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With Butterfly Kisses

Small town feels, we have all experienced it or have longed for it in our lifetime. Something about a small town gives a sense of welcoming warmth with open arms. Residents have unspoken attitudes of kindness and compassion for all those around. A quiet and quaint atmosphere where everyone is close-knit and where they rely on each other and look out for one another in times of safety. The idyllic and picturesque vision of small-town America. One family, the Compton’s, resided in such a small town for generations. Cody, Virginia. Until, one summer day in 2017, one family member vanished. This story highlights the incredible light of a woman who lived in a small town her entire life. After her disappearance, what has this small town done to find her justice? After all, someone took one of their own.

First, I would like to thank Shawna, Emma’s sister, for speaking to me about her amazing sister and best friend. Although Emma is no longer a missing person, Shawna deals with a new fight. A fight to find out what happened to her the day she was last seen alive. Who is responsible for such a senseless crime against Emma and who harbors the secrets for justice.

Emma & Shawna (the birthday twins)

Emma Compton was born in Virginia on March 6, 1965, to her parents, Carroll Compton, and Sylvia McCurry. Emma had two sisters, Shawna, and Wynona and one brother Taza. One of her sisters, Shawna, shared a birthday with Emma, three years before. Shawna and Emma called themselves birthday twins and were inseparable.

Shawna & Emma on their birthday

The Compton’s were raised by their father, in his childhood home. One of those things that just seem incredible, to have your childhood home to raise your family in. Emma loved a deal; you could catch her in any thrift store looking for the next best thing. The girls grew up and Shawna moved with her husband to Mississippi, but Emma stayed in her small town. She married the love of her life, Randy. The couple hoped growing old together was in the cards for them. Randy and Emma did not have children, leaving all their time for one another. Unfortunately, Randy passed away, leaving Emma to live out life on her own.

Emma found a second chance at love. Emma reconnected with someone she knew from childhood. Russell Layne. The Layne family and the Compton’s knew each other. Another perk of a small town. They married in 2009. Russell had children from a previous marriage, a son and daughter. Emma stepped into the stepmom role with no issues. Russell and Emma found themselves with a full household. Emma’s father gifted her a plot of land where the family decided to build their home on. Russell worked as a truck driver while Emma took a chance at purchasing a local convenience store, the Cody Store. Emma worked at the store when she received word that the current owner wanted to sell. She jumped at the chance to own it on her own. This purchase gave Emma a new purpose in life. Her marriage to Russell was slowly declining and by 2014, Emma had her own living space, in the basement of the home, her and Russell built. This arrangement worked for them. Although they were not divorced, they were able to have their own space, while still maintaining a platonic relationship.

Emma taking a selfie at the store

On Monday, June 19, 2017, Emma failed to show up to open her store. This concerned everyone. She enjoyed her job and being the owner of the store. She was always on time to unlock those doors and greet everyone that came in on a daily basis with a big smile. More concerning was the failure to answer any calls. Monday should not have been the first red flag; however, Emma’s mother was in the hospital. Emma made an agreement with her eldest sister Wynona. Since the two sisters lived locally, both would take turns checking in on and visiting with their mother. The set plan was for Wynona to visit on Saturday and Emma on Sunday. Sunday came and went without ever seeing or hearing from Emma.

Emma & Mom

It wasn’t until Monday when there was no word from Emma that a call was made to her sister Shawna. Shawna in turn called her sister Wynona to do a check on Emma’s home. While at the home Wynona told Shawna there didn’t seem to be any sign of their sister. Her car and belongings were there but she was missing. Assuming this could easily be explained away, Wynona left without major concern.

Emma & her Stepfather Arthur

A couple of days later, Shawna arrived at Emma’s home. Her interpretation of the basement was wildly different. Shawna witnessed Emma’s room torn apart, with clothing all over. Emma’s belongings all still there. Now, with the concern heightened, law enforcement was notified, and a missing report was filed into the disappearance of Emma Compton. Quickly a search team was assembled to find Emma. This search was short-lived as one of the volunteers had a heart attack and passed away. The search was called off. Plans to regroup for a new search were shut down by investigators, with claims they had the investigation into Emma’s disappearance under control and did not need any outside help.

Emma & her dog

On November 22, 2017, two hunters uncovered remains. The remains were found in a wooded area just a mile from the property owned by Emma and Russell. The remains were sent to the Medical Examiner’s office in Richmond Virginia, where they made a positive ID for Emma Compton. Emma’s cause of death was due to a traumatic neck injury and the manner of death noted as homicidal violence. Since the discovery of Emma’s remains her case has been stagnant. There has been no release of suspects or persons of interest into her death. Shawna believes more needs to be done in her sister’s murder. She has been waiting, six years for something to come to light and her killer will be uncovered.

Emma's Garden

What happened to Emma Compton Layne on June 18, 2017? She had planned to visit her mother in the hospital that weekend but never showed up. There was nothing found at her place of business to suggest something nefarious occurred while closing up shop on Saturday. At her home, all of Emma’s belongings were left. Her purse, cellphone, keys, beloved dog, and store deposits were left behind. Her living quarters were in disarray, chairs and clothing strewn all across her room. Almost as if someone was looking for something.

Emma's Garden

Since money and valuables were left untouched, we can all surmise the crime was not robbery. Her car was at home, suggesting however she ended up lying on the cold winter ground she did not use her vehicle. She was lying there, only a few miles from home, wrapped in a red sleeping bag. She was texting back and forth with someone on Saturday night until it all ceased. Something happened to Emma after this communication. Who had the motive in this crime? Residents of Cody should be concerned, as there is definitely a killer in their midst. One thing is clear is that someone in this small town knows something and may hold the answers to what happened to Emma Compton. Shawna holds hope that someone will come forward with the missing piece, until then she holds on to the last words spoken by Emma to her, “with butterfly kisses.” (A saying the two shared when hanging up the phone)

Do you have any information? Contact The Aware Foundation

Emma deserves justice. She would have never let this happen to anyone else in her community. If you have information, speak up, the time is now.

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