Rayna Rison's family: Guilty Verdict is a "Miracle"


The family of a LaPorte County teen murdered 20 years ago is reacting to the murder conviction of the man accused of killing her.

Friday, a jury found Jason Tibbs guilty in the 1993 strangulation death of 16-year-old Rayna Rison. Prosecutors said he killed her because she wouldn't date him. Tibbs was 18 at the time.

Today, WSBT 22 was the first station to sit down with Rison's family, who after 20 years have finally found justice for Rayna.

Wendy Hakes has now lived longer without her older sister, than she ever did with her. And yet, Hakes says, it is still difficult to believe Rayna is gone.

"I'm not going to lie," says Hakes, "I still think she is going to come home."

Hakes was 15 when Rayna was murdered in 1993. And now, she finally has the justice she has been waiting 21 years for.

"It is still surreal," says Hakes,

Rayna's parents, Bennie and Karen Rison call the verdict a miracle. For two decades they have wondered what happened to their daughter and why.

"It has not been easy," says Bennie Rison, "because I made her a promise the day we buried her that I will find who did this or go to my grave trying. And thank God he gave us direction and we have accomplished a miracle because there is not many 20 year old cases that get resolved."

Her father sat through the trial which included disturbing testimony at times.

"I wanted to know what happened to her," says Bennie, "I wanted to hear the witnesses. Now did all my questions get answered? No. But a big share of them did."

And now, with this verdict, justice, and perhaps some semblance of peace.

"It really hasn't changed that much. We can't hold her in our arms anymore. We can't bring her back. But knowing that he will be put away so he can't do this to some other family, is, you know, relief in that matter."

During the trial, Tibbs attorney's argued Rayna's brother in law killed her. He had previously been convicted of child molestation for having sex with Rison. Hakes says while that testimony was difficult, they anticipated it would happen.

Tibbs will be back in court on Dec 19th for sentencing.