25 years ago today, 15-year-old Vanessa Dawn Smith, went missing near her home in Winton, Ca.

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 leading back down to their house. The whole walk would take no more than five minutes.

The day of Vanessa’s disappearance, May 31, 1997, Vanessa would go for her evening walk alone.

When Vanessa did not come back, her parents called authorities.

The search for Vanessa Smith would begin.

May 31, 2022- Detectives handing out flyers to truck drivers at TA Travel Center in Livingston.

The only physical evidence that was found, that’s publicly known, was Vanessa’s walking stick, which Vanessa used to ward off stray dogs, according to her mother, Beverly Smith. The walking stick was found during the search, 200 yards east of her home on Mercedes Avenue.

On May 31, 2022, Merced County Sheriff’s Detectives handed out flyers at the TA Travel Center in Livingston, hoping someone will see the flyer, and call with a tip that could solve Vanessa’s case.

According to Clint Landrum, a Merced County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant, he has been working on Vanessa’s case more than eight years, and has been keeping up with the case ever since.

“There’s somebody out there right now, 100%, that holds the key to unlocking this whole thing.” Landrum said.

Landrum says the case is close to his heart, and sometimes you run into things in law enforcement in your career that get left undone, this is one of those cases, Landrum explained.

If you have any tips, please call the Merced County Sheriff’s Department at (209) 385-7444.

Detectives asking truck drivers to display her poster on the back of their truck.


May 31, 2022- Vanessa’s flyer posted in the back of a big rig.