While signs initially pointed to the worst - kidnapping or possibly murder - Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Tuesday that evidence obtained following hours of investigation into the case of a missing teen pointed to a “staged abduction.”
Bryant said while investigators have not been able to track the teen to her alleged location, investigators were working in conjunction with officials from neighboring counties, following tips from friends and acquaintances, to locate the girl.
Chief Investigator Donnie Hensley with the Erath County Sheriff’s Office said he received a report Monday night that an unoccupied car had been located at a rest area on US Highway 377.
“The investigation began in full-force around 10:20 p.m.,” Hensley said Tuesday. “Sheriff’s investigators, deputies, Texas Rangers and troopers have worked this case non-stop since.”
While making his rounds, a deputy discovered the abandoned vehicle at the rest stop. The passenger side door was open, the keys were in the ignition, and a purse, containing the teen’s debit card and identification, were inside the car. More alarming was the fact that a cell phone was found broken in half lying on the asphalt near the vehicle, initially pointing to foul play, Bryant said. Immediately a search for the car’s owner, Alyssa Williams, 16, a freshman at Stephenville High School, who works part-time at Pizza Hut, began.
Kevin and Misty Eaton, a local couple who opened their home to Williams last year, were frantic to find the girl they called a “good kid,” a girl who would have never left home without her two most prized possessions - her new car and her cell phone.
“An acquaintance may have taken her, but it’s not anyone she’s safe with,” Misty said. “If she’s hurt, I can fix that. I can take her to the doctor, but just not knowing is the worst thing.”
For investigators, something wasn’t adding up.
While some of Williams’ coworkers said the teen had clocked in for a few hours Monday night, Tracie Deloera, general manager at the local pizzeria, said the missing girl had been in the restaurant around 5 p.m., drank a soda and chatted with friends, but did not clock in for her shift, which was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
When Kevin Eaton went to the restaurant around 7 p.m., Williams was not there.
He called Misty who began searching for the girl by contacting the teen’s friends. The couple did not call law enforcement officials, but investigators contacted them when the car was located. The couple said they immediately suspected foul play.
Investigators, deputies and Texas Rangers scoured the county searching for her, but conflicting stories from friends and coworkers began to shine a suspicious light on the disappearance.
Deloera said Williams was “sweet” and “a hard worker,” but said she was “not very happy.”
“She always talked to me about her problems and had talked about running away,” Deloera said.
And that’s what investigators began to believe, as well.
“Following hours of interviews, statements and investigation, the evidence shows this was a staged act to allow her to meet up with her mother,” Bryant said.
Hensley explained that as with any case, investigators begin their search with a worst-case scenario. To efficiently and effectively locate a potential abduction victim, officers first assume she had been abducted. Then Hensley said investigators follow every lead and question all acquaintances and also question anyone who could have been in the area at the time.
“We follow the same process no matter the circumstances,” Hensley said.
But the Eatons and Deloera feel the troubled teen would have taken her two most prized possessions, her car and cell phone, with her. Both were at the rest area, left behind.
“She was all about her cell phone, she would have at least taken it with her,” Deloera said.
Bryant said the investigation will not be over until Williams is located.
“Regardless of where she is or the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, we still hope and pray this was a staged event,” Bryant said.
Staff Writers Meghan Donald and Whitney White-Ashley contributed to this story.