Killeen: Family speaks out about missing woman cold case
Elizabeth Campbell would have turned 51 years old Thursday. She went missing more than thirty years ago from Copperas Cove.
Her father is 83 years-old. The family says he is suffering from congestive heart failure, and they are hoping to find out what happened to Elizabeth before it’s too late.
"I smell her clothes- it's Elizabeth's smell. She has a sweet smell," says Elizabeth's mother Sam Soon Campbell.
She opens an armoire in a room where she keeps all of her daughter’s things- neat, tidy and untouched by the owner for more than thirty years.
"I am desperate to find her," she says.
At twenty years old, Elizabeth was living with her parents in Lampasas, Texas. She attended Central Texas College and worked at a 7-11 store in Killeen.
On April 25, 1988, she vanished.
The porch light had been left on that night. It was a family rule that the last person in the house was supposed to turn it off. That person would have been Elizabeth, and assuming she was home, her brother turned it off for her.
The following morning, when they confirmed that she hadn't come home, her parents tried to go to the police.
"We went to police stations everywhere; we went to every police station and asked for help," says Campbell.
But there was confusion on how many hours they had to wait to report her missing and which department in the area would take the case.
"One of them said 24 hours. One of them said 48 hours. One of them said 72 hours," says Elizabeth's sister Carol Ann Hone.
"There was no consistency in how do we handle a missing person- precious time was lost," she says.
The Copperas Cove Police Department eventually took the case, but the family had already begun their own investigation.
They discovered that the night she disappeared, Elizabeth left on foot from her ex-boyfriend’s house in Killeen after an argument.
She was dropped off at a Copperas Cove 7-11 later by a man who said she hitched a ride on her way back home to Lampasas.
She was last seen there around 11 p.m. that night, using a pay phone to call for a ride home.
"For thirty years we've searched everywhere- we've been driving coast to coast, " says her mother.
Believing that she was being trafficked against her will, her family created posters, walked the streets and followed every lead they had across Texas and out of state.
"Every penny they had would go to looking for her- thousands and thousands of dollars," says Hone.
They say they sold cattle, cars, three houses and all they could.
"I sold everything. I don't need the jewelry. I don't have anything anymore," says Campbell.
Much of the money went to the cost of printing fliers, postage on letters asking for help and phone bills upwards of $500 a month.
"We would get in people's faces. 'Have u seen my daughter? Have u seen this girl?" says Hone.
"They would sleep in their car. They would sleep in cheap motels," she adds.
Her parents followed up on every unidentified body that they found out about. They had them examined to see if it was Elizabeth.
Her mother even brought home a bone to her husband that she found while searching on the side of Highway 190 for their daughter.
"I told him that's my daughter," she says.
Mr. Campbell doubted it, but Elizabeth's mother sent the bone for testing anyway.
It turned out to have belonged to a deer.
There were moments like that when Mrs. Campbell questioned her relationship with God.
"Thirty years! I think he's punishing me," she says.
"Maybe I'm not a good person. [That's] why this happened to me."
She says they've been to all denominations of churches, begging congregations to pray for them.
The story was even featured on unsolved mysteries.
Leads have gone cold and public interest has waned, but the family still continues their quest for answers.
"I wish somebody would say something! We are not looking for a suspect; we're looking for my daughter," says 84-year-old Campbell.
Meanwhile, some family members still hold out hope that someday they can welcome her home to the room where all her belongings have been kept intact.
"She's still here," says her sister, pausing to feel her own heartbeat.
"As crazy as it sounds, I've never given up," she says.
If you have any information about Elizabeth Campbell’s disappearance, please call Copperas Cove Police.