Name: Michele Whitaker
Last Seen: August 16, 2002
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina
Status: Found alive in 2008
Disappeared: Season 1 Episode 4 “The Last Truck Stop”
Michele “Shelli” Whitaker was last seen alive on August 16, 2002 in Spartanburg, South Carolina at a Truck Stops of America off I-85. The friend who dropper her off at the truck stop was questioned by police, and after passing a polygraph he was ruled out as a suspect.
A month later one of Whitaker’s co-workers went missing.
In September of 2002, 21 year old Heather Sellers, who had worked with Whitaker at the Waffle House, was reported missing. Police immediately focused on her boyfriend Jonathan Vick, who they already suspect is responsible for the 1995 unsolved rape and murder of a local hairdresser named Dana Satterfield.
When police discovered the link between Vick and Whitaker her missing person’s case turned into a homicide investigation.
Investigators were unable to tie Vick to Whitaker or Sellers’ disappearance, but they were able to get a conviction in the Dana Satterfield case. In 2006 he was found guilty in the 1995 murder of Dana Satterfield.
On October 13, 2005 an anonymous letter arrived at the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. The letter stated that Michele Whitaker had been murdered, and that her body was buried near a pond in Landrum, South Carolina. Police conducted a search using cadaver dogs, but were unable to find anything.
Michele’s case went cold, and it wasn’t until six years after her disappearance that a tip came in that changed everything.
In the summer of 2008 a woman was watching an episode of Forensic Files that featured the murder conviction of Jonathan Vick. The program showed a photo of Michele Whitaker, who police believed had been murdered by Vick.
The woman was shocked. That photo wasn’t of a woman who had been murdered by Vick, it was a photo of her neighbor. She called the police to let them know Whitaker was living in Oregon.
In August of 2008 Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright announced that Michele Whitaker had been found alive and well in Oregon. He did not release Whitaker’s current location or reason why she left the area out of concerns for her privacy. Wright said it didn’t appear Whitaker knew her disappearance had became the subject of a homicide investigation.
Michele Whitaker contacted her family a short time later, and attended her sister’s wedding. Michele told family members she disappeared because she wanted to start a new life.
Resources & Further Information
Mystery of Missing Woman Is Over – Go Upstate
Area Woman Missing and Presumed Dead Found Alive – Go Upstate
The Last Truck Stop – Investigation Discovery
A Disappearance in South Carolina – Centre Daily Times
ID’s “Gone” Follows Missing Spartanburg Woman Found Alive – TV Crime Sky
Michele Whitaker – Unsolved Mysteries Wiki