Ever since April 29, when Tabitha Tuders vanished without a trace near her East Nashville home, her friends and family have maintained that the Metro Police Department should let go of the runaway theory that may be getting in the way of finding her. Now, police themselves seem to agree, stating publicly for the first time that evidence suggests the missing girl was kidnapped.
That change comes nearly two weeks after acting Police Chief Deborah Faulkner brought in intelligence and criminal investigation divisions to play a more prominent role in the case.
“The focus of the investigation is changing to one of potential foul play,” police spokesperson Don Aaron told the Scene Tuesday. “That’s indicative of the reviews and the involvement of intelligence and the criminal investigation division.”
Earlier this month, police officials continued to maintain that there was no more likelihood that Tabitha was kidnapped than that she ran away. And while there was no corroborated report that Tuders was abducted, all signs have indicated from the beginning that the 13-year-old girl didn’t run away. She left her money in her room, and numerous witnesses saw her walking to school along her usual route the morning she disappeared. In addition, the 13-year-old with sandy blond hair and blue eyes was a straight A student who, according to friends and relatives, behaved no differently in the days leading up to her disappearance.
For two months, the department’s Youth Services Division was in charge of the search for Tuders and, by many accounts, it was slow to pursue promising leads, interview family members and administer lie detector tests. That division no longer seems to be calling the shots, according to sources close to the investigation. In the last week, detectives Sgt. Robert Moore, of intelligence, and Pat Postiglione, in the murder squad, have taken an active role in the case, including reinterviewing family members. They’ve also poured over old evidence and, from that, they are apparently more convinced than the detectives in youth services ever were that Tuders was kidnapped. It’s not clear if that’s because they’ve uncovered new clues or have a different interpretation of the available evidence.
“Due to the time that has elapsed, the review of the case file, by intelligence and CID, I think that we are looking at potential foul play as opposed to mere runaway,” Aaron says. “That’s not to rule out that she ran away.”
Over the last few days, police helicopter pilots also have searched the banks of the Cumberland River all the way to Cheatham County, the first search of its kind since the girl went missing 11 weeks ago.
Tuders family spokesman Johnny White says that the family is pleased that the department is finally treating this case as an abduction. “The positive side is that now they have more people involved and they are investigating all scenarios,” he says.
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