Missing Custer woman found dead
Published: Thursday, September 19th, 2013
On Aug. 24, Meshell Will sent a text message to her sister, Amanda Dillon, telling her she was headed to Keystone and would talk to her later.
It was the last time Dillon would ever hear from her sister.
A week later, on Aug. 31, Will’s decomposed body was found just off Iron Mountain Road by a tourist who was taking pictures in that area. The body was found near mile post 54, in a wooded area between the higher and lower part of the road near one of the road’s famous “pigtail”âï¿½ï¿½bridges.
Will, 38, had just moved to Custer in April from Killeen, Texas, yearning to escape a troubled past and find happiness through small town life.
“She has always been a really wild, free spirit,”âï¿½ï¿½Dillon said. “She was very independent and did what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it.”
Dillon paid for her sister to ride a bus to Custer and start her new life. After initially living with her sister and then a brief stay in the Women Escaping A Violent Environment (W.E.A.V.E.) shelter, Will moved into Valley-Hi Apartments and got a job as a waitress at the Wrangler Restaurant.
Will was falling in love with small-town life, and Dillon said her sister was especially amazed when the Wrangler closed the morning of the first day of school to allow the employees to take their children to school.
“She was so happy with small- town life. She was impressed with the way people cared here,” she said.âï¿½ï¿½“She really loved her job and she loved the people. She wasn’t really good about staying at one job for a long time, but when I talked to her on the phone, she couldn’t say anything bad about it.”
Will was born in Wisconsin and grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with Dillon and their other sister, Melissa. When Will was a sophomore she moved back to Wisconsin with her mother, and finished high school in Harford, Wis. After high school, she went right to work, always waitressing or painting homes with her aunt, Sue.
As a child, Dillon said her sister, the middle child, was very sensitive and emotional, did well in school and loved to talk. Whenever the three sisters did something they wanted to tell their mom about, Will made sure she was the first through the door to blurt out the news.
“She was the town crier,” Dillon said.
After her sister arrived in Custer, Dillon took her to all the local tourist destinations and Will also enjoyed spending hours just enjoying nature.
“She liked nature and being in a quiet place,” Dillon said.âï¿½ï¿½“That was one side of her. The other side was always wanting to be really social, get out and meet people.”
Will started at the Wrangler Restaurant just before the summer season kicked off.
“She was a nice gal,” said Steve Blume, owner. “It’s a really sad situation.”
Donna Talley, a friend of Will, agrees.
“She was kind of shy, but she was a sweet person,” she said. “She had a lot of friends. She loved her friends and family. She will be missed.”
Talley said Will did a lot of volunteer work at the W.E.A.V.E. shelter and helped out whenever she could.
“She was a very hard worker and really loved to help in any way she could,” she said. “I miss her smile.”
While authorities investigate into the case further, Talley is concerned for others in the community.
“I think other women could be in danger until this person is arrested. Women need to lock their cars and lock their doors and be careful who they accept rides from,” she said. “I hope whoever hurt her is found and she gets justice. Most of all I want justice for her.”
Dillon said she didn’t realize her sister was missing because it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Will to disappear for weeks at a time.
“She had a free spirit. I wouldn’t hear from her for weeks,” she said.âï¿½ï¿½“I didn’t think (not hearing from her) was anything irregular.”
When Will’s body was found, she was badly decomposed, wearing a T-shirt and capri-style sweat pants. Her identification was confirmed through fingerprints. She had been reported missing four days earlier, Aug. 27, by her coworkers at the Wrangler.
Dillon said she isn’t exactly sure how her sister ended up in her final resting place, but knows she didn’t get there by herself. She said her sister did not have a driver’s license, did not have a car and hadn’t driven in eight years.
“Somebody took her there,”âï¿½ï¿½she said.âï¿½ï¿½“Iâï¿½ï¿½ don’t know why.”
Dillon said her sister’s carefree attitude often led to her picking “bad boys” to date and frequently put her in environments that would seem dangerous to the average person.
“She didn’t really have a fear mechanism. She didn’t have that thing in the back of her head that said, ‘don’t do that,’” Dillon said.âï¿½ï¿½“It was really hard listening to her in the environment and places she had been, knowing how dangerous they are. It didn’t phase her, like she was used to it.”
It is Dillon’s belief that someone put her sister where she was found on Iron Mountain Road. She said while she doesn’t want anyone innocent to be convicted, she hopes law enforcement finds out who did what to her sister.
“The police are keeping me informed,”âï¿½ï¿½she said.âï¿½ï¿½“We have a lot of unanswered questions.”
Will leaves behind two sons, Adam, 14, and Steven, 13, who live with their father in Illinois.
Authorities are not releasing many details of the ongoing investigation, which is being handled by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Custer County Sheriff’s Department and Rapid City Police Department.
Custer County Sheriff’s Department investigator Steve McMillin declined to say if the case is being treated as a homicide, saying that determination wouldn’t be made until the cause of death is determined, which could take weeks or months.
“Right now, it’s being treated as a death,” he said.
Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said it is too early in the investigation to speculate on where the case will eventually go and if any charges will be filed.
“We have a lot of things to tie up,”âï¿½ï¿½he said. “We’re in the initial stages.”
A memorial service for Will will be held this Saturday at Harbach Park at 2 p.m. Dillon said the gathering will be informal and will serve as a way for Will’s friends and family to honor her.
“She’s not going to be forgotten and just be a news story,”âï¿½ï¿½Dillon said.
Investigators encourage anyone who may have seen Will around the time she disappeared to call 394-6115 or 394-4134. Anonymous tips may also be sent by texting “RCPD” and then the information to 847411.
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