NBCNEWS.COM COLD CASE SPOTLIGHT FEB 14, 2016
“It’s one of those dead-end cases; just every lead has fizzled out.” – Sheriff Shuler
On Friday, February 14, 1997, Donald Ray Billings was involved in a single vehicle accident at around 5:00 pm on Route 16 near the Hungry Mother Grocery Store in Marion, Virginia.
He was driving his sisters’ car when he slid off the road. I haven’t seen any reports to the cause of the accident…(I have reached out to the Smyth County Sheriff’s OFC for comment.) Other motorists who witnessed the incident said that he appeared unharmed but they did ask Don if he needed an ambulance, but he assured them that he was alright.
He locked up his sisters’ car, put the keys in his pocket and started walking down the road towards Mitchell Valley, vanishing without a trace.
Don was a very loving, caring, and responsible person, according to his sister. I spoke with her briefly. She told me a story about Don that I’m going to share so you can read about the person he was:
“I remember one time he was in Marion and it was Christmas and no stores were open and there was a family that was broke down in town and they could not speak English, but somehow he managed to get them to go home with him and told them to stay with his girlfriend while he went back and worked on their vehicle. Luckily he was a very good mechanic, and he managed to get their vehicle fixed and they went on their way, but not without a full stomach and food to take with them.”
Don was also very close to his sister and his mom. Every Friday night he had a standing date with his sister to go bowling, and he never missed it. She knew something wasn’t right when he didn’t show up but was advised that she couldn’t report him missing until 48 hours had passed.
Two days later, she was informed that her vehicle had been involved in an accident, which was also the last confirmed sighting of her brother.
According to LE, there have been many rumors and theories that have circulated about Don’s disappearance. Was it drug dealers with a hit out on him? Was he put into the witness protection program for ratting out people that he knew were involved in manufacturing meth? Did he wander off into the woods that surrounded the roadway and die of exposure? I’ve also read that he may have hitched a ride with a truck driver at the Village Truck Stop along Interstate 81 in Atkins, Virginia.
The only thing we know for sure is that something happened to Don. He would have never been capable of putting his mother through this type of ordeal willingly.
According to LE, the woods surrounding the road he was last seen walking down has been searched. It was cold on the day he disappeared, and it was feasible that he may have sustained a minor head injury that may have caused some confusion. So they believed it was very well possible that he wandered into the forest and succumbed to the dropping temperatures over the night. However, they’ve never found anything to support that he was ever off the main road.
If you have any information regarding what may have happened to Donald Ray Billings, please contact the Smyth County Sheriff’s Ofc at 276-782-4056.