But Tara had been the target of a violent outburst before, ironically by one of her former students. In March 2005, Anthony Vickers, a former student of Tara’s, tried to force his way into her house.
Friends say Tara had taken Vickers under her wing. “He was just kind of a troubled kid and that would be her nature,” Osjha explains.
But he may have become obsessed with her. “She talked about the fact that he would call and he would rely on her and she knew it was getting too much for her. I just kept telling her, ‘You know Tara, something’s wrong,’” Maria remembers.
Could Anthony Vickers have been involved in Tara’s disappearance? Rothwell says investigators looked into that possibility extensively but that at this point “can’t draw a connection.”
And remember the business card investigators had found at Tara’s front door? “It was certainly a piece of evidence that we’re interested in. I mean it’s a business card stuck in the door of a person that’s now missing,” Rothwell says.
It turns out the card was left by a police officer from a nearby town, a married man. A neighbor told 48 Hours he was a frequent visitor to Tara’s house.
“He had been there apparently Sunday night looking for or trying to get her to the door. And he said he did not get an answer,” Connie tells Van Sant.
The man also left almost two dozen messages on Tara’s answering machine the weekend she disappeared.
Asked if Tara had put herself in a position in her life where she may have created jealousies or given someone a motive to murder her, Maria says, “I think the fact that she was beautiful and other people paid attention to her would obviously make some people jealous. I think she was afraid of the possibility of someone hurting her from being angry at her, having reactions to her dating people.”
None of the men the GBI were most interested in would agree to speak to 48 Hours on camera; all deny any involvement in Tara’s disappearance. The GBI says although they all have alibis, nobody’s alibi covers the full 34-hour period during which Tara vanished. So for now, no one has been ruled out.
For more than three years, the GBI has continued to investigate anyone and everyone Tara knew. “We’ve collected DNA samples from every person she might have had a romantic relationship with, interviewed them,” Rothwell says.
And Tara’s family and friends remain frustrated. “I believe there is a piece of the puzzle that is missing. And when that piece of information comes in, it will lead us to the answers of what happened to Tara,” Connie hopes.
Ever since Tara disappeared, the GBI has refused to name any suspects in the case, and has remained tight-lipped about any evidence they have, until now: Rothwell says that latex glove could be a significant piece of evidence.
Just days after Tara went missing, Rothwell sent the glove to the GBI crime lab in Atlanta. Trace evidence specialist Larry Peterson wasn’t optimistic. “It’s my experience from past cases that latex gloves like this had a relatively low rate of success,” he explains.
But in this case, investigators caught a lucky break: against all odds, investigators had recovered DNA-male profile DNA-from the glove.
And besides the DNA, Rothwell says they also got a fingerprint. But when they compared the DNA and fingerprint to the men in Tara’s life, there was no match.
There was no match nationally, either. Still, investigators can’t eliminate any of the men in Tara’s life, since they might have had an accomplice. “We always have to consider the possibility of a third party. Either someone was involved in getting a third party to harm Tara or that Tara was harmed by accident and a third party was used to help cover up the crime,” Rothwell says.
For two and a half years the GBI kept the DNA evidence secret, hoping they would find a match. But now they’re hoping someone from the 48 Hours audience can help solve this case.
“We hope there’s someone who knows something, has a person that they know was involved in this case and was withholding that information for fear that we were not going to be able to prove it. Well we’ll be able to prove it. We want one of those persons, if they have that type of information, to come forward,” Rothwell says.
If you have any information, please contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.