It’s been 22 years since 15-year-old Vanessa Smith vanished after going for her regular evening walk on Mercedes Avenue in Winton.

Vanessa Smith would always go walking with her mother for their evening walk outside of their home on Winton Way along Mercedes Avenue. They both would walk along Mercedes Avenue and cut through an almond field on their left side leading back down to their house.

But on May 31, 1997, around 7:00 p.m. Vanessa Smith would go for her evening walk alone.

The last public trace of Vanessa Smith was her walking stick, which was found 200 yards east of Mercedes Avenue, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, they believe Vanessa Smith was taken by someone she most likely knew.

But now, for the first time an elderly couple from Winton, tells Merced Daily the time they saw Vanessa Smith Walking the day of her disappearance.

“I was waiting for my husband to get home from work that Saturday evening. We were both going to go to a residence where a vehicle was listed as for sale in the local paper.”

“When my husband came home we both left. We drove on Mercedes Avenue to get to our destination. While my husband was driving we both noticed a female teenager walking alone with a stick in hand, but we didn’t think anything of it. We both continued on.”

Merced Daily asked, As you were driving east of Mercedes Avenue did you ever see any other vehicles coming the opposite way?

“No…..we didn’t see any vehicles going the opposite way.”

“When we arrived at our destination we stood there for about 10-15 minutes. When we left, my husband took a different route back home.”

It’s during this route back home, both witnesses say they believed they encountered suspicious activity.

Merced Daily has already emailed a detailed description of what both witnesses saw to the Merced County Sheriffs Office.

Both witnesses tell Merced Daily they never told the Sheriffs Department because they feared some type of retaliation and just didn’t want to get involved.

The Sheriff’s Department has publicly stated that the Vanessa Smith case can be solved.

We encourage anyone with information to please contact the Merced Major Crimes Unit at 209-385-7472 or [email protected].

You can also private message Merced Daily and will send your information anonymously.








Type of Abduction: Missing, suspicious circumstances
Date Missing: May 31, 1997
Missing From: Winton, California
Sex: Female
Date of Birth: 12-26-81
Race: Caucasian
Complexion: Fair, with freckles
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Height: 5′ 6″
Weight: 130 Lbs.
Other: Birthmark from her shoulder to elbow on her right arm and a scar on left ear.