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Levitz

FBI joins search
for missing heiress

November 29, 1995
Web posted at: 7 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Brian Cabell

VICKSBURG, Mississippi (CNN) -- FBI agents have entered the search for missing furniture heiress Jacqueline Levitz. The 62-year-old socialite was last seen November 18 as she looked at wallpaper samples at a local hardware store. Investigators believe she was murdered.

renewing vows

She and her husband, Ralph Levitz, the wealthy co-founder of a national furniture chain, had lived in society's higher echelons. That lifestyle was very evident when they renewed their wedding vows six years ago in a lavish event in Palm Beach, Florida.

Ralph died earlier this year, leaving his wife an estimated $15 million, including their Palm Beach home, as well as another in Lacosta, California. Jacqueline this fall moved to a house in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

house

Neighbor Jody Gatling said he wondered why "someone with that kind of money and that lifestyle" would want to live in Vicksburg. But it was the area in which she grew up, and she bought the house because of its view of the Mississippi River. After deciding it had potential, she began a half-million dollar renovation and expansion of it.

It was less than a month after moving in to the mostly unfurnished house that Mrs. Levitz disappeared. A bloodstained mattress was left behind.

search

"We're conducting what we call a preliminary inquiry to the effect that there may be an interstate abduction here," said FBI agent Jim Frier. But despite early suspicions that she had been kidnapped, Warren County Sheriff Paul Barrett said the family has gotten no ransom demands and he had no leads. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)

The case doesn't appear to have been a simple robbery because almost nothing was taken; two fur coats valued at $200,000 were left behind. But authorities say it is like the usual murder case because normally murderers don't take victims' bodies with them.

Investigators say a car was seen leaving the house the night of her disappearance, but it hasn't been identified. Those who have worked on the house have been questioned, but to no avail. The sheriff said immediate family members are not suspects.

in wedding dress

"We were together the night before she disappeared," said her sister, Tiki Shivers. "One of the statements she made to me is, 'You get to a point your lifetime where you realize that material things are not the most important thing in your life.'"

Jacqueline Levitz had made that realization. She had retired from high society. She had returned to her roots in the South. But something mysterious and disturbing has happened to her hopes and her plans.

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