Tabitha Tuders' Family Still Searching For Answers As To What Happened To Her

Tabitha and a computerized version of what she would look like today
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children | National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

News & Politics
Jessica Powers

Tabitha Tuders was a normal 13-year-old girl, and April 29, 2003, started out like any other day in Nashville, Tennessee.

But Tabitha would somehow vanish somewhere between her home and bus stop, and no one has heard from her since then.

Staff At Tabitha's School Never Notified Her Parents Of Her Absence

Tabitha Tuders

After Tabitha was reported missing, one neighbor reportedly saw her heading to school, but a neighborhood boy said he saw her getting into a red car about forty yards from where she was last seen.

Tracking dogs followed her scent along the route she would take every day to the bus stop and then veered off to an alley from where she was reportedly seen getting into the red car.

When She Didn't Come Home After School, Her Mother Called Police

Tabitha Tuders

Tabitha never made it to school, but it wasn’t until the afternoon of April 29, when the punctual teen didn’t return home that her mother realized something was terribly wrong. Because no one from the school called Tabitha's parents, anyone who took her would have had 8 hours or more to flee with her and leave no trace behind.

Police Thought There Was Connections With Another Missing Girl's Case

Police lights
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On August 19, 2003, five months after Tabitha's disappearance, Heaven Ross, an 11-year-old girl, disappeared in the morning hours on her way to school in Northport, Alabama.

Authorities believed Tabitha's and Heaven's cases were connected, given the similar circumstances in their disappearances and other features of their cases. Heaven's remains were found in Holt, Alabama, three years after she disappeared, and police have not indicated whether they still believe the two cases could have any links.

Another suspect was provided by a prison snitch who accused a fellow cellmate of confessing to her abduction and murder in a message scratched into a window in prison. That lead failed to go anywhere and was eventually ruled out as being a cruel hoax. 

Few other suspects have been publicly named by police in the years following Tabitha's disappearance. But her parents have refused to give up hope. Police have refused to give up in the search as well.

Police Conducted A Large Search As Recently As Two Years Ago

The search continues.
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Two years ago, police searched an area in Tennessee after tips came into law enforcement that she may have been there in the 2003 time frame.

“Our presence here is based on both old and new information,” said police Sgt. Charles Rutzky. "We're always looking for any presence of Tabitha."

The search took place on 6 acres of a rugged plot of mostly wooded land with a small house on the property. The home was abandoned and dilapidated.

During the search, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released a statement on behalf of the Tuders’ family.

“Every day, we pray for answers in Tabitha's case. Today is no different," the statement read. "We appreciate the work law enforcement agencies are doing to try to find her after 17 long years. As we wait patiently to learn more, we ask that you give our family privacy at this time. We have never given up hope that we will find Tabitha.”

The FBI Has Stepped In To Try To Get Answers

There have been few updates in the investigation
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The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of Tabitha Tuders and the prosecution of the person or people responsible for her disappearance. If you have any information you’re asked to contact 1-800-call-FBI.

Tuders has a birthmark on her stomach and a scar on her finger. Both of her ears are pierced. Today she would be 32 years old.