Rhonda Fortney’s murder still unsolved decades later

Forty-seven years ago, a young woman was fatally shot in front of her home on Orange Avenue.

Yuma Police Department Officer Joe Franklin said, “She was murdered on November 4th, 1969.”

It was about 9:15 p.m. on a cool November evening, 20-year-old Rhonda Fortney, an Arizona Western College student was standing in front of her home.

Franklin said, “She was shot, they found her in the 100 block of Orange Avenue at her apartment.”

Years later, police don’t know who killed Fortney.

Franklin said, “From what we have gathered over the years, she had no known enemies or anything like that.”

Witnesses say a man was seen running from the area.

Franklin said, “Police have no DNA evidence, just a description.”

The suspect was described as a black man, 25-30 years old, 5 feet 11 inches – 6 feet 2 inches tall, wearing a yellow jacket or shirt and gold tapered pants. The suspect was seen leaving in a dark passenger car possibly ’66 or ’69 Pontiac.

Franklin said, “It’s one of our very first cold cases that we have it’s an open case but it’s inactive at this time.”

If the suspect is still living, he would be around 70 years old.

Franklin said, “A case like this is a little more difficult for us to solve, some of the other cases, they have DNA, we don’t have that type of evidence.”

YPD doesn’t know what type of firearm was used to shoot Fortney.

Franklin said, “There is no shell casings, which would lead detectives to believe he used a revolver.”

Franklin says they strive to bring closure to the families who have lost a loved one, “It’s not always possible but we never stop trying.”

If you know anything about what happened on that November night, police say to please come forward.

Franklin said, “The chances of it solved are always going to be very slim, length of time in the case and the lack of evidence. Does that mean we ever stop? No, there could be that one witness that was too scared to talk who comes forward and is a break in the case.”

When Fortney died Franklin said Yuma Police asked the public for help in locating a suspect.

Franklin said, “With the age of the case, the suspect is very old, possibly deceased. There’s a lot that has happened over the years that have actually diminished the chance of solving the case”

Yuma County had an estimated population of around 50,000 people in 1969.

Franklin said, “Yuma was a much smaller town. There were probably five officers working at YPD.”

Even though the case is 47 years old, Yuma Police would still like to get some answers.

Franklin said, “Any evidence witness statements stays with the case if we get a DNA match or a witness comes forward 40 years later and says I saw what happened, we will have all that information there so our detectives can get to it as quickly as possible.”

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