Booneville, AR – Young mother Kelli Renee Rice, 25, has been missing since March 2, 2008, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the papers. There’s no widespread search for Kelli. No press coverage, no t-shirts or angel-winged photoshopped pictures circling the internet or the globe. Nobody, it seems, really cares that much what happened to Kelli Rice – except her family. Kelli’s mother, Rhonda, has asked us to feature Kelli on our site in hopes that someone – anyone – will know what has happened to her. Kelli Rice was born on August 1, 1983. A tall, slender girl with light brown hair, she’d run with the same small group of friends since grade school. She hung out with them, partied with them, did drugs with them at times. Kelli was not a saint, her family will tell you. But she was a sweet girl, and trusting – sometimes too trusting, they believe.
Kelli’s son was born two years ago, after she completed drug rehabilitation in Missouri. Now two, her baby’s father is in prison, so he has an alibi for the night Kelli went missing. Kelli had been to see him in Oak Grove, Missouri the week before she disappeared. When she got back to Arkansas, it was party time again.
The following timeline comes from the family’s own investigation of Kelli’s disappearance. At this time, nobody has been named a suspect or even a person of interest in the investigation, and the family believes that local law enforcement has simply decided not to look for Kelli. All information from here out comes from Kelli’s family and friends.
On February 29, Kelli went to a friend’s house. Sometime during that evening, her friends Beronica Terry and Terry Luther Jr. met her at the house and the three of them went to visit a man named Steven Long at his trailer near Ione. Steven Long and Kelli had an on-again, off-again relationship, and Long was reportedly upset that Kelli refused to see him exclusively.
The next day, Kelli,Steven Long and a guy named Aaron Henry went to Ft. Smith, Arkansas to sell drugs to Kelli’s cousin, Mary Foster. Mary says that she bought the drugs the evening of March 1. Then Kelli, Long and Henry left her house between 2:00 and 2:30 on the morning of March 2. The trio said they were headed back to Steven Long’s place.
One man later told deputies that he had seen Kelli Rice walking in the woods near Ione about twelve hours after the group left Mary Foster’s home. He spotted a woman who he believes may have beenKelli at about two in the afternoon of March 2. Days later, Kelli’s jacket was found nearby. There was no blood on the jacket, but there did appear to be marks on the back that looked like whoever was wearing the jacket had been dragged across the ground.
When Kelli didn’t show up to get her baby, her family called to report her missing and deputies questioned the people with whom she was last seen. Aaron Henry reportedly told the investigating officer that Kelli had “freaked out” on the way back from Mary Foster’s house. Henry allegedly said that Kelli had jumped out the window of Long’s pick-up truck and they “never saw her again”.
The problem with his story is that Kelli traditionally rode in the middle of the front seat of that truck, and that window didn’t work without using pliers to crank it. In order to jump out the window, Kelli would have had to jump over Steven Long, use the pliers to crank the window, and get out without anyone stopping her.
Beronica Terry told Kelli’s family that she gave a statement to the police saying that Steven Long had asked her to beat up Kelli. Terry Luther Jr. told the family that Steven Long had offered to pay him and Beronica to bring Kelli to Steven’s house.
And Steven Long, for his part, seems to have left the Ione area himself. Kelli’s family says that Long uses several aliases and has talked a lot, but his story changes each time. In fact, he dropped off Kelli’s purse with her family shortly after she went missing. At this point, Kelli’s mother Rhonda believes that Long and Henry murdered Kelli on the night of March 2.
Kelli’s clothes were found in March near a campfire in the woods near Ione. No other hard evidence appears to have been found. Kelli has not called or shown up for her son – actions her family says are unthinkable for her if she is still alive. The family has received phone calls stating that Kelli’s body has been found or was in a well – one area well was drained to search, but Kelli’s body was not in it. Local law enforcement officials have not commented on this case except to say that Kelli’s body has not been found and that they are treating this case as a missing persons investigation.
If you know Kelli Renee Rice or have any information about her condition or whereabouts, please call the Logan County Arkansas Sheriff’s Office at (479)963-3271.