LaPorte man arrested for murder in cold case of missing teen Rayna Rison

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A case that had gone cold took a different turn Thursday night.

Michiana may finally who know what happened to Rayna Rison. A man believed to be obsessed with her as a middle school sweetheart allegedly strangled her twenty years ago.

Friday Jason Tibbs, 38, was arraigned and charged with murder in LaPorte County for the death of Rayna Rison.

The 16-year-old disappeared after working at the Pine Lake Animal Hospital twenty years ago.

State Police originally listed him as a suspect. According to the probable cause affidavit his class ring was found in her car the night she disappeared. Rison’s boyfriend says he didn’t know the two had been in contact.

Plus the documents show Jason Tibbs admitted he had known Rayna since middle school and were boyfriend and girlfriend. He also admitted to constantly sending her love letters, stating his eternal love.

For Rison’s parents the news of the arrest brings mixed emotions. They know an arrest will bring a trial full of memories of their daughter.

Father Ben Rison says, “They (the police) said they had good news. They made an arrest and thank god cause it's been twenty years. That's what we've wondered and now hopefully we can get some kind of answers.”

Although her body was found months later in a pond near Range Road in the LaPorte county, there no answers about who did it.

In fact a family member, Ray McCarty, was charged but not convicted as suspect at one time.

Mother Karen Rison says, “We want to see this through, in our hearts we knew it wasn't our son-in-law anyhow.”

It wasn't until five years ago police were tipped off by a prison inmate.

“What he saw was two men with a young lady in the back of a car,” explains prosecuting attorney Christopher Fronk.

The inmate, Rickey Hammons, told police the other man in the car was Eric Freeman.

Freeman agreed to give a statement with immunity this year leading police to Tibbs.

In Freeman’s statement he says that Tibbs killed Rayna by strangling her and dumping her body in a pond.

Fronk says that in the probable cause it reveals the motive. “There was a prior relationship between the defendant and Miss Rison and the probable cause lay outs that it was a situation…. the statement I believe in the probable cause was is ‘if I can't have her nobody else can.”

For the parents the statement is sadly so true. Karen and Ben Rison believe they will never find closure since they will never be able to hold their daughter in their arms again.

“Hold her, give her a hug or hear that laugh,” says Ben.

Karen remembers, “She had a special laugh… made everybody feel good that was around her when she laughed.”

The first man to come forward with a statement, Hammons, says he was hiding out in a pole barn when he saw two men drive up in a car.

He saw a body wrapped in a blanket and also heard the two men messing around with shovels. His statement was enough to arrest Tibbs though.

It wasn’t until the accomplice, Eric Freeman agreed to speak that an arrest was made. He was in the car the night Rayna was murdered.

He was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.