Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Carolyn killaby

Carolyn Killaby

Real Name: Carolyn Ruth Killaby
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Orchards, Washington
Date: November 11, 1995


Occupation: Medical Technician at Portland Military Induction Center
Date of birth: October 2, 1961
Height: 5'6"
Weight: 110 pounds
Characteristics: White female with brown hair and blue eyes. She has a scar on her left forearm and pierced ears.


Details: On November 11, 1995, Carolyn Killaby's husband, Dan, left their home in Vancouver, Washington. While they have been described as "like newlyweds," there had been some marital strife and Carolyn had discussed the possibility of a divorce with friends. There had had an argument recently and planned to make up for it with a romantic evening together at home. As Dan was leaving work, his brother invited him over and they ended up drinking in a local tavern late into the night instead. Neither contacted Carolyn until 1am, when Dan left a message on their home phone, informing her that he was staying at his brother's house for the night. When he returned the next day, she was gone, and the message had not been played. He assumed that she was deliberately unreachable as payback for the night before but began to worry by nightfall. When she didn't show up at work the next morning at 6am, he and his brother drove around Vancouver searching for her.
On November 13, Dan found Carolyn's car in the parking lot of Omar's Steak House and Lounge, a local bar in in Orchards. The establishment was notorious for drug deals, earning it the nickname "Sno-mar's". The car was a 1991 Toyota Camry and had no signs of forced entry; her purse was missing and there was a handwritten note saying that she wanted to fly from Portland to Los Angeles. Dan stated that it wasn't like her to leave without warning. Her family also said she didn't have a habit of heavy drinking.
Omar's was a popular local bar. The bartender and witnesses told detectives that they had seen Carolyn on the night she disappeared; she sat alone at a table, appeared to have been crying, danced occasionally, and was very inebriated. A regular named Dennis had been watching her all night long, commenting to the bouncer that she would meet with "trouble" before the night was out. At around 11:30pm [another source says 10:45], he approached her; a witness said that he tried to make a move on her, but she was too drunk to realize what was happening. She left the bar with him, escorted by him into his truck, and was never seen or heard from again: her body has never been found.
Just before midnight on the night Carolyn disappeared, two people had called 911 after hearing a woman's cries for help coming from a nearby field in Five Corners. Dennis was later seen in a Four Corners convenience store at 1:30am wearing a blood-stained shirt.
Dustin Johnson was living with his grandparents in the same house as his uncle, Dennis Smith, who was on parole for the murder of Dustin's mother, Patricia, and had a criminal record dating from when he was just nine years old. In 1992, the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board had written, "It is very clear this man cannot, under any circumstances, consume alcohol or drugs, and if he does the public safety is clearly at risk," but he had recently been discharged from the drug testing program as he had tested negative for six months.
While Dustin's grandparents believed that Dennis was innocent in Patricia's death, he believed differently. Upon hearing of this case, and how a man named Dennis had escorted Carolyn into his truck, Dustin called Dan to tell him his suspicions. Only when Dan asked detectives did they inform him that Dennis, who Carolyn was with when she disappeared, was a convicted murderer.
He had stated that, as Carolyn was drunk, he was in the parking lot helping her to her car when a stranger assaulted them, yelling and calling her a name. He took her with him and then left in his own car. Dennis did not call the police or try to get her any help.
Smith was taken in for questioning on November 14 after witnesses claimed that they had seen him escort Carolyn into his truck, and his past made him highly suspect. His story had changed. He now claimed to have had consensual sex with her in his truck in the parking lot for 45 minutes, but that a man had come across them, broken into the truck, and threatened them - by swearing at Carolyn and hitting Dennis with a stick - before dragging Carolyn out by her hair and abducting her. He explained the blood on his (now missing) shirt as being his own. He later identified Dan as the man.
Police were skeptical of Dennis' story for a number of reasons, not least because of the suspected evidence tampering. When authorities looked at his truck, they found a giant hole burned into the passenger seat, which he explained as being caused by a cigarette. The upholstery and carpeting had been completely removed and the passenger seat cover was missing. Witnesses would later testify that he had asked them how to destroy DNA evidence.
Detectives believed that Carolyn was raped and killed by Dennis in his truck and that his story was an attempt to explain any semen and to cover up his role in her rape and murder. However, as they hadn't managed to prove that she was dead, they did not have enough evidence yet to keep him in custody and he was let go.
Blood was found on the steering column of Dennis' truck and on his wristwatch band. This was later confirmed as Carolyn's by matching mitochondrial DNA. However, when detectives did have enough evidence to charge Dennis with murder, he had vanished; on November 20, he saw police officers waiting in the hall outside his parole officer's office and fled.
Suspects: Dennis Smith
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the April 18, 1997 episode.
  • It was also documented on Forensic Files, which explicitly references the involvement of Unsolved Mysteries in Smith's capture.

Results: Unresolved. Dennis was watching the broadcast with two people he had met while he was under the alias David Sanborn and was arrested by the New Smyrna Beach Police in Florida after a traffic stop on February 4, 1997 following a tip-off. During questioning, he tried to escape with police pursuing and capturing him after a violent struggle. In the scuffle, he reached for an officer's gun and was shot in the neck by another officer. After being revived twice, he survived and went to trial, which became the first trial in Washington to use mitochondrial DNA evidence.
In May 1998, Dennis was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment with no hope of parole. The following September, evidence that he violated 7 conditions of his parole was presented, and he received an additional ninety-nine years for parole violation. He appealed his life sentence, and in 2001, on the logic that as Carolyn's body had not been found, it was impossible to prove that she had been raped and murdered. His sentence was changed from life imprisonment to 70 years.
In May 2002, Dennis pointed out a logging road in the rugged terrain of Larch Mountain in central-eastern Clark County to authorities where he had allegedly dumped Carolyn's body. However, despite numerous searches, it has not been found. In November 2004, he committed suicide in his cell at the Washington State Penitentiary by hanging himself with a bedsheet attached to an air vent. He was 42. His mother has stated that she does not believe him to be guilty.
So far, Carolyn's body has never been found. Her sister, Susan Sheppard, had said that they would keep searching and that she didn't want Dennis to decide her final resting place, but with his suicide, her family abandoned the hope of being able to finally bury Carolyn's body. She has a memorial marker at Lincoln Memorial Park on Mount Scott in Portland, remembered as a responsible and honored medical technician and a loving mother and wife. Susan recalls her as being vibrant and fun-loving for painting her nails orange with black cats for her last Halloween and for driving away from one of her last visits with her daughters, Gina and Jenny, singing along happily to the car radio.