Family seeks closure in disappearance of Amber Cates - WSMV Channel 4

Family seeks closure in disappearance of Amber Cates

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COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

It's a question that has haunted a Middle Tennessee family for nearly a decade: where is Amber Cates?

Cates was just 16 years old when she vanished nine years ago after she and a friend left her mother's home in Columbia to grab a bite to eat.

Cates hasn't been seen since, but her family and police haven't given up hope of finding her.

"It's not easy," said Cates' sister, Brenda James.

Not a day goes by James doesn't think about her baby sister. The emotions are still raw and the pain just as fresh as the day she disappeared: April 11, 2004.

"You hope for the best but you think the worst," James said.

Over the years, James has held vigils, put up billboards and even plastered Cates' picture on the side of 18-wheelers, hoping to spark leads.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released an age-enhanced photo of what Cates may look like today.

While Maury County Sheriff's Detective Jerry Williams said the department has run down dozens of leads over the years, none of them have panned out.

"That's why it's so important to us to keep her name out there, so someone will recognize her," Williams said. "I do believe there's somebody out there that knows, and that's the person we want to talk to."

They hope to bring Cates' family closure, one way or another.

"I always hope for the best, but I know there's a possibility that she's not alive anymore," Williams said.

"I just want anybody that knows, have a heart and say something, so we can get over - I can get over," James said.

There is now a $25,000 reward for any information leading to Cates.

Meanwhile, her sister is holding a candlelight vigil April 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Maury County Park in Columbia.

In addition to raising awareness, James is hoping to raise about $7,000 to outfit 500 tractor-trailers with Cates' picture.

For more information on the vigil, visit: http://www.facebook.com/events/254699074664212.

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