Questions remain about Redding’s teenager who disappeared in 2008

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Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the Redding Record Searchlight on August 22, 2008.

With the face of an angel, Tera Lynn Smith still continues to haunt the people of the Upstate.

10 years ago today, the former princess of Central Valley High School disappeared into the unknown.

Smith, who was 16 when she disappeared on August 22, 1998, may be gone, but she is not forgotten.

However, the memory of her fades a little with each passing year.

There are no formal observances to remember today’s bittersweet birthday, said her 48-year-old father, Terry, owner of the Oasis Fun Center in Shasta Lake.

Tera Lynn Smith.  The photo on the left is progressive up to age 23.  Age progression is provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), according to the California Attorney General's Office.

The family will remember her in her own quiet way, he said.

Smith, who has long since realized his beautiful daughter is dead, said the pain of her passing remains with him.

But it dulled over time.

“It’s not as clean as the first two years,” he said.

The frustration, however, did not subside.

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Smith, who admits to watching an inordinate number of so-called cold case murder investigations on TV, still hopes the full story will come out one day.

But he is not too optimistic. “It becomes less and less likely over time,” he said.

Shasta County Secret Witness is still offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to Tera’s whereabouts, and the Virginia-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is also continuing to ask the public to help her find her. to regain.

Tera, now believed to be 26, disappeared in the early evening after leaving her rural Tarcy Way home dressed for a jog.

Her then-martial arts instructor, Troy Zink, who is now 39, reportedly told authorities the night she disappeared that she called him at work on his cellphone and asked to meet near At her place.

Original story from the Record Searchlight Archive:Questions remain about a teenager who disappeared ten years ago

Zink, who has denied any involvement in Tera’s disappearance, told sheriff’s deputies she asked him for $2,000. When he refused, the teenager got angry and demanded to be driven to the intersection of Old Alturas Road and Old Oregon Trail.

It was there, Zink told deputies, that he dropped her off and then went alone to Hang Glider Hill, west of Shasta Dam, to pray. He claimed to have returned home to Redding around 11:30 p.m., deputies said.

Smith, along with countless others, does not believe this story.

“We know what happened,” he said.

Based on journal entries and letters found in Tera’s room after she disappeared, Smith said he believed his blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter asked Zink to meet her so she could put end an affair with him.

Zink, who pleaded guilty in the 1990s to rape and later served a four-year prison sentence for being a felon in possession of firearms, was never named a suspect by the County Sheriff’s Office. Shasta and was never charged with Tera’s disappearance due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

He also declined to be interviewed by investigators after his initial interview with sheriff’s deputies,

Chuck Zink, Troy Zink’s father, returned a phone call earlier this week from Record Searchlight about the 10th anniversary to Redding’s attorney, Jerrald Pickering II.

Pickering said he would speak with the family, but did not return the phone call and was unavailable Thursday for comment.

It’s been a frustrating 10 years for investigators at the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, who continue to investigate tricks and leads in hopes of solving the case.

Smith, who believes sheriff investigators have exhausted all leads in the case, noted he contacted detectives in June after receiving a tip that construction workers had stumbled upon what appeared to be a grave in the Shingletown area.

The point was investigated, but it was only a canvas tent and miscellaneous rubbish that had been buried at the site.

Shasta County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Hubbard said Thursday that “hundreds and hundreds” of tricks have been investigated since Tera’s disappearance and three or four tricks, or suggestions, have been followed in the past year.

But none succeeded.

“It’s a frustrating affair,” Hubbard said, adding that he was heartbroken for Tera’s parents. “If I could choose one case to solve, it’s this one.”

Despite the stalemates, Smith remains hopeful that evidence might one day be unearthed to reveal the truth.

In the 10 years since his daughter’s disappearance, his three other children, Trevor, Sierra and Kyra, have married and started families of their own, he said.

He and his wife, Marilyn, now have two grandchildren and a third is on the way.

“We’re quietly moving on with our lives,” Smith said.

But not seeing Tera grow up is a painful truth, and he admits he sometimes has trouble remembering her voice, as well as her smile.

“Memories fade,” he said. “And I hate that.

Jim Schultz was a Record Searchlight reporter for about 25 years. He retired in 2019 after covering Shasta County Courts. Previously, Schultz worked as a reporter for the Oxnard Press-Courier and the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He began his journalism career in the 1970s as a reporter for the Mount Shasta Herald and also served as editor of Weed Press.

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