RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) — A 17-year-old girl from Goldsboro tried to turn her dreams into reality and ended up murdered in North Carolina’s capital.
Beth-Ellen Vinson always wanted to make it big. She wanted to eventually move to New York and professionally dance, it was what she dreamed of.
Vinson decided to move to Raleigh in the summer of 1994 when she was 17, a small step in the right direction. Her family described her as a headstrong and determined young woman.
Vinson was already an accomplished dancer with multiple awards, in addition to being a celebrated beauty queen. However, bills affect us all and she was having a hard time making ends meet.
An escort service offered Vinson a job, one she needed pretty badly to help her boyfriend, Rick Heath, make rent. She also saw this as a way to save up for her move to the Big Apple.
On the morning of August 16, 1994, just a month after she moved to Raleigh, she answered her phone. It was a job offer from the escort service she worked with. She left her apartment at 2:30 in the morning to meet with her client. She never came home after.
A used car salesman was on his way to work on August 16, at 5:30 am. Once he got to the car lot, he noticed a peculiar sight. A white 1990 Mazda was parked haphazardly, blocking the entrance to the lot. He called the police to report the car.
Investigators arrived to find Vinson’s car abandoned at the entrance of the lot. The windows of the Mazda were rolled down and the car’s radio was still playing. A single shoe that belonged to her was found outside the car near the driver’s door. She was nowhere to be found. Investigators immediately opened a homicide case.
A week later, a Raleigh man walked outside his business after his employees told him that they smelled something strange. At 12 pm on August 23, 1994, the businessman found her body. She was placed in a small ditch, lying underneath a mountain of cardboard with multiple stab wounds.
Three days later the North Carolina Governor’s Office and Raleigh CrimeStoppers offered the public $6,000 for any information that would lead to an arrest in her’s case. On September 8, of the same year the reward was doubled to $12,000.
A month later, in October, an anonymous letter was sent to a Raleigh newspaper. It was a tip about Vinson’s case. The letter said that she had been working for some unsavory people and that she had tried to blackmail them.
According to the letter, Vinson had been making $300-$500 per job, without any sex work. The work, however, did include “sadomasochistic” acts. The letter added that Vinson was tired of being in pain from her job.
Two years later, in May, police released more information about her case. Three of her rings were missing, as was her purse. The rings are described as a sterling silver Gorham brand, Chantilly pattern 1970s spoon ring, a 14k gold ring with two amethyst stones and a garnet stone in the center, and a mood ring. All of the rings were size 6. Police think that the rings were taken after her death.
Vinson’s murderer still has not been found.
“If you have been living with this for 20 years, if you have been carrying around a burden for 20 years, it may be weighing on you, and it may be time for you to remove that weight.” said Jerry Faulk, the homicide detective that was assigned to Vinson’s case.
If you have any information, please contact Raleigh Crime Stoppers 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.