BON AQUA, TN (WSMV) - Authorities are searching an area in rural Hickman County for evidence in the disappearance of Tabitha Tuders in 2003.
Tuders was 13 years old when she disappeared from a bus stop near her East Nashville home on April 29, 2003.
A law enforcement team, including MNPD Cold Case-Homicide detectives, Urban Search & Rescue officers & FBI agents, is in rural Hickman County today looking for evidence in the 2003 disappearance of 13-year-Old Tabitha Tuders. Recent information led investigators to Hickman County pic.twitter.com/2auIQYrLkN— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) August 12, 2020
Metro Police detectives said they were looking at about eight people of interest when interviewed in February. They believe Tabitha could have been pushed into drug use and prostitution after she disappeared walking to her East Nashville bus stop.
“There were a lot of tips that came in regarding the possibility she was abducted and hooked on drugs and that she was forced into prostitution,” Metro Police Detective Steven Jolley told News4. “There’s probably more human trafficking cases now than there was when Tabitha disappeared.”
Jolley said in interview in February that police were focusing on a few individuals based on tips they had received. This included two men, who go by the nicknames of Goldie and Frank Nitty. Nitty is currently in prison on unrelated charges.
“The particular individual, who we are looking at as a suspect, heard that he made comments in regard to have to do with her either abduction or murder,” said Jolley.
Police said many tips have come in, even within the last several months, ranging from Tabitha being alive and married to her possible murder.
“Obviously my hope is she’s still alive, and we’ve seen no evidence and not been given anything directly suggesting she’s not alive,” Jolley said in February.
A statement from the Tuders family has been released during these new searches:
"Every day, we pray for answers in Tabitha's case. Today is no different. 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."
Tabitha’s parents, Bo and Debra Tuders, have not given up hope.
“I believe that she’s still out there somewhere. Yes, I do,” Debra Tuders told News4 in February. “It’s hurtful to hear harsh things like that, that she could be out there prostituting and (doing) drugs.”
“It’s just hard to picture that little 13-year-old girl being 30 now,” said Bo Tuders just before Tabitha’s 30th birthday in February.
“Because in our minds, she’s still that 13-year-old kid,” said Debra Tuders.
“The hardest part is not knowing because we know that it’s a 50-50 chance that our daughter might not be with us anymore, but I can’t go there,” said Debra Tuders. “I can’t let myself go there because in my heart I know my daughter’s still out there somewhere and we’re going to find her.”
The Tuders have hung a banner outside their home since Tabitha’s disappearance.
“You can tell it’s a little on the ragged side, but I keep it up there so people know that she’s still missing. I won’t take it down,” Debra Tuders told News4 in 2019.