Authorities say Milan teen missing for 14 years is likely dead

Published: Oct. 29, 2010 at 3:15 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2010 at 3:45 PM CDT
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By Justin Hanson - bio | email

MILAN, TN (WMC-TV) - After 10 o'clock, do you know where your kids are? It's a question that needs answering in the case of a young Mid-South girl who vanished from her bedroom on a Friday night 14 years ago.

Cayce McDaniel had just started her freshmen year of high school when she disappeared on August 16, 1996.

She'd been dropped off at home around midnight, after a "back to school" social at her church.

"When Saturday morning arrived, I got a call from her mother and from that point on, we knew something was wrong," said Cayce's best friend, Amber Hansen.

Hansen was Cayce McDaniel's right arm. She says Cayce's mother, Cindy McDaniel, called her looking for her daughter. It was a call made more than ten hours after Cindy McDaniel arrived home and discovered her daughter missing.

"Basically her mom called and asked to speak to Cayce and when that didn't pan out...that's when it came out that," Hansen said. "She came home late, the back door was standing open, Cayce's bedroom TV was on, the clothes she'd worn to the social were out like she'd already gotten ready for bed, a bowl of cookies and milk were sitting in the floor, there were no signs of a struggle.  It was almost like she got up and walked out in her pajamas."

By the following day, search crews spread out all over Gibson County. There were candlelight vigils and prayer rallies.

Had Cayce run away? Or was it something more sinister?

Search crews drained ponds as heavyweights from across the stay zeroed in and investigators questioned several suspects.

"We had suspects from the beginning, some are still very good suspects and unfortunately we don't have anything concrete to link them to the case," said Milan Police Chief Tim Wright.

Investigators say they questioned Cindy McDaniel about whether she had something to do with her daughter's disappearance.

Cayce's father was not in the picture.

"We have questioned dozens of people, polygraphed several, still no concrete results," Wright said.

Other parents who were close to Cayce at church questioned why Cayce's mother Cindy waited so long to check on her daughter.

"Momma came in, doors were open, lights were on, and clothes were there...and they just went to bed," said church member Polly Fitzgerald.  "I'd be frantic. It'd scare me to death... I would have found out something that night.  I wouldn't have waited to the next day.  Something's not right," she adds.

"That was one of the reports or theories that was handed to us. We have checked out that aspect of it too.  Still nothing that we can point a finger with," Wright said.

Fourteen years after her disappearance, investigators are still following up on every new tip. But neither they nor friends believe they will find Cayce, alive.

"Ordinarily some word would be heard from the victim, but in this case we've heard absolutely nothing," Wright said. "That's not to say she can't be alive, but it doesn't look like she is."

"This is Milan, Gibson County, not Memphis," Hansen said. "Most people here, everybody here knows somebody who knows somebody.  I'm still in awe that its 14 years later and no one has breathed a word and come to any closure."

Investigators say they can't locate Cayce's mom Cindy.

If you have any information about Cayce McDaniel's disappearance, contact the Milan Tennessee police department at 731-686-3309.

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