AURORA, Mo. -- A prosecutor said Wednesday that he dropped a first-degree murder charge against a Missouri man in the 1988 killing of a 31-year-old woman.
A grand jury indicted Lawrence Timmons, 67, in 2019 in the killing of Cynthia Smith, who was last seen on July 28, 1988, leaving a bar in Mount Vernon, a city of about 5,000 people 145 miles (233 kilometers) south of Kansas City. Her body was found 10 days later in a cemetery near Pierce City, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of Mount Vernon.
Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter said he dismissed the case because two important witnesses had died since the 2019 indictment.
Trotter also said that a new Missouri law limits certain aspects of victim testimony, which meant some of the testimony prosecutors gathered could no longer be used in a trial, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled if new evidence is found, KYTV-TV reported.
Timmon's attorney, Adam Woody, said in a news release that his office had "worked tirelessly” for two years to “provide additional evidence” to Missouri prosecutors to have the case dismissed.
“The case has been unfairly portrayed in the media and on nationwide television as ‘solved,’” Woody said. “This case makes clear, however, that the mere charging of a crime is no evidence.”
Trotter responded by saying, “The only turn in this case has been the fact that we’ve lost witnesses.”
Smith was last seen leaving Checkers bar in Mount Vernon with an unidentified man. She was reported missing by a babysitter after she didn't return to pick up her two young children.
Authorities said Timmons was questioned but wasn't charged when Smith disappeared. The case was reopened after a private investigation firm discovered new information.
When he was indicted, Trotter was in Lawrence County Jail on unrelated charges. He is still there.
Trotter said Timmons will still be prosecuted on multiple counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and forgery.