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Fort Smith murder unsolved after 42 years, family still has hope

In 1979, Lois Ensey was abducted while working at J's Night Owl Grocery off Highway 271 in Fort Smith. It was only her second night on the job and first night alone.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — A family is still looking for answers after a Sebastian County woman’s murder case remains unsolved 42-years later.  

“She’s waited 42 years for answers. It’s time she gets answers,” Patti Rush, president of REVAMP in Fort Smith, said while referring to the daughter of the missing woman. 

In July of 1979, Lois Ensey was abducted while working at J's Night Owl Grocery off Highway 271 in Fort Smith. According to private investigators, it was her second night on the job and her first time working solo.  

Captain Philip Pevehouse with the Sebastian Co. Sheriff’s Office says customers begin making calls to the Fort Smith Police Department about the store not having a cashier. “There was no one in the store, and there should have been,” said Pevehouse.

The Fort Smith Police Department investigated her disappearance as a missing person case until they found her body days later off Highway 71 and Treece Road. She suffered a gunshot wound to her head.  

"It took them eight days to find her body. When they find her body, she had been exposed to extreme temperatures,” Rush said.

Making it tougher for investigators to gather evidence. Lois Ensey left behind a husband and two daughters ages two and four. Her daughters are now 44 and 46.  

“We were very young. So, we grew up without her basically our whole lives,” said Ensey’s youngest daughter Nikki Ensey. She says her mother’s abduction and murder affected the entire family. “We were robbed of her wisdom and just her life in general.” 

In 1979, the Fort Smith Police Department and the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office joined together to work on the case. Both tried to interview witnesses, but they could only speak with certain people.

“The ones they had for checks, they were able to backtrack those people and talk to them about ‘what did you see?’”, said Pevehouse

They also tried search warrants and subpoenas for information but had no luck. 

“When a crime happens, and you don’t know who the other party is. And even the victim and the victim’s loved ones don’t know who the other party is...we normally draw these dead ends,” Pevehouse said.

Because of the lack of leads, her murder is now considered to be a cold case. 

However, they still have hope. Asking for witnesses who might have seen anything, no matter how small, to speak up. 

“If they can come forward anonymously, they could contact Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office,” Rush said.

“I would like to see if they could maybe come for now. And give us some information about what they actually told the police department back there in 1979,” daughter Nikki Ensey told 5NEWS. 

Both Rush and Ensey believe police can solve the case. 

As of now, the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office says they haven’t received any new leads on this case in quite a long while, but if they do, they will immediately investigate. 

If you have any information, you can call the River Valley crime stoppers at (479)-78-CRIME. Your anonymous call could lead to a $1,000 reward. 

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