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Missouri police say they finally know who killed woman in 1990. He died 3 years ago

Kansas City Star
Southwest Missouri detectives working the 1990 murder of Shauna Beth Garber say the man they believe raped and killed her died in a traffic crash nearly three years ago.

Talfey Reeves, in his late 20s at the time, picked up Garber — whose name wasn’t know for more than 30 years after her death — in an area along Missouri State Highway 59, about six miles west of Pineville, the sheriff’s office said in a news release Thursday.

“Through statements, sources and a witness we are confident that we now know what happened,” the release said. “… Reeves bound her wrists and feet ‘hog tying’ her, and transported her to an abandoned farmhouse where it is believed that he sexually assaulted her and overdosed her with drugs.

“… Had Reeves still been alive today, charges of First Degree Murder would have been requested from the McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Maleia Cheney.”

The Pineville man, who had a lengthy criminal history, died Nov. 15, 2021 in a traffic crash. Media reports say he attempted to make a U-turn on a scooter and traveled into the path of a car.

The details of Garber’s death that were revealed Thursday — in the release and a scheduled news conference held in McDonald County — give the first look at what law enforcement have discovered since 2008 when Detective Lorie Howard began working the cold case. Soon after, Detective Rhonda Wise joined her in the search.

For the past 15 years, Garber has only been known as “Grace Doe,” a name Howard gave her after a friend told her that it may be only by the grace of God that she would learn who the woman was and who killed her.

The two detectives said they never stopped searching for answers.

“This wasn’t solved sitting by a computer,” Wise said.

It took many years of knocking on doors, the pair said, following leads that fizzled and ruling out possible suspects, including serial killers Larry Hall and Dennis Rader, known as BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill).

“We like to say it took sitting with evil to find Grace,” Howard said.

Added Wise: “There is no truer statement than that right there, because that’s literally what we did.”

Garber’s body was found on Dec. 2, 1990, about two months after detectives believe she was killed.

A husband and wife were taking an after-church Sunday walk along Oscar Talley Road in McDonald County and stopped to pick up trash. That’s when the husband saw a skull near an abandoned house. Animals had separated it from a woman’s skeleton.

The couple called the sheriff’s department.

The woman’s body was bound with several materials, including a phone cord, nylon rope and a clothesline. Her hands were bound behind her back and tied to one foot. She wore a light-colored T-shirt, size 5 or 7 Lee jeans, white tennis shoes and a jean jacket — but no undergarments.

In life, she stood between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 4 inches. Authorities decided she was probably 20 to 30 years old.

Three years ago, in March 2021, DNA testing allowed authorities to identify her and provide critical answers for Garber’s siblings who had been searching decades for her. They lost track of each other when they were placed in Kansas foster care as young children.

In 1973, family and authorities confirm, the children’s mother poured lighter fluid on Shauna Beth and lit her on fire. She was hospitalized and faced many surgeries through her childhood, her family later discovered.

It was also determined that Shauna Beth was adopted as a child, but that failed and she was placed back in the system, police said. Her adoptive name was Shauna Robin Harvey.

After learning in March 2021 that their sister was ‘Grace Doe,’ siblings then hoped detectives would find out who killed her.

As they worked to do that, one question nagged at Howard and Wise. Why was “Grace” in McDonald County. They say they now know that answer.

“It was determined through a statement made by her case worker that once Shauna aged out (of foster care), she went to the Vinita/Claremore, Oklahoma area to find family,” Thursday’s news release said. “Detectives were made aware that she was living in the area and being transported to and from work via a work program.

“It is believed that this is what brought her to McDonald County.”

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