.
Authorities then contacted Freeman, who less than two months ago admitted he was with Tibbs when Tibbs strangled her, court documents revealed.
Rison, about 6 p.m. the night of her death, had just finished her shift at the Pine Lake Animal Hospital when he and Tibbs showed up in the parking lot.
Tibbs and Rison got into an argument over his desire to get back together. Rison got into a car with Tibbs and Freeman and they drove to a location on Fail Road, just north of the city.
Freeman told investigators that Rison and Tibbs got out of the car and kept arguing and then started hitting each other when he saw Tibbs strangle her, according to court documents.
Freeman told investigators he and Tibbs drove to the pole barn, where they didn't know Hammons was hiding. Hammons told investigators he stayed out of view because he was about to smoke marijuana and didn't want to get into trouble, according to court records.
The body then was disposed of in a pond along Range Road, where it was found badly decomposed a month later.
Szilagyi said Freeman, despite keeping his knowledge about the case a secret for all of these years, will not be charged because he was given immunity from prosecution for his recent testimony.
According to court documents, Tibbs was a person of interest early in the investigation after his ring was found in Rison's car. There also were letters from Tibbs to Rison seized from her bedroom that stated he would "go to almost any extreme" to be her boyfriend again.
In 1998, police arrested Rison's brother-in-law, Ray McCarty, for the murder but charges were dropped several months later when prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence to link him to Rison's death.