Lucy Meadows was last seen wearing a blue denim dress, white socks and white canvass shoes.
It was July 25, 1996, a warm summer day in a parking lot at Rivergate Mall, in Goodlettsville. It’s where she went missing.
But Lucy was never seen in that lot by anyone besides her mother.
“Where’s my child, where’s Lucy, where’s Lucy,” recalled Harry Bell.
Retired Goodlettsville detective, Bell worked on the case until his last day in 2011.
He said he remembers Lucy’s mom, Yong Meadows, in those first moments, and her explanation. Lucy was inside her car, and the mother got out to let out the 3-year-old.
“She [Yong Meadows] said she opened the door, walked around to the trunk, and then the daughter disappeared,” Bell said.
Bell interviewed witnesses who said they heard the mother scream. There was a security camera focusing on the parking lot, but it panned slowly, side to side.
“The area that we were looking at, by the time it got to the car, it didn’t show a child there,” Bell told News 2.
Where was Lucy, and how did she vanish?
Investigators exhausted thousands of leads and scenarios. The search focused in Clarksville where Lucy’s family lived. Other leads took them out of state. Detective Bell remembers a tip they followed all the way to Chicago. It was a dead end.
Lucy disappeared while her mother, who’s from Korea, and her father Tom Meadows, were in a custody dispute. They eventually divorced, and Tom Meadows would pass away.
He spoke to News 2 in 2001.
“No closure, no end to this, just wish we could find her,” Meadows said.
According to police, Tom Meadows passed a lie detector test. News reports listed Yong Meadow’s test results as deceptive. Detective Bell said she stopped talking to them less than a year into the investigation.
“We didn’t get a lot of cooperation from some family members, and that made it difficult,” recalled Bell.
Two decades later, the questions and possibilities make it just as difficult.
“When you have that many variables involved it makes it very tough,” said Goodlettsville Police Chief, Gary Goodwin.
A tip came into the department as recent as 2016. Nothing came of it, but investigators take every one seriously.
“There’s really no scenario that’s off the table from you having to look at, and consider,” Goodwin said.
Today, Lucy Meadows would be 25. An age progression photo shows possible changes in her appearance, yet there’s no change in the mystery of what happened in the Rivergate Mall parking lot.
Investigators had to consider if Lucy was ever there. But her reported abduction is what they have had to go on for 22 years, while Lucy’s remained missing.
If you have any information on this case, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids at 1-800-THE-LOST, or 1-800-843-5678.
You can also contact the Goodlettsville Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit at 615-859-3405.
Click here to read more stories from our day-long project, “Missing Kid Mysteries.”