Produced by Chris Young Ritzen
[This story first aired on June 2, 2014. It was updated on Aug. 8, 2015.]
For 25 years, Pat and Hilary Sessions have been searching for their daughter Tiffany.
In January 2014, in a forest in Gainesville, Fla., -- just over a mile from where Tiffany disappeared -- they hope they may finally find her.
"There was another girl in 1992 who was actually found here on this site," Tiffany's mother, Hilary Sessions, said at the excavation site. "I am extremely optimistic."
"What are you feeling going into this excavation? Are you nervous? Excited?" correspondent Tracy Smith asked Pat Sessions.
"Yeah. I'm a lot more nervous than I thought I would be. I've done other searches. And this one, I'm a lot more nervous about because it may not be true or not, but it sort of feels like a final hurrah. You know I pushed and pushed so many people for so long that ... (clears throat, overcome with emotion ) I don't know how long they'll do it. Sorry."
"Do you think the emotion comes because maybe it's the end or maybe it's not?" Smith asked Pat.
"Yeah, I don't know," he replied. "It needs to ... end. Everybody needs closure on this."
In 1989, Tiffany Sessions was a junior studying finance at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She had dreams of running a company one day.
"She knew what she wanted to do. She knew where she was going to go," said Hilary.
"She was determined to make something out of herself," said Pat.
Tiffany had a good role model. Pat Sessions was a well known marketing executive for a giant real estate company in South Florida. He oversaw the creation of Weston -- one of the biggest building projects in the United States.
"She kind of wanted to be like Dad? Follow in your footsteps?" Smith asked.
"I've been told that by her friends," Pat replied.
Pat and Hilary divorced when Tiffany was just 8 months old. Hilary was in the U.S. Air Force, and as she traveled around the country, she brought Tiffany with her.
"I was the mom. I was the dad. I was the disciplinarian. The provider. There wasn't anything that we didn't do together. And we worked as a team," said Hilary.
"You called her your masterpiece?" Smith asked Hilary.
"I did. Because I only had one. I worked really hard on ... making sure she was as nice on the inside as she was on the outside," she replied.
Growing up, Tiffany didn't see a lot of her father, but in her teens, they reconnected. Pat was in his late 30s, a bachelor living in an oceanfront home in Miami's affluent Coconut Grove.
Tiffany also got to know her half brother, Jason.
"The summers were the times that we spent together, and the holidays," Jason said. "My father's always a very active, fun guy. So when we came together for those different times, we were always doin' neat experiences, goin' on the boat -- you know, the beach. Different activities like that. ... That's where we really got to know each other."
"Both of them were single kids so they didn't have anybody else. They bonded together very quickly," said Pat.
But for Pat, missing out on so much of his daughter's childhood had taken its toll.
"It was a lot of catch up. And overcoming ... a lot of bad history between her mother and I," he said.
Kathleen Frezza was Tiffany's college roommate.
"Tiffany was very close to both her parents," she explained. "She loved her mom. And they had a very special relationship. She spoke with her frequently, almost daily I would say on the phone. With her dad because she was able to renew that relationship with him, that was really very touching for her."
And when Pat bought his daughter a Rolex watch, Frezza says Tiffany never took it off.
"She just loved it partly because it was a Rolex, partly because it was from her dad. You know it held a really special emotional tie for her," she said.
In fact, Frezza has never forgotten one of the last conversations she had with Tiffany, just before she went out for that final walk.
"Before she walked out, Tiffany said, 'I'm gonna take off my jewelry,'" Frezza said. "She said, 'but I'm keeping my watch on ... if somebody comes after me, they're gonna have to fight me for the watch.'"
"When Tiffany did not come back, I still had hope at that time," said Frezza.
"I just really still am pretty hopeful and continue to believe that she will return safely," Frezza told reporters in 1989.
"There were people in the apartment, outside the apartment milling around, trying to figure out what we needed to do," said Hilary.
The day after Tiffany went missing, Pat and Hilary arrived in Gainesville.
"I got here and I didn't even rent a car. I did a cab because I assumed all this was going to be over relatively quickly and Tiffany would give me a ride back to the airport," said Pat.
But Pat knew the situation was serious, when he learned that Tiffany had left the apartment with only her watch and her Walkman.
"She didn't have her wallet, her driver's license. Her car was there. And that was the scary part. You know, all that stuff was there," he recalled. "And we were all startin' to get nervous as the day went on."
Jim Eckert was one of the lead investigators on the case.
"I think there was a sense of urgency here," he told Smith. "This young woman didn't have any, I guess, baggage, as it were. ...It wasn't like we had a boyfriend ... or some strained relationship. ...She was a good student ... She was pretty much always on the mark. So for her, not to have shown up was -- pretty unusual."
"She's a smart kid. She's resourceful. And if she's in trouble, she is going to be doing everything she can to get out of it," Pat told reporters in 1989.
Pat sprang into action. He put his marketing skills to work and organized one of the largest missing person searches in Florida history. He brought in Wayne Black, a private investigator who specialized in recovering missing children.
"From day one, he was so driven. He ran it like a business. He really did," Black said. "Pat had, within I think 24 hours, Tiffany's picture on the inside of every pizza box being delivered in Alachua County."
Volunteers blanketed the state with fliers, put Tiffany's face on billboards and answered a 1-800 hotline. Jason Sessions, just 17, also helped to get the word out.
"It was amazing to me how small south Florida became in understanding who Tiffany Sessions was and what we were doing and what we were going through," said Jason.
Pat says his goal was simple: "It was to make sure that everybody that I could knew what she looked like. ... To try and get as many people out there looking for her as I could."
"I'm curious whether that helped you with the emotional side of things," said Smith.
"Yes it did," Pat replied.
"To be able to look at this from a business-marketing point of view?"
"Yes. Because I felt useful. Because I felt in control," said Pat.
Pat set up press conferences and recruited his famous friends, like football legend Dan Marino.
"What I'm going to try and do and help this team is to call all my friends in the NFL ... to try and get some nationwide coverage for Tiffany, to try to help her," Marino told reporters at a press conference.
"Today you can push a button and you can reach a million people on Facebook," Pat said. "In those days ... TV was my Facebook."
Politician Jeb Bush helped out and so did "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, whose son Adam was abducted and killed in 1981.
"I know the nightmare of having a child missing and what he is going through," Walsh told reporters in 1989. "We can only assume that she is alive and that she is somewhere and we hope there will be some type of word and that that you will spread the word."
"People are committed because of Pat. Because he just asks them. 'Come help me.' And you know, he's irresistible in that regard," said Black.
Just one week after Tiffany disappeared, over 700 people showed up to search the area around her walking route hoping to find any clues as to what happened to her.
"There's something out there somewhere and we just haven't turned it up yet" Pat told reporters at the gathering.
"It was freezing cold that day. It was a terrible day, it was drizzling, it was cold," Pat recalled.
"We had busloads of troops that come in to help us with the search. We had Dolphins players, we had all of our friends and family from south Florida who were up here," said Jason.
"We went real hard at the area where she walked, tryin' to find the Walkman. Tryin' to find her watch. Trying to find anything," said Pat.
"And it turns up?" Smith asked.
"Zero. Absolute zero. Not a thing," said Pat.
"That was the longest drive home... because I was so euphoric that, 'Oh we're gonna ... find something," Hilary said. "I think the hardest part was, 'What do I do now?'"
THE SEARCH CONTINUES
"In your trying to solve the case, I would imagine you went up and down and up and down this road," Smith commented to Jim Eckert.
"A lot. An awful lot," he replied.
Former Detective Jim Eckert still remembers every step of the walking route he thinks Tiffany Sessions took the night she disappeared.
"This was all thick woods," he pointed out.
"So it would've been fairly easy to snatch someone?" Smith asked.
"It was. It was what you would call a private place," Eckert said. "This was a huge construction site with a lot a people coming and going."
Eckert always wondered if Tiffany's abductor could have worked at the Hunter's Run apartment complex, located on Tiffany's walking route.
"We talked to certainly as many as we could," he said.
"And nothing," Smith commented.
"Nothing," Eckert affirmed.
The hotline was receiving as many as 600 calls a day. But in 1989, technology was so primitive, detectives were quickly overwhelmed.
"We were using DOS systems and sticking big disks in computers. And most cops didn't even know how to do that," Eckert said. "You know, we didn't have a fax machine."
"They didn't have a fax machine?" Smith asked Pat Sessions.
"No. So I bought 'em one," he replied.
"How many leads came in?" Smith asked.
"Too many," Pat replied. "I've always worried that there was so much that it got lost in the shuffle."
"Something fell through the cracks," Smith commented.
"Uh, huh," Pat affirmed.
Weeks turned to months.
"The first month or two we still had a lot of hope," Pat said. "Every day that goes by, the odds drop astronomically. ... I knew that things were not looking good."
Then detectives received a promising lead. In a letter, an anonymous inmate wrote that Michael Knickerbocker - a convicted serial rapist and murderer serving five life sentences -- confessed to killing Tiffany Sessions.
Eckert went to talk to him.
"He was a spooky guy ... You got bad vibes off of him," he told Smith. "It was kinda odd. You know like, 'Well, did you do this?' 'No. But here's how I would have done it.'"
Knickerbocker never confessed to detectives that he killed Tiffany. But he did confess that he was the one who wrote the letter ... as a mean joke.
"You know these guys do that. I mean I can show you 50 letters that I've got from guys in jail," Pat said. "I realized early on that I was dealin' with a whole sub culture of people that were just subhuman."
When the Knickerbocker lead fell apart, Pat offered a cash reward, hoping someone would come forward with information about his daughter.
"When you put out a reward, it happens in every case. You get every nut job," said Black.
But one lead seemed credible.
"You know you get your hopes up," Pat said. "You think, 'Maybe this is it.'"
It was from a man who said he knew where Tiffany was and that she was sick and in need of medical attention.
"He says, 'Don't hang up,'" said Smith.
The caller sent Pat on a wild car chase all over Miami.
"And he says, 'You hang up and I'm gonna kill her,'" Pat told Smith.
But the caller turned out to be a professional con artist. He was caught by the FBI and sent away to prison for a little over six years.
"I was emotionally up to here. I really thought this guy might know something," said Pat.
As the reward climbed to $250,000, Pat endured two more extortion attempts.
And then, one year after Tiffany went missing -- when Pat thought the news couldn't get much worse -- within four days, five students were murdered in Gainesville.
Detectives had a serial killer on their hands.
"Did you think Tiffany could have been connected to that?" Smith asked Pat.
"Of course, the first day you wondered," he replied. "Yes, I thought that maybe it was the same person,"
Weeks later, an ex-con named Danny Rolling was arrested. He later confessed to the five Gainesville student murders. But he never confessed to killing Tiffany. Detectives dropped him as a possible suspect when they learned Rolling was in Shreveport, La., the evening Tiffany disappeared.
"The biggest challenge always in a case like this is to keep everyone motivated," said private investigator Wayne Black.
When the leads dried up, Black tried to keep the momentum of the investigation going.
"The case got cold. So you have to remind them ... 'This is a case. It's still a kidnapping. It's still a homicide ... And let's work it,'" he said.
And Pat and his team kept working it ... for 25 years.
"Was there ever a time that you wanted to give up?" Smith asked Pat.
"Yeah. I mean, I'm not gonna lie about that. ...I mean there were times early on when I was just so overwhelmed and the frustration of not knowing what to do," he replied. "And the good news was even when I started to slow down, everybody else pushed for me."
And no one pushed Pat more than Sadie Darnell.
In 2006, Darnell became the first woman elected sheriff in Alachua County. She was just a young cop in 1989, when Tiffany disappeared. And that memory stayed with her.
"It was very jarring and haunting to think that this could happen in our midst. And then this many years later, still having it unsolved," said Sheriff Darnell.
Throughout the years, even though she was never actually assigned to the case, Darnell would mail and fax Pat Sessions words of encouragement:
Sept. 15, 1995 -- Patrick, I know this must be difficult for you to maintain a constant struggle for Tiffany's case. I have always believed it can and will be solved ... I have loyalty to you. The overall goal is for you to have Tiffany back and sometime in the future, peace. Call me anytime to vent, strategize, coordinate, kick butt. Always Sadie
So when Darnell became sheriff, one of her main goals was to set up a cold case unit and find out what happened to Tiffany Sessions. In January 2013, she hired Det. Kevin Allen to do just that.
"He's one of the best I've ever seen. In fact, I kept asking, 'Where has he been all my career?' This is the kinda guy that gets the cold case stuff," Darnell said. "That's the kind of person that you need on this.
"And she told me matter-of-factly, 'I want this solved during my tenure here," said Det. Allen.
And Sheriff Darnell told Det. Allen she wanted him to focus on one man -- a convict by the name of Paul Rowles.
"It was the first time I'd heard his name. I'd been in that case for a couple of weeks. I'd never read the name, never heard the name," Det. Allen said. "She said, 'Get down and talk to him. Talk to him right away. Time is of the essence.'"
A DETERMINED DETECTIVE
Working on the Tiffany Sessions case would be difficult for Det. Kevin Allen.
"I have an 18 year old daughter ... My daughter is the light of my life," he told Smith. "And just being a parent and just the thought of something happening to your child. ...I have a picture of Tiffany Sessions that I keep at my desk. I go to bed thinking that case. I wake up thinking about that case."
"We look at all the cold cases," Sheriff Sadie Darnell said. "We can't forget the past. We can't just let it go."
Sheriff Darnell made the Tiffany Sessions case a priority.
"We need to lift up every rock, peel back every layer," she said.
She started by giving Det. Allen that lead -- to look into convicted murderer, Paul Rowles.
"And what I found out was that Paul Rowles was a psychopath, a serial killer. He had sadistic tendencies, sadistic fantasies," said Allen.
And Det. Allen would soon learn that Paul Rowles had a long and violent past that lasted over 20 years.
In 1972, he killed his first victim, former beauty queen Linda Fida. At the time, Rowles was a newly married, 23-year-old architecture student.
"Linda Fida was a neighbor of his. They lived in an apartment complex in North Miami. Paul was a stalker. I mean he would plan and watch his pray," Det. Allen explained. "He saw her through the peephole in his door to his apartment and that's how he watched her ..."
When Fida went to do her laundry, Rowles snuck into her apartment and when she returned, he tried to rape her. She fought back and he strangled her.
Detective Marshall Frank, now retired, rushed to the crime scene.
"This was a nude young girl in a bathtub," he explained. "One of the things that we found that was different on this crime scene than other crime scenes was a couple of Band-Aids."
Detectives were able to get toe prints off those Band-Aids. Then, a day after the murder, when they knocked on neighbor Paul Rowles' door, they immediately noticed he had Band-Aids on his toes.
"So they went and took a toe print from him, compared it against the print that they had at the scene, they had their guy, said Det. Allen.
After his arrest, Det. Frank was shocked when Rowles quickly confessed.
"There were no voices raised. No hate or anger," Frank said. "It was almost as though ... he was just kind of matter-of-factly going over something that just happened."
Detective Frank says Rowles told him he had sexual urges that he couldn't control.
"And I asked him, 'How long have you had these kind of feelings?'" Frank said. "And he said, 'For a while now.'"
"My thought process was ... this man has a severe problem," said Frank.
Detective Frank believes Paul Rowles was the most dangerous type of killer.
"When you met him at that time, you met a nice guy anybody would trust. Have him over for dinner," he said. "You'd never know, you'd never know."
Rowles was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Linda Fida.
But in 1985, Rowles' life sentence was abruptly cut short when he was suddenly released and out on parole
"And I thought, 'Oh my God.' That's not good," said Frank.
"That was the deal back then, through prison overcrowding, and lots of crime ... the average sentence ... for life in prison ... was 15 years," said Allen.
Rowles only had to serve 13 years of his life sentence.
"This is the kind of guy who should not be released from prison. I mean he committed a heinous crime without any guilt at all," said Frank.
In 1988, Rowles settled in Gainesville where he worked as a pizza delivery man. He also had another job putting up scaffolding on that apartment complex, Hunter's Run, located right on Tiffany's walking route.
"He always stayed under the radar. When I interviewed his boss at Pizza Hut, he said, 'It was as if Paul didn't wanna be seen.' He just maintained an extremely low profile, as many serial killers do," said Allen.
In 1989, just one year after Paul Rowles moved to Gainesville, Tiffany Sessions disappeared.
"How could someone just totally disappear off the face of this earth? With no evidence?" said Hilary Sessions.
And it turns out Rowles did not show up for his pizza delivery job on the day Tiffany vanished.
Then in 1992, just three years after Tiffany went missing, Beth Foster, another college student, was found murdered just one mile from where Tiffany went walking.
"Every time something happened up here in Gainesville, I was concerned," said Hilary.
Tiffany's mom, Hilary, immediately thought that the two cases could be related...
"You thought back in '92 ... that this could be a serial killer?" Smith asked Hilary.
"Absolutely," she replied.
"The same guy who murdered Elizabeth Foster could have taken Tiffany?"
"Yes," Hilary said. "And I've said this the entire time. But no one wanted to listen to me."
Private investigator Wayne Black says, at the time, police couldn't link Rowles to either crime.
"Remember ... we didn't have the forensics that we have today," Black said. "We were in the dark ages."
Even though Rowles, by then 43, was an ex-con living in the area, police never questioned him. And, just two months after Beth Foster's murder, he quietly left town.
"Paul Rowles had lived in Gainesville for about four years and I think the heat was on at that point," said Allen. "He gotta out of town."
And in 1994, Rowles struck again, this time in Jacksonville, when he raped and attempted to kill a 15-year-old girl. She was able to escape and identified Rowles as her attacker. Rowles was convicted and this time he was sent to prison for good.
"He was confronted soon after the crime and gave a full confession," said Allen.
"To that crime," Smith noted.
"Yes," Allen replied.
"To the young girl," said Smith.
"Yes," said Allen.
"But what about to the other crimes?" Smith asked the detective. "Elizabeth Foster ... Tiffany Sessions?"
"He wasn't interviewed about either of those cases in a timely fashion. The dots had not been connected," he replied.
Over the next few years as DNA technology advanced, detectives submitted Rowles' DNA to the FBI database to see if he could possibly have killed others. And although it took 18 years, finally, in 2012, there was a match to Elizabeth Foster.
"So how big of a development was that? Linking Elizabeth Foster's death to Paul Rowles?" Smith asked Sheriff Darnell.
"It was huge," the sheriff replied. "Years go on, decades go on and nothing is happening, no new information, so it was energizing, it was wonderful."
Sheriff Darnell knew that if Paul Rowles, who was now 64, had killed Beth Foster, he could also have killed Tiffany Sessions.
"She was a young white female. They lived in the same quadrant of the county," Darnell said. "He didn't show up for the work the day she went missing. You gotta look at him. You gotta look at him."
Detective Allen couldn't wait to confront Rowles, hoping he would cave and confess to Tiffany's abduction. But, when the detective went to question him in December of 2013, Rowles was in a coma and dying of lung cancer.
"Did you hope that maybe he'd wake up?" Smith asked Allen.
"Oh sure. And with a last twinge of conscience, you know, could, would, should say, 'I did it and this is where she is.' But that didn't happen," he replied.
Paul Rowles died almost two weeks later, but Sheriff Darnell was not giving up.
"I sent an email to Kevin saying, 'Crap, Crap, Crap. Get down there and get his personal belongs as soon as possible,'" she said.
"She knew something in her gut told her to get a hold of Paul Rowles personal property," said Allen.
And what Paul Rowles left behind changed the entire investigation.
"I got chills when Kevin showed it to me ..." said Darnell.
THE ADDRESS BOOK
When Detective Allen went to retrieve serial killer Paul Rowles' personal belongings from jail, it was 24 years after Tiffany Session's disappeared.
There was just one box and didn't think he would find much.
"And it's just a lotta letters and loose writings and stuff," said Allen.
But then he came across Rowles' address book.
"I said, 'Oh, I should copy this. This might be relevant," Allen said. "And there in the dead center of the book is a date, 2-9-89."
"I went, 'Oh, my gosh' 'cause that's the date Tiffy disappeared," said Hilary.
Then Det. Allen saw what Rowles wrote next to the date.
"The number two. I knew Linda Fida was his first victim, and chronologically, Tiffany Sessions would've been his second victim," he said. "I almost fell down when-- when I saw it."
"What was going on in your head?"Smith asked Det. Allen.
"We have a possible link to the Tiffany Sessions disappearance from Paul Rowles' personal property," he replied.
"That's a huge break," said Smith.
"Lucky. Really lucky," the detective replied.
And that's not all that was in the address book. Rowles had also written down the names of all of his other victims: Linda Fida, Elizabeth Foster and the 15-year-old girl Rowles raped and attempted to kill in Jacksonville - a minor whose name "48 Hours" won't disclose.
"Some serial killers like to keep a diary. Some keep artifacts. Some like to write down what they've done. A feeling of accomplishment," Wayne Black explained. "'Look what I did. I've got, two, three, four.'"
"I said, 'Can I see it?'" Sheriff Darnell said of the address book.
It could be the smoking gun piece of evidence Sheriff Darnell has been looking for all these years.
"And I was literally shaking holding that, to see it and to see the depth of what that meant," she said. "After all these many years, there's a possibility -- just a possibility that this case could be solved."
Once he discovered the address book, Det. Allen ordered up cadaver dogs to search the site where Rowles buried Elizabeth Foster.
"They all alert about 20 feet from where Beth Foster was buried," said Allen.
"So what did that say to you?" Smith asked.
"There's human remains there," he replied.
"And it could be Tiffany?" Smith asked.
"Could be Tiffany Sessions," Allen replied. "He obviously was in a comfort zone there. He left Beth Foster there for a reason. So he may have left multiple bodies there. "
So on Jan. 13, 2014, just one month away from the 25th anniversary of Tiffany's disappearance, Pat Sessions and Det. Allen gathered a team of people to help at the excavation.
"Twenty five years ago we started. I hope we're gonna finish," Pat said. "I wanna be there for the end of this, if it is."
Some members of the team have been searching for Tiffany's since she went missing.
"I've probably been on over 20 searches for Tiffany," said Dr. Michael Warren, a world renowned forensic anthropologist, an expert in identifying human bones.
"I've had Tiffany Sessions' master file on my desk for 21 years," said Dr. Warren.
He's been actively involved in the search for Tiffany since in 1991.
"She's just been one of the cases that I would like to resolve," he said.
And he knows it is not going to be an easy task.
"It's very hard to go out and do an organized search over such a large area," he explained. "So we're gonna have to be a pretty aggressive."
And, if they find any bones, Dr. Warren will know if they are Tiffany's.
"I've memorized her dental pattern and her dental chart," he said. "To find her would be a remarkable feeling."
Their plan: to dig for five days.
"I feel good about the operation, I feel good about the people on the ground," Allen said at the excavation site. "So we're all thumbs up, trying to stay positive."
After clearing the trees, they begin the tedious job of sifting through every bit of dirt -- looking for pieces of human bone.
And in the afternoon, they do find a bone, but it's not human. It's a deer bone. Pat is disappointed, but he knows they have a lot more ground to dig.
"We waited this long, worked this hard to get here," he said. "It's amazing, you know, the commitment from everyone."
And, if they don't find Tiffany here, Jason Sessions will never stop looking for his sister.
"I don't have any doubt that if I drop dead tomorrow, you know he'll just keep on going. And I hope he doesn't have to. I don't' want him to have to do that. So maybe we'll get lucky," said Pat.
"I'll continue looking forever. As long as there's a lead to follow, were gonna continue looking," said Jason.
With just three days left to dig, Tiffany's mother, Hilary, is adamant the search will be over.
"This is definitely the one. You know why? ...The pieces are fitting. Everything is fitting into place," she said. "This is it ..."
"Is it hard to imagine that Tiffany might be in that spot?" Tracy Smith asked Pat Sessions.
"I don't know what's worse. Having absolutely no idea what happened to her or having someone as bad as Paul Rowles having done it," he replied.
Believing serial killer Paul Rowles murdered his daughter makes it even harder for Pat Sessions to understand how -- after receiving a life sentence in 1976 - he was ever released from prison.
"That makes me sick," he said. "Tiffany would probably be alive today if they hadn't let that guy out."
On day three of the excavation, Pat starts to wonder if Rowles may have buried Tiffany someplace else.
"Am I losing optimism that we're gonna find Tiffany this go around? It's hard not to," he said at the excavation site.
Later that day, Pat's fears come true when excavators finish digging in the areas where the cadaver dogs alerted and find ... nothing.
"Certainly dogs are very good at finding the recently dead, who are giving off these human specific scents," said forensic anthropologist Dr. Michael Warren.
Dr. Warren says cadaver dogs sometimes can be unreliable when trying to solve cold cases.
"But skeletons are a different - thing. Because they don't have any odor associated with them," he explained.
And with no focus on where to dig, by the end of the week, the excavation comes to an end.
Detective Kevin Allen at dig site: We have not found Tiffany Sessions.
"Was it disappointing? Yeah, really disappointing. But, you know, we're never gonna find out if we don't keep on tryin'" said Pat.
And then, just three weeks after the dig, Sheriff Darnell goes public about Paul Rowles.
"Good morning everyone and thank you for being here. This has been a long journey," she addressed reporters. "He was in this community, he murdered in this community. ... He had made comments about this site being a dump site."
Darnell hopes that someone will know something that leads them to Tiffany's remains.
"If you had any involvement with him, if you know of anyone who had involvement with him ... bring it forward," she continued.
For Pat and Hilary, there is a sense of finality to this moment. They think they have their man ... even if they don't have their little girl. Above all, they are grateful.
"I wanna thank the people who have come over the last 25 years," Hilary told reporters.
They are especially thankful to Det. Kevin Allen.
"This is the guy who made everyone work," Hilary said, introducing and hugging the detective.
He's the one who gave Pat and Hilary the answers they have been longing for.
"I think he solved the case," Pat said. "I think we've found who took Tiffany, I believe that."
"I think anyone who has children is touched by the case of Tiffany Sessions especially myself. I know the sheriff, too. It was an emotional day for all of us.
Tiffany's case is still officially open, but over the years Pat and Hilary have tried to bring closure to other parents of missing children. Hilary has worked with advocates on child protection legislation and Pat works directly with families.
"You know, you try and find something, as corny as it sounds. Try and make some meaning. Try and do something positive out of a terrible thing. And I think that's the best thing I can do," Pat said. "You know, if somebody calls me, I'm there."
"My cute little missy," Hilary said in Tiffany's bedroom, looking though a box of her daughter's things.
"I'm very comfortable here in her room. On bad days, like sometimes her birthday, I come in and sleep here in her room because I feel very close to her at that time," she said.
"I honestly do think that if Tiffany were here, she'd say, 'Get over it.' I don't think she'd want me spending my entire life - having already spent 25 years at this - trying to do something that isn't going to bring her back," said Pat.
"So if you imagine she would tell you, 'Knock it off, Dad. Move on...' why do you keep doing it?" Smith asked.
"For my own benefit. To try and -- to do what I think I should have done. I don't want to ever -- if she walked in the door tomorrow," Pat said, "you know, I want to always be able to say that I did the best I could do. That's all anybody can do."
Tiffany Sessions would be 46 years old.
- Anyone with information in the Tiffany Sessions case is asked to contact Det. Kevin Allen of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office at 1-352-384-3323 or by email: email@example.com