Real Name: Jesslyn Ann Rich
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Frontera, California
Date: November 11, 1984
Occupation: Prison Guard
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Divorced
Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes.
Details: Thirty-five-year-old divorced mother of two Jesslyn Rich was a security guard at Frontera Penitentiary in California, one of the largest penitentiaries for women in the United States, when she vanished in 1984. Some former employees believe that she may have been silenced because of what she knew about a prison drug ring run by other guards.
She was last seen at a country-western bar with friends on November 11, 1984. Her friend Marilyn claimed that she had looked straight at the door with great fear and soon after excused herself to the bathroom. Marilyn saw a man walk behind her as she went to the bathroom. This was the last time Jesslyn was ever seen.
Her family believed that she may have been kidnapped and murdered because she would have contacted her family and friends after being gone for a certain amount of time. She also would not have left her two children behind. Jesslyn's brother Gary found several clues in her house that made her family suspect that she knew about the illegal activities, that she was receiving several threats by other guards, and may have been murdered because of that. One clue was a torn up note that she had written to a co-worker. She wrote that another guard stated that "anyone interfering with my drug activities will be taken care of".
The case went cold until three years after she vanished, when a prison inmate named Terry Lucas told prison guard Betty Thompson that she had been threatened by guards to keep quiet about what she knew. Another guard had tried to enter Terry's cell, but Thompson prevented him. Terry then told her that she knew what had happened to Jesslyn.
Terry turned up dead herself the next day. Thompson told the nurses about her death. Disturbingly, her body was ignored and left in her cell for three days. She had been brutally beaten and suffocated. Blades of grass were in her hair. Originally, the medical examiner claimed that the death was a homicide. However, after the examiner met with high-ranking prison officials, her death was ruled complications to diabetes.
Thompson was subjected to threats and intimidation for six hours after trying to get Terry's death to be investigated as a murder, and was told "what happened to Jesslyn Rich could happen to her." One of her superiors demanded her to change her report on Terry's death. Eventually, she did change the report, but typed at the bottom that the information was not true. The report was later changed and her signature was forged.
Following a threatening phone call to her office, Thompson received the same veiled threat from another prison official. After seven months of similar calls, Thompson was shot at from a moving car in front of her home in June 1988. As the police at her home were taking a report, she got a phone call saying "next time, we won't miss."
The resulting scandal covered several front page articles in the Orange County Register over insider accounts of drug-dealing and corruption. Betty Thompson and five other guards testified in State Senate hearings over the alleged offenses. When Unsolved Mysteries were taping their segment, prison officials declined to comment. A spokesman for the California Department of Officials claimed that there was no evidence for the incidents described. Jesslyn Rich remains missing and Terry Lucas' death remains unsolved.
Suspects: The Frontera Prison Guards who were suspected of being involved with the illegal activities are suspected in Jesslyn's disappearance and Terry Lucas' death.
Lt. Karmen Juarez was accused by Thompson of threatening her when she refused to change a report about Terry's death. Juarez was charged with attempting to dissuade a witness and preparing false documents. She pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of destroying evidence and was sentenced to two years' probation. Neither she nor any other guards have been charged in Jesslyn or Terry's cases.
Extra Notes: This segment originally ran on the November 4, 1992 episode.
Results: Unresolved. In June of 1992, Jesslyn's remains were reportedly identified; the dismembered remains were found in San Bernadino in 1985. Police believe that Jesslyn was murdered.
In July of 1992, the Orange County Sheriff identified Jesslyn's killer as forty-five-year-old David Daniel Ribis. He was an ex-convict who worked at the country western bar where Jesslyn was last seen alive. He had been a suspect in the case for years; according to Jesslyn's friend Marilyn, he had been hanging with them and flirting with Jesslyn throughout the night. An employee also saw someone resembling Jesslyn laying in the back seat of Ribis's car that night. Before leaving, Ribis told another witness that Jesslyn was ill and that he was going to "take care" of her. This was the last time she was seen alive.
Ribis died of a heart attack in October of 1990. However, shortly before his death, he revealed to family members that he had killed Jesslyn. In his confession, he claimed that he took Jesslyn from the saloon to his home. He then took her to a remote area in San Bernadino, shot her, dismembered her, and dumped her body. After his deathbed confession, his relatives went to the police. Other acquaintances later told police that he had confessed to the murder to them as well.
The remains found in San Bernadino were identified as Jesslyn's based on the physical description and Ribis's confession. Surprisingly, Jesslyn's daughter Leslie Grace later wrote on a forum that the remains supposedly identified as her mother's were never positively identified. Leslie claims that she gave police DNA to test against the remains. It is not known what the results revealed.
In 2009, the case was officially closed and a headstone was made for Jesslyn. However, the case has many unresolved questions, including whether or not the remains were hers and whether or not Ribis was her killer. Although investigators believe he was responsible and that the prison was not involved, her family and former co-workers believe otherwise.
- Jesslyn Rich at Unsolved.com
- Justice for Jesslyn and Terri Facebook Group
- Mother of two vanishes at Orange bar
- Missing: Few clues after disappearance
- Mystery: What Happened to Jesslyn Rich?
- Prison deaths
- Thompson: 'They don't want me to tell the truth'
- Abuse: Guard not prosecuted for sexual attacks
- To guard the guard
- Inmate slated to testify against Frontera official transferred
- Frontera prison guard placed on paid leave
- Prison Official to Stand Trial
- Ex-Frontera official gets probation
- Detectives say they've solved murder of prison guard in '84
- Detectives say they've solved guard's disappearance
- Orange Police Link Man to Woman's '84 Disappearance
- Family members are skeptical about alleged confession in woman's disappearance
- 'Mysteries' program brings tips about 1984 disappearance
- Forum Discussion on Jesslyn (includes comments from daughter Leslie)
- Jesslyn Rich at Find a Grave