Who killed Melissa Peskey?

Missouri authorities continue to track down leads in case of murdered South Dakota mother
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Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 8:30 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - 15 months before the pandemic started, a Sioux Falls area mother was shot and killed while driving on Interstate 70 in Missouri. Melissa Peskey was on a trip with her two kids at the time.

The investigation to find her killer faded from the public consciousness as we all focused on washing our hands, wearing masks and social distancing. But now that the pandemic has eased we want to know the status of that investigation and whether any progress has been made in finding out; who killed Mellissa Peskey?

Mile marker 96 on Interstate 70 in eastern Missouri. According to the state’s Department of Transportation, more than 20,000 cars pass through here every 24 hours. You’d think any danger here would come from speeding cars and semis. Not someone with a gun and the intent to use it.

“December 13th, 2018....Melissa Peskey was eastbound on I-70 around the 96 mile marker.” Corporal Kyle Green is with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “She was struck by gunfire. Her vehicle went off into the median and crashed. She had two children with her.”

Melissa Peskey was a Sioux Falls area realtor. On that December night in 2018 she was on the road with her two kids in the midst of visiting family and friends before the holidays.

For years, investigators have remained tight-lipped on if they believe someone in another car shot and killed Peskey...or if perhaps someone was waiting along the tree lined side of the interstate and took aim from there.

“That’s all part of the investigation...unfortunately I can’t answer that.” said Corporal Green.

Corporal Green played his cards close to the vest when we asked him.

But more than two years ago, those working on this case did give us a piece of information about what they believed about whoever it was that had the gun...wherever they fired from.

In early 2019 Missouri investigators told Dakota News Now that the shooting death of Melissa Peskey here on Interstate 70 was no accident. That whoever pointed a gun at her on that December night and pulled the trigger intended to do so.

Who wanted to kill Melissa Peskey? And why?

“It definitely is surreal. It’s something you see on TV. You watch a show about. It’s not someone you know.” said Janelle Van Riesen.

Sioux Falls is, give or take, 465 miles from where Melissa Peskey was murdered.

“It still seems hard to believe a lot of days that somebody I love so dearly..that this happened to her.” Van Riesen said.

Janelle Van Riesen was close friends with Melissa Peskey. Both Janelle and Melissa had premature babies. A terrifying time that bonded these two moms together.

“She was just my go-to person for so many things and its hard not having that anymore.” Van Riesen said.

Janelle has memories of her friend, pictures of her friend and slow-burning anger for her friend. In Janelle’s mind....how dare someone shoot a mom in a car with her two kids...and leave her to die in an interstate ditch.

“It’s hard to have that closure knowing that the person or persons who did it is still out there living their life when my life and the life of everyone who knew and loved her has been changed forever.” Van Riesen told us.

So can there be closure? Did the pandemic in any way throw off any progress that could be made in solving the mystery of Melissa Peskey’s murder?

“It’s an active investigation. Since the occurrence, we’ve had over 200 leads in the case. We’ve followed up on those leads.” said Corporal Green.

Corporal Green says the investigation has been active this entire time. He also says there have been no arrests. When I asked him if the leads they’ve received would be considered quality leads...he says that information is protected because the investigation is ongoing.

The closest community to the scene of Melissa Peskey’s murder is Boonville, Missouri; known historically as the site of one of the earliest battles of the Civil War.

It’s a frequent stop for travelers on I-70 like Turk Hampson who was traveling back to Pennsylvania after visiting family in Colorado.

“There’s a few aggressive guys but you just kind of get away from them,” said Hampson.

Hampson tells me he travels I-70 quite a bit and has dealt with some low-level road rage but nothing involving a gun or an immediate threat to his safety.

“I’ve never had any trouble. That’s shocking to me.” Hampson said.

Shocking to Turk while highlighting another point about the Peskey investigation: a check with the Missouri State Highway Patrol shows nothing like this had happened before Peskey’s murder....and nothing like it has happened since she died more than two and a half years ago. The one and only case of a driver being shot and killed on this stretch of interstate.....is Melissa Peskey.

“Somebody was killed in this situation. So it doesn’t get any more important than that. We would like to help bring closure to the family.” said Trooper Green.

One would hope that with an unusual and unsolved murder in this part of the state....that there would be greater awareness.

But in Boonville, we didn’t find any signs with Melissa Peskey’s picture asking for help in solving this case.

As the nearest rest stop to the scene of the shooting....roughly eight miles away....it’s a similar story.

And that is Janelle Van Riesen’s biggest fear; that with the passage of time people will forget about her friend.....forget her smile and her good heart...and forget that she was murdered for a reason no one understands.

“Those of us who knew her and loved her I don’t think we’ll ever obviously forget her. I does worry me a little bit that we’re going on almost three years now and the case is still unsolved. I don’t want people to forget. I want a conclusion to this story.” said Van Reisen.

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