It’s been 23 years since Vanessa Dawn Smith vanished while walking along the almond orchards of her Winton home.

Vanessa was only 15-years-old at the time of her disappearance.

Vanessa and her mother, Beverly Smith, would routinely walk along the side of an almond orchard outside of her family’s home. But on May 31, 1997, Vanessa would walk alone.

The last words Vanessa said were,“Mom, I’m going to take my walk,” according to her mother. That would be the last time her mother saw her.

Vanessa’s walking stick was discovered along the side of Mercedes Avenue in Winton shortly after she failed to return home that evening. The stick was located along Vanessa’s normal walking route and was approximately 200 yards east of her residence.

Vanessa was seen walking by herself, according to witnesses Merced Daily spoke to. The witnesses also say they were driving east of Mercedes Avenue and don’t recall any other vehicles driving west of them.

There is a strong belief that this wasn’t a stranger abduction and Vanessa most likely knew the involved, according to prior detectives.

If you have any information, please contact  Detective Victoria Bonilla at 209-385-7472 ext. 4995. She can also be reached by email at