Family of Tabitha Tuders remains hopeful for closure 18 years later

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Thursday marks 18 years since a 13-year-old girl went missing while walking to the bus stop from her East Nashville home.

Today, Tabitha Tuders would be 31-years-old, a reality that’s hard for her heartbroken family to grasp.

“She’s sketched in our brain at 13,” Tabitha’s mom Debra cried.

She still sees her little girl lying at the foot of her bed. Little did Debra know that as she left for work that morning in 2003, it would be the last time she saw Tabitha.

Tabitha Tuders_256974

“That was the worst day of my life,” said Debra.

The 13-year-old last seen by a neighbor walking to the bus stop on Lillian Street, just blocks from her home.

“It is just like the earth opened up and took her away,” Debra explained. 

Tips have poured in over the years and continue today, with many pointing back to sex trafficking.

“18 years is too long; I don’t want to go another year.”

Debra Tuders, Tabitha Tuders’ mother

“You never know, with this world you never know,” the tearful mom shrugged.

Nearly two decades later, a new detective has been assigned the cold case. Detective Matthew Filter, whose been with the department for more than two decades, says leads still trickle in today.

“It’s absolutely amazing just how much information has consistently come in over the last 18 years and still consistently comes in even since I’ve inherited the case,” said Detective Filter, “We are still, at least a couple of tips a month come in on this case, so there’s always tips to follow up on, leads to check out. When you have that much going on in a case, to me there’s always hope of being able to resolve it.”

Last year, detectives searched property in Hickman County, tied to a person of interest in Tabitha’s disappearance. Detective Filter says they are still following that tip.

“18 years is too long; I don’t want to go another year,” cried Debra.

Today, the family is holding on to memories that will never fade, with Tabitha’s trinkets and memorabilia in her room that’s nearly just the same.

“She was my heart. I keep her in mind, I talk about her, I look at her pictures,” Debra explained.

The Tuders family aren’t giving up in their search. The same missing person banner still hangs outside their home, with faith that one day their family will have closure.

“If she’s gone, at least I want to know where she’s at. If she’s passed, I just want to put her to rest, so I can have a place to go to. You know, I already got her headstone and everything. One day, we are going to find her, somebody’s going to tell us where she’s at,” she said. 

Tabitha Tuders (age 13, left) and digitally age progressed to age 31 (right)

The FBI and Nashville Crime Stoppers have teamed up to offer a $51,000 reward in the case. If you have any information call (615) 862-8600 or 1 (800) THE-LOST.

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