NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - On the eve of what Tabitha Tuders’ 30th birthday, detectives shared additional insights about her disappearance nearly 17 years ago.
Metro Nashville Detectives said they are looking to about eight people of interest seriously at this time, and believe Tabitha could have pushed into drug use and prostitution after she disappeared walking to her East Nashville bus stop in April of 2003.
“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. He also revealed police are working on a new age-progression photo of Tabitha. “There’s probably more human trafficking cases now than there was when Tabitha disappeared.”
Jolley said police are focusing a few individuals based on tips they’ve received. This includes two men, who go by the nicknames 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,” he explained.
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 be given anything directly suggesting she’s not alive,” Jolley said.
Noe one is holding onto that hope more than her parents, Bo and Debra Tuders.
“I believe that she’s still out there somewhere. Yes I do,” Debra said in an interview with News4 Friday. “It’s hurtful to hear harsh things like that, that she could be out there prostituting and [doing] drugs.”
The couple said the news was especially difficult on the eve of Tabitha’s 30th birthday. “It’s just hard to picture that little 13-year-old girl being 30 now,” Bo said. “And being a grown woman,” Debra added, “because in our minds she’s still that 13-year-old kid.”
“The hardest part is not knowing,” Debra said, “because we know that i’s a 50/50 chance that our daughter might not be with us anymore, but I can’t go there. 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.”
Detective Jolley hopes more people with information will come forward regarding what happened to Tabitha. “Some people they have a change of conscience as they mature, or maybe they move out of the lifestyle, or they’ve gotten out of some of the criminal activity they may have been in during that time.”