http://www.pnj.com/article/20101231/NEWS01/12310311/1051Mother clings to hope for missing girlStill no answers about girl's disappearance
Kris Wernowsky • December 31, 2010
Tavia Bailey's troubles began at the age of 8, when her mother said the girl was molested by her stepfather.
Sherilan Lane packed their bags and left for her mother's house that night, but she never sought charges against her former husband. She believes this created a rift between mother and daughter that never mended.
Next came the therapy, the group homes and the emotional problems. At the age of 12, Bailey became sexually active and began experimenting with drugs. Then she started running away from home — once to New York City.
"She would always call me and say, 'Don't worry about me, Mom,' " Lane said.
On Dec. 31, 1985, at the age of 15, Bailey — who lived with her mother at a Sunbury Drive home near Crescent Lake — went to a New Year's Eve party. She didn't come home.
This time there was no phone call, and 25 years later, her mother, who lives in Perry near Tallahassee, is left wondering what happened to her only daughter.
"I kept waiting, and there was no call," she said.
Investigator Troy Brown of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office Missing Persons division said that of the eight active cold cases in his department, Bailey is the only juvenile. He's worked the Bailey case for four years since he moved into the division.
"I've put a lot of personal time in this case," he said. "When you work on something like this, it becomes personal. We really have zero to go on."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children deals with about 1,000 missing children cases per year. About 800 of those are long-term cases of missing children and the rest are those of unidentified human remains, said Gerald Nance, a forensic investigator with the Center.
Of those, 96 percent will be found, 2 percent are found alive but harmed, and 1 percent are found dead.
The other 1 percent are cases like Bailey's: Children who disappear.
"These situations, a lot of times, involve a lifestyle or shame-based issue, so they go off," Nance said. "A lot of the kids, if they run away and turn 18, will usually reach out and call somebody."
That hasn't been the case for Bailey.
Any link to Tavia Bailey becomes less likely to become a lead as time presses on, Brown said.
Her mother said she believed Bailey had a boyfriend, but neither she nor the investigators have ever been able to learn his name. A month before she disappeared, Tavia talked of going back to New York.
She accused her mother of being prejudiced against the black men she dated, but her mother said she held no ill will toward anybody, with the exception of the older men who plied her daughter with drugs.
"She would always tell me that I hated her boyfriends because they were black," she said. "I never had a problem with their color. I have a problem with this guy selling you drugs and giving you crack, that's why I don't like him."
Lane — who has three sons — says it's difficult to imagine her daughter is still alive, but she can't release her grip on the hope that somewhere in the world, her daughter is alive.
"I suppose there is a chance that she could be somewhere. Maybe she's happy and married," she said. "I don't know how she could be alive and not ever show up or ever decide to get in touch with her family."
Lane, 58, still weeps when she speaks about her daughter, and wonders whether the decision not to press charges against her ex-husband did more damage to her daughter than any drug.
"The consequence is so far-reaching. I firmly believe part of that is what drove her out and what started her having sex with these people who did drugs," Lane said.
"If girls can see this story and know that if something like this happens to you, your life isn't over," she said. "Live your life."