Sheriff Arnott Re-Opens 1997 Homicide Case of 13-Year-Old Girl

By Linda Ong |

Published 04/03 2014 05:38PM

Updated 04/03 2014 06:35PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Greene County Sheriff's Office has re-opened the homicide case of 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in 1997 due to unanswered questions about her death.

Today, the loss of Suzette Martin's then-13 year old daughter, Stephanie Mahaney, still remains strong.

“We talk about her every day,” says Martin, and she has been for the past 17 years.

Mahaney was reported missing on October 15, 1997, and was found dead a month later. Her body was found in a pond near Farm Rd. 99 and Hwy 266 in Greene County with trauma to her throat.

Convicted murderer Tommy Lynn Sells was indicted in 2003 for the girl’s murder.

“As far as Sells goes, he deserves what's he's getting today,” says Martin. “I look at it like a big puzzle. It's been years and this piece is finally going to fit in for a lot of people. Not just me.”

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott has led Mahaney’s case since her disappearance.

“Since 1997, I have carried this photo with me every day,” says Arnott, holding a picture of the girl during a press conference on Thursday.

Arnott first interviewed Sells in 2000 and conducted an investigation which led to Sells’ indictment for first-degree murder.

This past week, Arnott had the chance to interview Sells one last time in Texas.

“Out of eight points in his statement, there are two points he gave different explanations of how he knew answers,” says Arnott. “I decided on Monday, on my 12 to 14 hour drive back, that I wanted to re-open the investigation into the homicide of Stephanie Mahaney.”

Martin said she supports Arnott's decision to re-open the case, but said it brings back tough memories.

“I started all over again,” says Martin. “For me, it's Oct. 15, 1997 all over again.”

Arnott says he is looking for answers and closure.

“It’s not just for me,” he says. “It’s for Stephanie, Suzette, their family. I want to be able to answer all those questions and close the book.”

Sheriff Arnott said another reason why he wanted to re-open the case was to review information before the case finally closes.

During the press conference on Thursday, Martin asked for anyone who knows anything about her daughter's disappearance or murder to contact Sheriff Arnott.

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