Sheriff, FBI believe technology will help unravel Levitz case

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2002

[11/18/02]Technology developed since a millionaire heiress disappeared from the Vicksburg home she was remodeling seven years ago has led to encouraging developments in the criminal investigation of the case, federal and local officials said Monday.

The investigation into the case of then-62-year-old Jacqueline Levitz, widow of furniture retailer Ralph Levitz, has never stopped, said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace.

No body has been found, but the flamboyant Levitz has been declared dead and her estate settled in Florida.

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Levitz was a native of Oak Grove, La., and had lived in California and elsewhere. She was known for giving lavish parties for those in the social circles of Palm Beach, Fla., but family members said she was moving here to be closer to them and seek a quieter life. She was in the process of making over and enlarging a residence at 15 Riverwood Circle on Nov. 20, 1995, when family members phoned former Sheriff Paul Barrett because they got no answer on her telephone.

Barrett met them at the home overlooking the Mississippi River, and they found the home’s interior showing signs of a struggle and a blood-soaked mattress that had been overturned.

“In the seven years since 1995, we’ve come a long way in examining DNA and the ability to use microscopic portions of body fluids as evidence,” said Edwin Worthington, FBI special agent in charge for Mississippi.

Initially, the investigation attracted national and international attention and soon widened to include West Palm Beach, Fla., California and other places she had lived or where her family has made homes.

At Monday’s press conference Worthington, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace and Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett all said they were encouraged by recent developments, though they declined to specify those developments.

They asked that people with information in the case call the sheriff’s office at (601) 636-1761, the police department at (601) 636-2511, or the FBI’s Jackson office at (601) 948-5000.

“We have been made aware of several things that we can pursue at this point,” Pace said. “We have resubmitted several items to the crime laboratory and continue with the investigation. There have been persons reinterviewed and in fact new interviews that we have conducted recently.”

Worthington said over 13 FBI offices had been involved in the investigation.

“There are some things recently that we feel very encouraged about,” Pace said. “FBI Jackson has agents assigned full time to support the sheriff’s department and the police department.”