Amanda Tusing was a 20-year-old woman living with her parents in Dell, Arkansas. She was petite and brunette, and was affectionally called “Mandy” by her loved ones. Amanda was described as “spunky” and she had the world by the tail.
Amanda was engaged to Matthew Ervin, and was already planning their wedding for June of 2001. She had ambitions of one day becoming a vet, while Matthew sold insurance after graduating from Arkansas State University. The couple were said to be inseparable.
It was around 11:30PM the 14th of June, 2000, Amanda left Matthew’s home in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to drive back to the home she shared with her parents in Dell, Arkansas.
Amanda had left in the middle of a heavy rainstorm, and she promised her fiancé that once she arrived, she would call him to tell him know she had gotten home safely.1
The journey should have taken around an hour, but by 1:30AM, Matthew still hadn’t heard from Amanda. He called up her parents, Ed and Susan Tusing, and was informed that Amanda wasn’t there and that she had never arrived.
Fear immediately swept over Matthew, Ed and Susan. Matthew and Ed grabbed their respective car keys and began driving along Ark 18. This was the road Amanda would have driven along to get from his apartment to her parents’ home and they agreed that they would meet somewhere in the middle.
Around one mile west of Monette on Ark. 18, Matthew’s headlights illuminated the dark road, and he spotted Amanda’s black 1991 Grand Am pulled over to the side. She must have broken down, he thought, but when he pulled up alongside the car, he saw that it was empty and the keys were still in the ignition.
He opened up the door, to find that Amanda’s purse was on the passenger’s seat. Even more eerie, the window wipers had stopped mid-wipe. When he turned the key in the ignition, the car started perfectly. Amanda was nowhere to be seen, and there was no sign of a struggle.2
Upon making the ominous discovery, Matthew called Ed. They agreed to meet at Monette, where they contacted authorities. Police were dispatched to the scene where Amanda’s car had been found and they fanned out in search of her.
Unfruitful in their search, volunteers came to their aid. These volunteers comprised of mostly farmers from the area and other members of the community. The search focused on the area where Amanda’s abandoned car was found, but then moved out further afield when no sign of Amanda could be found.
Matthew and Amanda’s family printed out flyers which they distributed all throughout the area in the hopes that somebody could identify Amanda. As is typical in all missing person cases, many pointed the finger at Matthew. In fact, when Matthew handed a flyer to an unknown man, he responded: “You can forget it, the boyfriend did it.” Matthew responded: “I am the boyfriend…”
On the 18th of June, Trent and Fonda Davis were returning to their home in Lester, after a trip to Jonesboro. Due to the heavy rainfall, the drive home had been a mundane one. As they slowly drove over the Twin Bridges on Arkansas 135, Fonda glanced out the window. She was looking at the flooded waterway when something caught her eye. The object was bobbing up and down in the water.3
Fonda asked Trent to slow down, and then asked him to drive back. She was certain that the object was a body. Trent told Fonda she had most likely seen a trash bag but Fonda was certain it was a body.
Trent turned around and pulled up alongside the waterway. Fonda stayed inside the car as Trent went to investigate. Seconds later, Trent shouted to Fonda to drive home and call 911. The object Fonda had seen certainly was a body, and Trent was going to stay at the scene and wait for police to arrive.
The area where the body was found was around 12 miles away from where Amanda’s car was found. Fonda had learned of Amanda’s disappearance in the media, and her first thought was that the body was Amanda. She was right. When police arrived at the scene, they recognised Amanda immediately. She was fully clothed and there were no obvious wounds that could indicate a cause of death.
Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann held a press conference during which he said: “From all indications, the body was dumped right there close.” He said that they were investigating Amanda’s death as a homicide, but her body needed to be transported to the medical examiner’s office for a cause of death to be determined.4
The missing person investigation was now transformed into a murder investigation, and the investigators were stumped.
This confusion was further compounded when the medical examiner determined in a preliminary report that Amanda had drowned to death. There was no trauma to her body, no evidence that she had put up a fight. There was a small mark of the back of her head, but it wasn’t the kind of abrasion to indicate that Amanda had been knocked out. Furthermore, there was no evidence of a sexual assault, and nothing had been stolen.
While the autopsy report said that Amanda’s cause of death was “consistent with drowning” it further read that her cause of death was “pending.”
Since Amanda was found 12 miles away from her abandoned car, investigators needed to determine how she had gotten there. Investigators strongly believed that Amanda had been the victim of foul play, and they informed the public that everybody closest to Amanda had been ruled out as suspects. They had also ruled out that Amanda had taken her own life.5
The main theory that investigators were considering was that Amanda pulled over to the side of the road when the heavy rainfall hampered visibility. While waiting for the rainstorm to pass, somebody noticed her at the side of the road and pulled up alongside her. They even considered whether somebody had pulled up behind Amanda pretending to be a police officer to pull her over.
Working on this theory, officials in both Mississippi County and Craighead County urged residents who travel alone to be wary and take extra precautions until the case is solved.
I would urge people travelling alone to be careful. It would be wise to make sure you know who is trying to stop you, or drive to a lighted area before stopping.6Mississippi County Sheriff Leroy Meadows
Eventually, the case went cold, but in 2003, there was a renewed interest in the unsolved murder case. Investigators received a tip from somebody who said that before Amanda was buried, somebody had left a note in her coffin which could lead to the killer. The new tip led to Amanda’s body being exhumed from her grave in Elmwood Cemetery. As it turned out, no such note existed.7
What truly happened to Amanda Tusing remains a mystery today. Her family still cling on to the hope that one day, the truth will reveal itself. “I think of Many every day, many times,” recollected her mother, Susan. “We just put our faith in God. I’ve always heard that he gives you what you can handle, but I’m ready for a break.”8
- The Commercial Appeal, 18 June, 2000 – “No Sign Yet of Ark. Woman”
- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 19 June, 2000 – “Search for Woman Ends as Body Found”
- Arkansa Democrat-Gazette, 20 June, 2000 – “Woman Found Dead Had World by the Tail”
- The Commercial Appeal, 19 June, 2000 – “Cops Find Missing Woman”
- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 21 June, 2000 – “Tusing Death Confounds Investigators”
- The Daily Admoreite, 26 June, 2000 – “Authorities Urge Caution for Solo Travelers”
- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9 January, 2004 – “Murder Still a Mystery”
- The Jonesboro Sun, 9 June, 2007 – “Family Still Wants Answers to Slaying”