At the top of December 2019, a mystery began to unravel in Benton Harbor, Michigan. According to local reports, it was December 1 when police became involved in a case after performing a welfare check on the residence of Willie Lark Jr., 38. He lived in the same neighborhood as 30-year-old Jessica Gray, who was said to have last been at his home. A relative of Lark's reportedly called the authorities after stating they saw his door open, blood in the doorway, live ammunition inside, spent shell casings, and no one home.
Benton Charter Township Police Chief Brian Smit made a plea to the public in the hopes of the department receiving helpful tips that could aid in locating Willie Lark Jr. because they believed he may have met with foul play. Almost immediately, the family of Jessica Gray contacted investigators and told them that she, too, was at that residence and may have been the victim of a crime. Neighbors told reporters that they were shocked to learn there were two missing people in their area and one—or both—may have been injured in a shooting.
A Mother's Tireless Search For Her Daughter
Jessica's mother, Carolina Gray, spoke with local news reporters and told them she had a good relationship with her daughter. She added that this behavior is unlike Jessica and that the mother-daughter duo would stay in regular contact with one another.
“Hurt, sad, and confused, and just don’t know why,” Carolina said of her emotional state. “Just one phone call is all I’m begging for. Just one phone call just to hear your voice say, ‘I’m OK, mama... I miss her. I just want her to come home. She never hurt anybody... I’m not going to stop looking for her, and I’m not going to stop asking questions about her until we find her,” said Caroline. “So please just let her come home. If anybody knows anything. If you’ve seen anything, just call the police station.”
Willie Lark Jr. Is Found, But Unhelpful
Eight days later, on December 9, Lark was arrested in Columbus, Ohio. He reportedly fled Michigan and was nabbed in its neighboring state, not in connection with the investigation into Jessica Gray, but due to a parole violation. As of the time of his arrest, Lark was not cooperating with authorities regarding Jessica's disappearance. Police have reportedly cast wide search efforts that included drones and cadaver dogs. Jessica's loved ones have offered a reward for information and have continued to hold "Justice for Jessica" rallies.
“Somebody knows where she’s at,” said family friend Frances Davis. "Somebody needs to come forward... Jess is a bubbly, friendly, loving woman. She’s got two kids that she loves dearly. Her whole family misses her.”
After dreaming that Jessica Gray told her to search around the former Martindale School, Carolina believed she found clothing items there that belonged to her daughter.
“Blue pants with green on them that I remember her wearing, a scarf with a lot of polka dots on it,” she said. “I had Benton Township police come out, and one of the pillows we found, he took the case off, and there was a bloodstain.”
The bloodstain was confirmed to be Jessica's. The status of the investigation is unknown. Jessica remains a missing person.
Jessica Gray: What To Know
At the time of her disappearance, Jessica Gray stood 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. She had black/dark brown hair (may have been styled blonde) and brown eyes.
Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact the Benton Charter Township Police Department at (269) 926-8221, Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP, or their local authorities. The agency case number is 19-10259.
Please share this story about Jessica Gray to help reignite interest in this case and bring her home. She is our sister, and her life matters.