Shelton, Washington is a small city built off the logging industry, like many of Washington's old towns. Located along the west shore of Puget Sound near Oakland Bay, the area is surrounded by forest, offering idyllic views and peaceful scenery. But beneath those canopies, monsters were hiding. One of them took the life of 17-year-old Tracy West, and has still not been captured.

The disappearance of Tracy West

On October 20, 1988, after 4 pm, Tracy West - a high-schooler who lived in Shelton - left to go to her part-time job in Taylor Towne, a small community just south of Shelton. Tracy took a dirt trail in the trees off the highway on her red motorcycle, a 10-minute route she took frequently alone.

But Tracy didn't show up for work. Her manager alerted Tracy's parents, who called the police at 11:40 pm to report Tracy missing. Just a little over an hour later, at 12:55 am, Tracy's motorcycle was found just off the dirt trail, overturned into the bushes. Her scuffed helmet and glasses were found nearby, but no other clues on Tracy's disappearance were found.

While some believed Tracy might have been a runaway teen, her bank account went untouched, and no friends or strangers reported signs or communication from her. The case would go cold for six years.

A modern satellite view of the area between Shelton and Taylor Towne.
A modern satellite view of the area between Shelton and Taylor Towne. Credit: Google

New clues arise in 1994

On October 17, 1994, a hunter found a human skull in the woods around three miles from where Tracy's motorcycle had been found.  The skull was eventually confirmed to be that of Tracy West. Just down the ridge from where the skull was found, investigators discovered an assortment of Tracy's belongings that had been with her the day she disappeared, including a hair brush, hair spray, and a purse.

But Tracy's remains and personal effects only offered a partial answer to what had happened to her since she had gone missing. How she had gotten to that location, and who had harmed her, are questions that still remain a mystery.

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Crimes against children: Shelton's monsters

The case of a missing - and murdered - child was not new to Shelton, Washington.

In October 1971, 11-year-old Kelly Coots went missing. The boy had been on his way home. This case has little information available online or in archived newspapers, and was still unsolved in 2009 when Shelton Mason County Journal ran a report on missing children.

In December 1987, 11-year-old Monique Burnett went missing. Just a month before Tracy West's disappearance - September 1988 - her body was found near Dayton Peak. The connection wasn't lost on investigators, who checked the area where Monique's body had been found in case Tracy's disappearance had been connected.

From what we know, the two girls were not connected. However, Monique's case was horrific, and ultimately two brothers (David and Gerald Johnson) were convicted of molesting and murdering the girl. Gerald was released from McNeil Island in 2018, against the pleas of Monique's mother in court.

The Emery Brothers abandoned house in Shelton, WA
Decay With Us via YouTube

And in 2017, three elderly brothers (the "Emery brothers") were apprehended for possession of sexually explicit photographs of minors. The brothers were also found, according to KIRO, with "evidence of the sexual exploitation of young girls as well as children's worn clothing and underwear, children’s shoes, toys and movies." Later police information would show that many victims had come forward - including relatives - and that, according to police, the brothers were still actively searching for victims. No connection to Tracy West has been found.

One mysterious clue to Tracy's disappearance remains

Assuming that the lack of indication from police at this time that either the Johnson brothers or the Emery brothers were involved with Tracy West's abduction and murder, there is little left to solve her case - at least in the public eye. The police often withhold evidence from the public as a way to confirm if a suspect is connected to the case, by having information that only an involved party would know.

But there is one clue that we have heard from a third party that raises new questions about Tracy West's disappearance. In a KOMO News report about the Emery Brothers, Tracy's  uncle, Tom Randall, was interviewed about the possibility of Tracy's connection to them and the fear that she was "tortured before she died." Said Randall:

Because her hands were bound behind her back, we know that.

This information is not corroborated by any existing media reports on Tracy West's disappearance and murder. In fact, there is no confirmation that anything more than Tracy's skull was ever found. Is this information the public doesn't know, or was Randall simply misremembering?

Whatever the case, we know that Shelton has been a hunting ground for child predators, especially in that area. A telling comment from one Redditor who grew up with both Monique and Tracy says so much about the terror for those children:

byu/washingtonwriteups from discussion


Additional videos for watching

Fox 13 Seattle's featured Tracy West's case in 2016 on "Washington's Most Wanted":


Here is a video of some urban explorers visiting the property of the Emery Brothers a couple of years ago. The Emery brother's property was seven miles away from where Tracy West disappeared, in the opposite direction from where she was headed to work. (Note: this property has since been restored and put back on the market.)


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