35: Tabitha Tuders (micro episode)
In this very special, very mini episode, Thashana and Olivia provide listeners with an audio missing poster for Tabitha Tuders, who disappeared while on the way to her school bus stop in East Nashville in 2003. February 15 is Tabitha’s 28th birthday. The episode was recorded in the Voice-o-Graph at Nashville’s Third Man Records.
13-year-old Tabitha Tuders left her East Nashville home around 7:50 a.m. on April 29, 2003 to head to the bus stop for school.
Witnesses saw Tabitha headed along 14th Street toward Boscobel Street and her bus stop. One witness said she looked to be reading a paper and didn’t seem to be in a hurry, nor did she appear to be looking for anyone. She never boarded the bus, and has not been seen or heard from since.
Tabitha usually arrived home from school at 4 p.m. When she didn’t show up, her mother made the three-block walk to the bus stop hoping to run into her along the way. After that she drove two miles to Bailey Middle School thinking that maybe Tabitha had missed the bus. The school was locked, and no one was around.
At 5 p.m., Tabitha’s father came home and he went with her mother back to the school. They knocked on the door until a janitor let them in. They located a teacher and were told that Tabitha hadn’t been at school all day. Tabitha’s parents knew she never would have skipped school, so they called police.
About 45 minutes after they called, a police officer got in touch with Tabitha’s mom and dad to interview them and fill out a missing person report; in the next two hours they started searching the neighborhood and surrounding area.
As we so often hear in these cases, authorities initially considered Tabitha a runaway. Because of this, they didn’t issue an Amber Alert. Tabitha had no history of running away, and her parents knew of no reason she might leave. She didn’t take any possessions with her that one might take if they planned to leave – all of her clothes, makeup, and $20 in cash were left at home. In addition, she was supposed to visit Six Flags in Louisville two weeks after the date of her disappearance and had been very excited about the trip.
Tabitha’s parents and two adult siblings were investigated, and none are suspects in her disappearance.
A neighborhood boy told police he saw Tabitha get into a red car with a 30 to 40 year old African American man wearing a baseball cap the morning she disappeared. While police doubt the boy’s story, dogs were able to trace her scent along a route matching what the boy described. The dogs tracked her scent into an alley, where her parents say she never would have gone alone. An ex-boyfriend of Tabitha’s sister matched the description the boy gave of the driver, drove a red car, and knew Tabitha’s bus schedule and location, but police were never able to link him to the disappearance. Tabitha’s parents say she never would have willingly gotten in a car with someone other than a family member.
Tabitha, called “Boo” by her family, was a straight-A student with perfect attendance, member of the choir at Eastland Baptist Church, and an all-around sweet kid.
At the time of her disappearance, Tabitha was 5’1” and about 100 pounds with sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, and a fair, freckled complexion. She has a birthmark on her stomach, a scar on her finger, and both ears are pierced. She was last seen wearing a light blue shirt, Mudd jeans, and Reebok athletic shoes.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of Tabitha and the prosecution of the person or persons responsible for her disappearance.
If you have any information concerning Tabitha Danielle Tuders, please contact your local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.
If you'd like to see photos from Third Man Records, including some of us recording this episode in the Voice-o-Graph booth, you can find those here.