EDITOR'S NOTE: The following information is an active, ongoing investigation. No one has been charged or convicted in connection with the disappearance of Pamela June Ray. Background information was provided by Heather Graupmann at lostnfoundblogs.com.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Anxiety nearly crippled Rhonda Bishop in the days leading up to her return to Panama City Beach on Monday.

Bishop can't quantify how many times she's driven down from Georgia to the beachside city during the past 27 years, all of them involving the disappearance of her sister, Pamela June Ray. The trips never get easier, but Bishop is determined to find her sister and bring her back.

This time her travels brought her straight to the doorstep of the Panama City Beach police station. In her arms she carried stacks of information she believed would help solve her sister's case. And she wasn't alone. By her side was the daughter of the man she believes is responsible for her sister's death — 31-year-old Jelena Hayes.

 

"Mark Riebe killed my sister, and his wife was a party to it," Bishop told investigators Monday. Bishop held up a large poster with pictures of her sister, a red Pontiac Firebird, jewelry and other potential evidence she believes is important to the case. "Something has to be done."

Pamela June Ray

It was the summer of 1992 when Pamela, a single mother of two, decided to take her family on a last-minute road trip to Panama City Beach.

Several newspapers reported Pamela was seen in the early morning hours knocking on doors to motels in the area, trying to book a room, according to information provided by lostnfoundblogs.com. A police officer on patrol said he saw Pamela standing at her car talking to an unknown white man. He watched as she locked her car with a key in hand and followed the man to a parking lot close to the pool at the Wilhite Motel.

Her children were sleeping in the back seat. 

Three hours after the officer last saw Pamela, about 8:30 a.m., a motel employee found the children in the car unattended, the blog post said. They had no idea what happened to their mother. All of her personal belongings, including her keys, purse and checks, remained in the car.

Those staying at the hotel later told investigators they heard screams for help around the same time that morning. None of them, however, called authorities to report the cries they heard.

The victim's family flew to the area to help search for her. They handed out fliers and put up signs, while also appearing on talk shows in the months following her disappearance. 

One man, who is now deceased, was reported to have been sitting on a folding chair outside the motel hours before Pamela went missing. He was accused of an attack on another female and was arrested, but he later was released. He was never charged in Pamela's disappearance, according to the post.

Another man, however, confessed to the murder of Pamela and 11 other women, which he later recanted. That man is Mark Riebe.

A confession

The first time Rhonda Bishop heard Riebe's name, it was after he confessed to killing her sister six years after she disappeared.

Riebe first pleaded no contest to the murder of a Gulf Breeze woman, Donna Callahan. Riebe's half brother, William Alex Wells, admitted to the murder while in a prison Bible study. He later said it was actually Riebe who committed the crime, while Wells drove the car and helped him bury the body, the blog said.

Wells brought investigators to Callahan's body just yards away from his childhood home. Both men are serving life in prison for her murder.

Six years later, Riebe went on to confess in detail to Pamela's murder, too. Investigators asked him to give information only the murderer would know. He said she was holding a single key in her hand. 

Although he later recanted his confession — as well as the 11 other murders, many of which are famous local cold cases — the information he gave about Pamela matches what the police officer saw that night. Family members said Pamela was known to carry a single car key.

Riebe said he and his wife were out partying in Panama City Beach in their red Firebird when they ran out of money and began looking for someone to rob, according to the blog. That's when they allegedly crossed paths with Pamela.

“I slipped the knife out of my pocket, popped it open real quick and I grabbed her," Riebe said in his recanted confession. "She made, it wasn’t what you call a real loud scream, but she made some noise. I told her to shut up and if she made another sound, I’d kill her right then and there.”

One of the former investigators on the case told blogger Heather Graupmann when Riebe found out police were investigating his half brother for the Callahan disappearance, he spent time at his family's property and then visited his brother in prison.

According to the investigator, Riebe told Wells police would never find Callahan's body, but Wells later led them to her remains. Riebe said he had to move "the other lady," further stating, "the one from Panama City with the kids."

Pamela's family believed she was the one Riebe was referencing.

 

''In my life forever now'

It was three months ago, however, when Bishop got a phone call that reignited her search for Pamela.

Graupmann contacted Bishop, hoping she could write about Pamela's disappearance. Bishop agreed.

"At that point, Heather encouraged me to start searching," Bishop said. "I said I was going to reach out to Mark (Riebe's) family and see if I could get in touch with them. That's how I got in touch with Jelena (Hayes)."

Bishop said she knew Hayes as a child. After Pamela's disappearance Bishop's father spent the rest of his life searching for his daughter and formed a friendship with Riebe's family. Riebe's children, including Hayes, even came to Bishop's hotel room to swim while investigators searched their property for bodies.

"We were just trying to be nice," Bishop said. "It wasn't any fault of theirs (Riebe's children) what happened."

Bishop and Hayes, who lives in Northwest Florida, have been working closely ever since. Hayes said she decided to take the road trip down to Panama City Beach with Bishop because she wants to help give the families of the missing women peace any way she can.

"I don't like talking about this stuff," Hayes told investigators. "It's something I try to block out in life."

Bishop praised Hayes Monday at the police station for her courage, loyalty and willingness to help solve the case.

"Heather and Jelena are both amazing ladies," Bishop said. "I appreciate Heather so much for pushing me and giving me the courage and the strength to fight. I appreciate Jelena because she is a wonderful, wonderful person. I hope this helps her as much as it helps me. Jelena will be in my life forever now."

Pamela's children are estranged from the family, according to Bishop. 

'He told us to dig holes'

In the Panama City Beach Police Station, Hayes, who would have been 4 at the time of Pamela's disappearance, said she remembers her dad abruptly moving the family to Warrensburg, Illinois, in the middle of the night in two U-Haul trucks. At the time Riebe was a suspect in the Callahan murder.

She was the only one riding with her dad in one of the trucks and said she remembers seeing trash bags in bins in the back of the truck. She was specifically told not to go near the bags.

When they arrived at the property, Hayes said Riebe made a peculiar request of his children.

"He told us to dig holes," Hayes told investigators, wearing a yellow T-shirt with a print of Pamela's picture and the word "Missing" in bold letters.

Hayes said Riebe threw the garbage bags containing what she believes were his victims' bodies into the holes.

Photos of the Warrensburg property were among the items Bishop presented to investigators Monday. The land is no longer owned by Riebe's family. Bishop told investigators they contacted the new property owners who gave permission to search the property for the bodies.

"I'm going to do that," Bishop, wearing a shirt matching Hayes', said of her plans to conduct the approved search. "I'm going to do that with y'all's help or without y'all's help. It's been 27 years. I won't give up. I'm not crazy. I'm just an old-fashioned country girl who drives a school bus. I just want to bring my sister home."

Bishop said Riebe's two other children told her years ago that they too remember the U-Haul trucks, trash bags and digging the holes. They refuse to speak to her now though, she said.

Lt. J.R. Talamantez, the lead investigator, said in response to the women's statements that he is looking into all aspects of the Pamela June Ray case, including new suspects.

"We haven't given up either," Talamantez, accompanied by Chief Drew Whitman and two other police officials, told the women. "We will look into who owns the property and try to tie it to Riebe. I have the files on my desk every day. Mark gave a confession, which he recanted. He lied about a number of different things. We're going back to the beginning."

"If we're looking at just Mark, we are doing the investigation an injustice," added Chad Lindsey, another investigator.

'What about the Firebird?'

The garbage bags in her family's backyard were not the only reason Hayes believes her father is responsible for Pamela's disappearance. 

During her investigations with Bishop, Hayes also discovered a photograph of her mother wearing what she and Bishop believe is Pamela's ring. She also said investigators never seized the Firebird her parents were driving in Panama City Beach when Pamela went missing.

"She was sporting my sister's jewelry," Bishop said to investigators Monday, pointing to the old photo of Hayes' mother wearing the ring. "And what about the Firebird? Is there a way to find it?"

Investigators told the women they have not interviewed Hayes' mother in quite some time. They said they would look into whether speaking to her again would be beneficial to solving the case.

The officials assured the women they are doing everything they can to solve the cold case. Additionally, they agreed to search for the Firebird and attempt to positively identify the ring, if video footage in old news reports can be recovered to verify their claims.

"We can do that," Talamantez said about trying to track down the car. "We can try to do that at least."

Hayes and Bishop said they've both recently tried to contact Riebe in prison, but reported he continues to insist he's innocent of the crime.

"The key to get justice is to find (Pamela)," Talamantez told them. "We need to find her and work the case backwards. I would advise you to not contact him anymore. Antagonizing him to the point of hoping for a confession isn't recommended.

"In an investigation, we need a break," he added. "While we're waiting for one we need to look into other leads."

Bishop said, even though investigators assured her they'd look into leads, she has one lingering question left unanswered — "When?"

"We're going to go forward with it no matter what," Bishop said. "I know I can't go up there and collect evidence myself. I know that. If there is something up there then by dang someone is going up and getting it. I want to know when the investigators are going to move forward."