Family holds on to hope that tip will help find Tabitha Tuders

Tabitha Tuders (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) –  The disappearance of Tabitha Tuders is one of Nashville’s most infamous missing persons cases.

In 2003, while walking to a bus stop, 13-year-old Tabitha Tuders vanished.

“Every car that passes I look down just to see if I can see her in the car,” says Bo Tuders, Tabitha’s father.

Fourteen years later, Bo and Debra Tuders continue searching. They live in the same east Nashville home, only blocks away from where Tabitha disappeared.

“We talk about her every single day, to somebody,” says Tabitha’s mother, Debra Tuders.

They do it subconsciously, it’s second nature.

“She’s 27 now, but we still see her at 13,” Debra says, “It’s hard for us to go past that age.”

April 29, 2003 Tabitha walked out of her family’s Lillian Street home to catch the school bus. Somewhere between her house and that bus stop two blocks away, she vanished.

So much has changed since that day, a neighborhood exploding with growth and development. The Tuders family has changed, too. They now have seven grandchildren. But they remember their last day with Tabitha well, and hold onto it. Along with all the details, even including the ones they don’t understand.

“She was going down the hill and they got her mid ways,” Debra Tuders recalls. “That’s the last time we saw her. They (police) never found nothing of hers, nothing.”

“If we get it out there and the right person sees something at the right moment that knows some little piece, it could solve this case,” says Detective Steven Jolley.

Detective Jolley, with Metro Nashville Police, has worked Tabitha’s case for four years.

“It’s going to take someone that knows something coming forward,” he says.

There’s never been a ton to go on from the scene itself. Whatever happened went down in about a 15 minute window. Jolley says initial searches never produced any physical evidence. There were no reports of screams or signs of a struggle. It only added to the mystery.

Detectives still receive tips on the case, briefly heating up, only to go cold again. Yet persons of interest do remain, even after all these years. Jolley claims one of them cannot be eliminated.

“One of our potential suspects, there has been a little bit of new information that has come out that I’m kind of working on right now that could be helpful,” Jolley says. “But it’s in the early stages.”

It’s possible Tabitha is alive.  It is. At this point, no hard evidence can point another way, and as any parent would understand, that fact is a foundation of hope for the Tuders. Aside from that the unknown is all they have.

“I’ve never questioned the Lord,” says Debra Tuders. “Why she was gone or if he took her, why he took her, but we just want our daughter back.”

So, Bo and Debra will continue to talk about their daughter. They’ll keep her banner in place on their porch. Bo will give each passing car a second glance, and for the 14th year they’ll make a familiar plea.

“We just need closure so we’ll know if she’s here,” Debra says. “Or if she’s not, I just want to be able to put her to rest, you know it’s hard.”

The FBI and Nashville Crime Stoppers have teamed up to offer a $51,000 reward in this case. If you have any information on the disappearance of Tabitha Tuders call  615-74-CRIME.

Nashville Crime Stoppers has helped solve 11,130 cases and paid $566,700 in rewards. It is a non-profit organization, comprised of volunteers from the local business community, and relies on corporate support and public donations. Click here to make a tax deductible donation securely on PayPal.

You can also send a money order or check as a tax deductible gift to: Nashville Crime Stoppers, Inc., Post Office Box 24185, Nashville, TN  37202-4185.