Claudette Ficik was a 19-year old pregnant college coed whose dead body was found floating in the Oconee River back in the 1990’s. Her case is the next one to be featured on the Investigation Discovery show Swamp Murders. The series is a weekly tv crime documentary that profiles one new true-crime case each week. The focus of the show is centered around cases where the victim was found in a watery grave. Claudette Ficik vanished in February 1994 while on her way back home to visit her parents. She never made it to her parents’ home.
Her worried father and mother, Craig and Mary Ficik, were frantic when she didn’t arrive by 6 p.m. that Wednesday. They immediately contacted the police and went public asking for anyone with information to come forward. Police had quite a job on their hands as they tried to retrace the pretty college coed’s steps from the college campus to the home of her family in Aiken, South Carolina, according to The Marietta Journal.
Claudette Jennifer Ficik was a sophomore at Southern Tech, where she studied architecture. According to authorities, she was last seen leaving an art class about a week earlier, telling friends that she was driving down to see her mother and father. Two days after she disappeared, her 1988 Chevy pickup was found abandoned in Atlanta, Georgia, which was also two days after her parents reported her missing.
Her mother and her brother worked tirelessly to disperse missing persons fliers all over Marietta, Georgia. Claudette was living at the Falls of Bells Ferry Apartments at the time she went missing. Together, they visited all of the areas that Claudette was known to frequent. They spoke with her boss at the Pet Smart in Kennesaw, where she worked as an animal groomer. They also talked with a friend on campus who told them that she last saw her at around noon that Wednesday, February 16, 1994. The dark-haired beauty was last seen wearing denim jeans, a white t-shirt, and some Reebok tennis shoes. She was also wearing a high school necklace with her initials engraved on it. According to her family, she weighed 90 pounds and stood 5ft 2 inches tall.
Several weeks later, the police received an anonymous tip that the missing woman’s body would be buried in a remote, wooded part of Dallas, Georgia. The letter included a map, but police were unable to find the exact location of the body at that time. The search for her in those woods was massive but disappointing when it turned up no evidence.
It would take another three weeks before two people in a canoe found her body floating in the Oconee River. Police were able to make the identification by the necklace around her neck, the clothes she was last seen wearing, and a pronounced overbite that the family indicated she had. A boat anchor, an angle iron, and a nylon rope had been tied to the badly decomposed body. News of her death left the town, her two best girlfriends, and her family completely devastated over the news. Strangely, Shannon Melendi and one other college coed went missing around the same time, making many residents fearful that perhaps a serial killer was at work.
Funeral services and a rosary service was held for Claudette Ficik at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Edgefield, South Carolina. In addition to her parents, she left behind two brothers, Craig Ficik and Chad Ficik. Her family never gave up hope on finding the killer and bringing that person to justice.
The Claudette Ficik missing persons investigation went cold after they were unable to come up with any suspects. Ficik’s boyfriend, Jason Ragland, had passed a polygraph test, indicating that he had no idea what happened to her.
Shortly after the funeral, police announced that they had a suspect in the case but refused to name him—in the beginning. They were able to trace carpet evidence that the body had been wrapped in to the home of a person that she knew. Eventually, they identified the suspect as her boyfriend, 23-year old, Jason Ragland, an Honors graduate from the University of Georgia who finally confessed to the murder, in order to avoid the death penalty. prosecutors say that Jason Ragland and Claudette Ficik had dated only eight months before he killed her. Today, Jason Mathew Ragland is still serving out his life sentence at the Burruss Correctional Facility in Georgia. He is now in his forties. Eerily, since the death of Claudette Ficik, several bodies have been found in the Oconee River.
#IDAddicts can watch the case of Claudette Ficik and Jason Ragland on #SwampMurders on Investigation Discovery tonight at 9:00 pm EST/8:00 PM CST. For further reading, check two more Swamp Murders articles: The case of Davina Chapman and Suzie Knuth.
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