When Tabitha Tuders went out to catch her school bus on April 29, 2003, little did her family know that they would never see her again. Panic spread when the 13-year-old girl was found to have neither boarded the bus nor attended school. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Disappeared: Last Stop’ chronicles Tabitha’s mysterious disappearance and how the massive search operation exhausted every avenue and even involved the FBI. If you want to know more about the case and whether Tabitha is still missing, we have got you covered.
What Happened to Tabitha Tuders?
Tabitha Tuders, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, resided with her parents, Debra and Bo, in East Nashville, Tennessee. The ever-smiling, lively girl was the light of her parents’ life and shared a special bond with her mother. She was also an excellent student and loved by her teachers and friends at Bailey Middle School. Her sudden disappearance came as a horrifying surprise as none of the people involved in her life ever noticed any signs of trouble in the teen.
The morning of April 29, 2003, was a normal one for the Tuders household. Tabitha’s mother, who worked at a local elementary school’s cafeteria, left for work at 6 am. Meanwhile, her father, a lumber-company trucker, left sometime around 7 am. However, before leaving, he briefly spoke to Tabitha while waking her up. Tabitha was supposed to begin walking to the bus stand at around 7:50 am to catch the bus to her school. At the stipulated time, the teenager left her house and walked to the bus stop.
Tabitha found no one at the nearest bus stop, and as advised by her mother, moved to the next stop. That was the young girl’s last known location, and the authorities could not trace her whereabouts since then. When Tabitha did not return home at her stipulated time of 4 pm, her mother got worried. She went out to check on the bus and her school, the latter of which was already locked. When her husband returned, he found Debra panicking, and together they visited Tabitha’s school once again, only to learn that the girl never attended her classes that day.
The police were immediately informed, and even though they carried out a massive door-to-door search of the nearby areas, the teen was nowhere to be found. When authorities examined Tabitha’s bedroom right after her disappearance, they found a note in the teen’s handwriting. According to the show, the note read “TDT-N-MTL,” but the police soon ruled it out as a clue. Since her disappearance, the police received hundreds of tips and tried to follow up on each of them.
However, the authorities did mention that the considerable time difference between the teen’s disappearance and the report put the officers at a significant disadvantage. The show mentioned that in the initial days of the investigation, authorities received a tip from another Bailey Middle School student who claimed he had seen Tabitha walking towards the bus stop. However, he claimed that instead of the bus, she got into a red car driven by an unidentified male. Unfortunately, the police could never follow up on this tip, and it was never confirmed.
Is Tabitha Tuders Dead or Alive?
As Tabitha Tuders remains missing to this day, it is unclear whether she passed away. However, her family has not given up hope, and the investigation into her disappearance is still active. During their investigation, the police did not leave out any avenues, and according to the show, even considered Tabitha to be a victim of foul play. Yet, they had no evidence to back up their suspicion. Determined to reach a conclusion, they kept reinterviewing people from the neighborhood and following up on old tips and leads, but nothing seemed to work out.
Reports suggest that during the initial stages of investigations, the authorities considered this to be a case of possible runaway. On the other hand, Tabitha’s family maintained that the teen had not run away from home. They started their own campaign to find Tabitha and began spreading the word about the teen’s disappearance, hoping for a lead. The show also stated that one of Tabitha’s cousins allegedly met a man in her tattoo parlor who said that he saw a car pick the missing girl up on the day of her disappearance.
However, the man claimed that the car was green and not red like the school-going boy had stated. Unfortunately, even this tip remained unconfirmed as the police found nothing while following it up. The FBI got involved in the case about seven years after the disappearance and offered a substantial reward. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also released an age-progressed picture of Tabitha to make the search easier. After the announcement of the reward, several possible sightings were reported, but they were all ruled out.
In 2020, authorities reported that they received several fresh tips about the missing teen and believed that she might have been abducted and forced into prostitution. They searched a property in Hickman County and even mentioned that they were looking into two individuals nicknamed Goldie and Frank Nitty, who were suspected of being involved in Tabitha’s disappearance. However, Tabitha’s mother, who still believes her daughter is alive, said, “It’s hurtful to hear harsh things like that, that she could be out there prostituting and [doing] drugs.”
To date, the family has held on to hope that Tabitha is still alive and will come back home safe. Although her mother knows that there is a possibility of her death, she refuses to give in to the thought and believes that her daughter is still out there somewhere. However, the family is preparing for the worst as Debra Tuders said, “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.”