Family reacts to Mendota murder victim Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter’s death

The family of twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth “Marie” Vanmeter of Elizabethton is in shock at the news of her death.

“It was gutting it’s like someone took a ton of bricks and just dropped them directly on my chest,” said Jennifer Simon, Elizabeth Marie Vanmeter’s sister.

Vanmeter was one of three females killed by James Michael Wright of Mendota. Investigators say Wright confesed to killing three women in an 18 day time period. Wright said each killing was an accident.

Marie’s sister says Marie came to the Vanmeter family at age 8 through the foster care system. She was adopted at the age 16. But, by age 19 she moved out.  Family describe her a very trusting person, yet distant and independent.

“I mean there would be a week or two that she would go and not talk to us,” said Christina Hutslar,  Marie’s sister-in-law. “So we didn’t see it as odd. It was a little troublesome but it wasn’t very unlike her.”

Marie’s sister-in-law said Marie told her she was dating James Wright in early February and wanted her to meet him. 

The family was not able to get a hold of her for at least a month and began to worry. In April, the family recieved a call from investigators saying they found some of her closes in a trailer in Mendota, which led Christina Hutslar to message James Wright.

“He said that they had gotten into a fight and he had brought her off in Elizabethton and dropped her off at Food City,” Hutslar said.

But police now say Wright shot and killed Marie after an argument on or about February 28th. Marie’s family was told her body was found in a shallow grave in Mendota.

“Still holding onto that glimmer of hope that maybe that DNA comes back and it’s not Marie,” Simon said. “We all have that little sliver even though we know what we know.”

Marie’s family says detectives told them it could be months before the DNA results come in.

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