On March 16, 1989 at about 2:55 pm, 15-year-old Tonetta Carlisle seemed to vanish out of thin air while walking home from school on Ruth Avenue in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
A prominent theory circling this case is that Jeffrey Jones, a convicted rapist, may have had something to do with Tonetta’s disappearance. He took his own life just two days after Tonetta went missing.
Physical description and unique traits: Tonetta Carlisle is petite with black hair and brown eyes. Her hair was curly with shorter top and sides and longer hair in the back, at the time she disappeared. She is African American. She was approximately 5’1″ and 95 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She was reportedly last seen wearing a denim skirt, white sneakers, and a pink and white striped shirt. Her eyes were almond-shaped, and she had pierced ears. Some of her teeth have caps and fillings.
Tonetta lived at the 600 block of Hamilton Avenue, and was very close to home when she went missing. The high school she attended was City High School, and she was a freshman at the time of her disappearance.
There was a witness who came forth to state that she saw Tonetta getting abducted around 3:00 pm on Ruth Street near Hamilton Avenue. This woman observed Tonetta walking down the street and then saw several people jump out of a vehicle. This tan and yellow vehicle had a license plate number LKH920. The witness saw Tonetta being forced into the vehicle and then watched as it drove away. She and her husband both tried to chase after the vehicle and quickly alerted law enforcement of the event. Then, Tonetta’s mother filed a missing child report 8 hours later. Days went by before the correlation between the two events (Tonetta’s disappearance and the abduction) was made.
This license plate belonged to convicted rapist, Jeffrey Jones. He had been incarcerated for eight years before this event. He was released from jail about one year prior to Tonetta’s disappearance. It is suspected that Jeffrey raped another woman from his apartment complex as well.
Jeffrey Jones was located inside the van in which he committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, on March 18, 1989.
There has been no concrete proof that Tonetta was killed, but it is definitely a large possibility. Her body was never found; or, if it was found, it has not been identified. (Keep in mind that many unidentified bodies are yet to be identified, and there is a queue to identify them all. With the use of forensic genealogy, there is a possibility that Tonetta will be identified from a Jane Doe one day.) There is still a chance that Tonetta is still alive, and she could have even been sex trafficked.
In 2013, Tonetta’s mother stated that she believed that Tonetta tried to fight off Jeffrey Jones and that he may have accidentally hurt her, which would have possibly led him to bury her and then him committing suicide. She firmly believes that someone in Chattanooga knows something about Tonetta.
DNA: Tonetta’s mother, Nonie Sturdivant, has DNA in the CODIS system. Tonetta’s brother, Darrell Stewart’s DNA is also in CODIS. I am going to attempt to reach out to Tonetta’s family to see if they are also on Gedmatch.
If you have any information on this case, please contact the Chattanooga Police Department at 615-698-9752.
Charley Project (https://charleyproject.org/case/tonetta-yvette-carlisle)
Our Black Girls (https://ourblackgirls.com/2020/09/28/tonetta-carlisle-was-kidnapped-while-walking-home-from-school-in-1989/)
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Chattanooga Police Department
America’s Most Wanted
Doe Naming (www.doenaming.org)
News Channel 9
The Vanishing of Tonetta Carlisle | DARK MATTERS #44