She Went Out for a Run in 1998 and Never Came Home

'Dateline' resurfaces the case of Tera Smith
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2022 3:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – The case of a California 16-year-old who vanished after going out for a run in 1998 is back in the spotlight thanks to Dateline, which has delved into the case of Tera Smith. NBC News reports mother Marilyn told Dateline her recollection of August 22, 1998: The two had run errands together and then Marilyn dropped Tera at home in Redding before heading to Oasis Fun Center, which the family owned. Tera was supposed to follow about an hour later to work her shift. Tera decided to go for a run, despite younger sister Sierra reminding her they weren't supposed to leave the house in the early evening alone, reports SF Gate. Sierra says Tera told her she'd be back in 20 minutes. It was the last time anyone in her family saw her.

NBC News says Tera's parents were quickly alerted by a friend that Tera was possibly having a relationship with Troy Zink, her married 29-year-old Taekwondo instructor. Zink has maintained that he met Tera that night at the end of her driveway at her request, that he refused to give her the $2,000 she requested, that he did give her a ride to Old Oregon Trail to jog, and that he then went and prayed on Hang Glider Hill for five hours. Her parents say they subsequently found a letter in Tera's room she had written that indicated she planned to end her relationship with Zink.

Zink was interviewed initially, but the Record Searchlight reports he has refused to sit for subsequent interviews and has not been considered a person of interest in the case; the family has long thought he knows more than he's saying. SF Gate points out one "eyebrow-raising connection" in this story and that of Sherri Papini, who recently pleaded guilty to staging her own abduction. The girls were in back-to-back classes at Central Valley High School, and Papini was thought to have been kidnapped during a jog on Old Oregon Trail. She actually spent several weeks with an ex-boyfriend before returning home and lying to government agents about what had transpired. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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