CHATSWORTH—The identity of who murdered a former N’West Iowa woman in Missouri continues to be a mystery a year later.
Friday, Dec. 13, marked 12 months since Melissa Ann (Renken) Peskey, a former Chatsworth resident, was shot and killed in the middle of the Show Me State.
Melissa was discovered deceased in the driver’s seat of a sport utility vehicle — with her two young children in the back seat — on a rural stretch of Interstate 70 near the small central Missouri city of Boonville.
The 40-year-old rural Hartford, SD, real estate agent was the mother of a daughter named Charlee and a son named Axton, who were 11 and 5, at the time of the shooting.
They had been traveling to South Carolina to visit friends.
From the beginning, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has investigated what happened to Melissa as a homicide.
No arrests have been made yet in the case.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control continues to investigate the death of Melissa Peskey, having developed over 185 criminal leads to date,” said highway patrol Sgt. Shawn Griggs.
Of those leads, eight remain open, including one that came about during the past month.
In addition, 50 search warrants and six subpoenas have been issued.
“It is our purpose/goal to give friends and family peace and closure on the loss of their loved one as well as ensure justice is served for this criminal act,” Griggs said.
Griggs noted the highway patrol continues to work with multiple law enforcement agencies spanning several states.
“Each lead is receiving the utmost attention in hopes it will be the lead that will solve this case or generate further leads,” he said.
As far as Krista Renken of Rock Valley, one of Melissa’s younger sisters, knows, “there isn’t anything new” to report about the investigation.
Melissa’s mysterious death has affected people across N’West Iowa, southeast South Dakota and beyond.
She was born in Akron and raised in Chatsworth.
Melissa graduated in 1996 from West Sioux High School in Hawarden.
Her family and friends have raised $10,000 as a reward being offered to anyone to who provides any information that leads to the arrest of the person who shot and killed her.
To help raise money for the reward, T-shirts were sold, a golf tournament and silent auction were held, and an online GoFundMe page was established.
At about 10:30 p.m. Dec. 13, 2018, highway patrol troopers responded to a single-vehicle traffic crash on I-70 just west of Boonville, MO, and discovered Melissa’s Ford Flex.
According to the highway patrol, Melissa and her children had been traveling east on the interstate when her SUV crashed in western Cooper County.
The vehicle traveled across I-70’s median through metal cables before crashing in the ditch alongside the interstate’s west lanes near the 96-mile marker.
Melissa’s children were found unharmed, but as the highway patrol’s investigation developed, it became apparent to law enforcement that Melissa had not died as a result of the crash.
Evidence found at the scene and an autopsy performed on Melissa in Columbia, MO, indicated that she died of a gunshot wound caused by a weapon fired from outside the SUV.
The highway patrol has not said when the gunshot occurred — whether it was fired before or after the vehicle crashed — because of the ongoing investigation.
Law enforcement also has not revealed where on her body Melissa was shot, what kind of firearm was used and whether her SUV was moving at the time the shooting occurred.
While the highway patrol considers Melissa’s death a homicide, it has not determined whether she was intentionally targeted or she was randomly attacked.
The unusual case has attracted national attention, including being featured on the “Good Morning America” and “Dateline” news programs.
“Since this is an open and ongoing investigation, law enforcement is not allowed to discuss specifics of the case,” Griggs said. “However, I can assure you the members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Division of Drug and Crime Control, want to bring this investigation to a close and are exhausting all resources.”