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It’s been 6 years, and still no word on Levitz’s disappearance

[11/20/01]Six years ago this morning, the call came in to the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. Furniture store heiress Jacqueline Levitz was missing from the home overlooking the Mississippi River she was having remodeled as part of her move to Vicksburg.

So far, not one solid clue has panned out, and Levitz, although officially declared dead by a Florida court, is still listed as a missing person here.

Sheriff Martin Pace was a deputy in 1995 to former Sheriff Paul Barrett. Both responded when members of Levitz’s family reported they had found the door of her rambling home off Warrenton Road open. Inside, investigators found evidence of a struggle broken fingernails on the floor, blood on the floor and a mattress that had been flipped over to hide the blood on its surface but no sign of the blonde, 62-year-old woman.

In the following days and weeks, officers from his department combed the area and interviewed residents without result. Since then, Pace said, leads have been followed as soon as they have appeared. Two main theories emerged. One was that she had surprised burglars who panicked and killed her although nothing appeared to have been stolen from the home. Another was that her death was planned due to someone’s lust for her reputed wealth.

Relatives of Levitz, widow of Ralph Levitz who owned a national chain of furniture stores, also tried their own avenues to find out what happened. Private investigators were hired. A psychic was consulted. One national TV program after another featured the case of the vivacious Florida socialite who just disappeared. Writers from newspapers and magazines also tried to sort through scant clues.

In February, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Gary Vonhof declared Levitz dead and named her sister, Tiki Shivers, and a son from a previous marriage, Walter W. Bolton III, as representatives of her estate.

Levitz, who was born and grew up in Louisiana, was moving to Vicksburg to be near Shivers, who lives in Tallulah, and other members of her family from the Oak Grove area.

Pace said the Florida case was a civil action and had no effect on the search for what happened to Levitz, but that the criminal investigation was continuing.

In August, he said, the file was given to Jay McKenzie, chief of detectives, to rework from the beginning.

“I did this for two reasons,” Pace said. “First, I have total confidence in McKenzie’s investigatory skills. Second, he was not on the department when this happened and maybe he will be able to take some fresh approach.”

Also, Pace said, some trace evidence, which he declined to identify, has been resubmitted to the Mississippi Crime Lab. He said techniques used at the lab are more advanced now and may yield some results not previously possible.