Beth-Ellen Vinson was a 17 year old with dreams like anyone else. Being from a small town in North Carolina, Beth-Ellen had dreams of living the big city life and of becoming a professional dancer. Beth-Ellen's family remembers her as a beautiful young woman who was headstrong, determined, and outgoing, with a great sense of humor. Beth-Ellen was a lifelong dance student, having multiple awards under her belt by age 17, as well as being an accomplished beauty queen. Beth-Ellen moved from her small town to Raleigh, North Carolina in July of 1994, to chase her dreams, hoping to eventually make it to New York. Unfortunately, she quickly began working for an escort service, to help afford an apartment she was sharing with her boyfriend, a man named Rick Heath, and to save up enough money to make it to New York one day.
In the early morning hours of August 16, 1994, Beth-Ellen received a call for a job opportunity through the escort company she was working for. She quickly got ready to go and said goodbye to her boyfriend before leaving their apartment at 2:30 am. This would be the last time Beth-Ellen was seen alive.
At 5:30 am, an employee of a used car lot in Raleigh arrives for work, and finds Beth-Ellen's car, a white 1990 Mazda 626, parked in a way that was blocking the entrance to the car lot. Police were immediately called to report the car, due to the strange manner in which it had been parked, and investigators quickly begin their investigation.
When investigators looked through Beth-Ellen's car for any information, they noted that the windows were rolled down, the radio was playing, and one of Beth-Ellen's shoes was sitting on the ground on the driver's side, immediately leading them to believe that foul play may be involved. Shortly after police arrive and begin looking into Beth-Ellen's car, her boyfriend, Rick, drives up next to them to inform the police that he was out looking for Beth-Ellen because she had been gone all night and hadn't returned home.
A week would pass before Beth-Ellen's remains were found. On August 23, 1994, a local businessman was looking around the building of his workplace after employees complained about a strange smell outside of the building. It was at this time, around 12:00pm, that he would find Beth-Ellen's remains hidden in a small ditch and lying underneath pieces of flattened cardboard. Beth-Ellen had been stabbed several times.
By August 26, 1994, a $6,000 reward was announced by the North Carolina Governor's Office along with Raleigh CrimeStoppers, and by September 8, 1994, the reward amount would be raised once again to $12,000.
In October of 1994, a local Raleigh Newspaper received an anonymous letter that gave insight into what could have happened to Beth-Ellen. According to the writer of this letter, Beth-Ellen was working for people with 'unique tastes' and had allegedly tried to blackmail the members of a 'sadomasochistic' group that she was working for. The letter mentions that Beth-Ellen was earning approximately $300-$500 per job without providing sexual acts. The letter explained that Beth-Ellen had gotten tired of the pain received during these meetings and that her downfall may have been due to her attempt to blackmail former customers. None of this information has been confirmed.
On May 9, 1996, investigators released more information regarding items belonging to Beth-Ellen that remained missing and urged the public for their assistance. Specifically, three of Beth-Ellen's rings were missing, and are described as a sterling silver Gorham brand, Chantilly pattern 1970s spoon ring which was a size 6, a 14k gold ring with two amethyst stones and a garnet stone in the center, also size 6. Finally, police announced that Beth-Ellen was missing a faux silver mood ring, size 6, and her purse, which was described as "a cloth, pull-string shoulder bag purse that was burgundy, burnt-orange and brown with the figure of a cowboy woven into the side. It had a zipper on the top with a leather strap and was 6 inches wide and 4.5 inches tall". Investigators believe that the rings may have been given to someone after Beth-Ellen's murder, sometime after August of 1994.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation included Beth-Ellen's case as their featured case in their October 2006 Law Enforcement Bulletin to help bring more awareness to her case. This year will be the 28 years since Beth-Ellen was killed on August 16, 1994, and investigators continue searching for her killer. Beth-Ellen's mother tragically passed away in 2017, without any answers.
There is a $12,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for Beth-Ellen's brutal murder. If you have any information, please contact Raleigh Crimestoppers at (919) 834-HELP or the Raleigh Police Department's Major Crimes Unit at (919) 890-3555. You can also send an anonymous tip through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's online tip form.