Family of Tabitha Tuders holds on to hope

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – To this day, the name Tabitha Tuders strikes a chord in Nashville as her disappearance is one of the city’s most well-known missing persons cases.

Tabitha left her home for school one morning 13 years ago and was never seen again.

And even after years of dead ends, her family is still holding out hope.

PHOTOS: Cracking Cold Cases

A lot can change in 13 years.

In the pocket of East Nashville the Tuders call home, change has been constant. New homes are selling and new people are moving in every day.

But as their neighborhood looks forward, the Tuders refuse to leave the past behind.

Age progression of Tabitha Tuders
Age progression of Tabitha Tuders

“As of now, we’ve heard nothing from her. Somebody’s got her. Turn her loose. Let her come home. I need my baby,” said Tabitha’s dad, Bo Tuders.

In 2003, Bo was a younger man. In the fog of desperation, he spoke to News 2 the day after his then 13-year-old daughter disappeared.

“I walked out the door and that was the last time I saw her,” he said.

Immediate searches found nothing, and now Tabitha has been missing for well over a decade.

“They’re not giving up on us, which is the main thing,” he said.

Bo and his wife Debra are not giving up. Today, the pain for them is just as deep; they’ve just been living with it longer.

“She’s out there somewhere, we just need her back home,” Bo said.

The Tuders still hang a banner outside their East Nashville home on Lillian Street.

Tabitha left the house for the bus stop just before 8 a.m. on April 29, 2003. She was walking and didn’t make it there. The morning she vanished, she should have ended up at Bailey Middle School.

That was 13 years ago — 13 birthdays, 13 Christmas’ and almost 5,000 days.

Tabitha’s dad said he’s had to approach every one of those days with one thing in mind, hope.

“Hope is all we have to go on now,” he said. “If we give up hope, it’s like we’re giving up on her, and we’re not giving up on either one.”

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

Over the years, detectives released age progression photos of what Tabitha may look like today as a 26-year-old.  The investigation remains active, but the case is cold and nothing has ever explained her disappearance.

“If it was y’all’s child, y’all would want to know,” said Bo Tuders

The Tuders are closely watching a recent development after two people from out of state were issued federal subpoenas to testify under oath.

It’s not a lot to go on, at least not yet, but again, it helps Bo hold on to that hope.

“If it’s anybody out there who knows anything no matter how big or small, it’s important to us,” he said.

That upcoming hearing will be in December.

Anyone with information related to Tabitha Tuders’ disappearance should call Crime Stoppers at 615-74-CRIME.The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward in the case.

Click here for complete coverage of Tabitha Tuders’ disappearance.