NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For 17 years, the family of Tabitha Tuders has held on to hope that their daughter would return home.
Seeing investigators digging for evidence in her disappearance this week has left them heartbroken.
“I mean I was just sick, and my nerves were so tore up,” Tabitha’s mom Debra Tuders told News 2 in an exclusive interview.
She said as Metro Police and the FBI set out on a 2-day search for evidence in the disappearance of their daughter, the family was left behind.
“We haven’t heard from nobody, or anything except for News 2 and that’s it,” said Tuders.
The family watched the developments unfold on TV as investigators dug up what once was a pig pen on a property in Bon Aqua.
“I’ve thought about that all night, all night. If she was there, everybody knows what pigs and hogs do. You know if she was there, she wouldn’t be there now,” she cried.
For 17 years, the family has dreamed of living their life again with their daughter, who was last seen walking to the bus stop in 2003 not far from her East Nashville home.
“I mean, we know it’s a possibility that she’s not with us anymore, but we try not [to] go there. We’ve never lost hope, but to see them digging for her, it wasn’t a good feeling. We want closure, but not to watch it happen,” she explained.
The Tuders say detectives have worked hard to follow leads on their missing daughter over the years, but they are disappointed, blindsided by the latest developments.
“I don’t know if I have much faith in them anymore at all,” said Tuders.
Their emotions are pulled in a number of directions, and the Tuders say they are leaning on the Lord to get them through.
“We will never give up hope and everything, but I do want some kind of closure, but the only person who knows what happened, the truth; the Lord, her, and the person that took her, and that’s it,” Tuders said with tears in her eyes.
The search this week included a seven-acre wooded property that once belonged to Albert Franklin Jr. He is the number one person of interest in Tabitha’s disappearance, according to detectives. They say Franklin also owned a trailer park a few miles from the Tuder’s home that was known for its vice activity.
“We knew from 2003 that he did own that trailer park, and they had a lot of tips with boo being there but nothing ever come of it,” the family explained.
Franklin is currently serving a 37-year sentence for federal firearm and drug charges from 2010.
“They just keep on saying he’s a person of interest,” and that’s all the family said they know about Franklin.
Detective Jolley who has been working the case over the last seven years said due to the sensitivity of the tip, they tried to keep the search confidential. However, it got ahead of them before he was able to speak with the Tuders. He said he understands their concerns and has since spoken to the family.