Man pleads not guilty in 1976 murder of art student

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Lawrenceville man charged with the 1976 killing of a Columbia, Mo., art student pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges Monday.

According to reports, 65-year-old Johnny Wright and his attorney, Cleveland Tyson of St. Louis, entered the plea in a Boone County (Mo.) courtroom a day after Wright was indicted.

Investigators believe Wright, then 32, killed 23-year-old Becky Doisy, a waitress, fiction writer and on-and-off student at the University of Missouri.

She disappeared during the summer of 1976 and her body was never found.

Wright, then a part-time Columbia Public Works Department employee, was a regular at the steakhouse where Doisy worked, reports said, and would "pester" her for dates.

On Aug. 5, 1976, Doisy reportedly agreed to meet with Wright at her apartment.

Witnesses said they saw the couple drinking together at a local tavern that day, the last time Doisy was seen or heard from.

Authorities waited nine years to file charges, when Wright's former roommate reportedly told police that he had seen Doisy's body and that Wright admitted to killing her.

The problem was, Wright had disappeared.

His whereabouts remained a mystery to police until Sept. 23, 2009, when he walked into the Lawrenceville Police Department and requested a background check for a job he was hoping to attain.

Instead, when he returned the next day to obtain his copy, he was arrested.

Wright was released to Missouri authorities three weeks later and is currently free on bond.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Tyson said Monday that his client would "gladly stand trial to clear his name" and that there is insufficient evidence to convict Wright.

Wright is due back in court on April 5, records show.