Editor’s Note: The Benton County Sheriff’s Office reported Thursday, March 23 that Aaliyah has been located and is safe.
BENTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A full week has passed since 14-year-old Aaliyah Whitehead was last seen leaving her home just outside of Camden.
Despite several search efforts, Whitehead’s mother, Alicia Laster, said there still have been few clues as to what could have happened to her only daughter.
“It’s like living your worst nightmare every single day,” Laster said. “No one thinks that their kid is going to be missing. We all think that’s just a TV thing, and my mind starts to go to the worst.”
She described Whitehead as just “a normal, typical 14-year-old” with a love for music, art, fashion and helping people.
However, not long before her disappearance, Laster said she and her husband had started to have some concerns about their daughter’s well-being.
“We used every local resource that we could to try to get her some inpatient help,” Laster said. “We explained that we tried typical therapy where you go in every other week, and we were really concerned. We felt like she needed to be put inpatient somewhere where she was safe.”
Instead, Laster said they were told “just to keep an eye on her and make sure there was nothing she could harm herself with.” Laster said she was “terrified” when she realized Whitehead had run away from home on Monday, March 13.
Her husband called the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies began searching the neighborhood for Whitehead only about 15 minutes after Laster realized she was gone. However, there was no sign of her anywhere.
On Wednesday, March 15, authorities from the sheriff’s office and Madison County Fire Department organized a grid search in the Saddletree area. Deputies have also asked residents in the Hallshire area to check their surveillance and trail cameras.
“Over the last week they’ve questioned every neighbor — anybody who has surveillance, they’ve looked into. Where I live there’s only a few people who have cameras,” Laster said. “They said they’ve been getting tips, but so far nothing has turned out to be her.”
Deputies continued their search the morning of Monday, March 20 at a river nearby Whitehead’s home. In addition, Laster said she and her husband have searched every place in town where their daughter could have gone and are continuing to pass out fliers each day in nearby towns.
“(We’re) on the internet posting her fliers, making TikTok videos, anything we can do to keep her face out there,” Laster said.
As the number of days Whitehead has been missing continues to grow, so does the urgency in finding her.
Shortly after joining in the search, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) issued an Endangered Child Alert, which Laster said was partly because of the dropping temperatures, reaching below freezing on some nights.
“I know her pretty well. I feel like we’re very close, and at this point, I don’t feel like she’s just gone because she wants to be gone,” Laster said. “I don’t see her being gone for a week and not making some type of contact with us.”
Whitehead, who is about 5’1″ tall and 140 pounds, with red hair and green eyes, was last seen wearing a tie-dye hoodie, black leggings, and pink and black tennis shoes.
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Laster said she hopes people will continue to share fliers and information about her daughter and reach out to authorities if they see anything, “even if you’re not sure it could be Aaliyah.” She also shared a message for her daughter.
“Aaliyah, if you’re listening right now, please know that we love you more than anything and we want you to come home,” Laster said. “Anything can be worked out if you just come home. Your brothers need you. Your dad and I need you, and we miss you.”
If you have any information about Whitehead’s whereabouts, you’re urged to call the Benton County Sheriff’s Office at 731-584-4632 or TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.