On Feb. 9, 1989, Tiffany Sessions, 20, a junior at the University of Florida in Gainesville, left her off-campus apartment to go for her daily power walk and disappeared.
Tiffany's Exercise Routine
Tiffany had begun exercising after Christmas break at the beginning of her second semester of her junior year of college. She walked the same route around 5 p.m. every day. The route took her along a wooded road, near clusters of apartment buildings where other University of Florida students lived.
Tiffany left for her walk around 4:45 p.m. By 7 p.m., she had yet to return and her roommate, Kathleen Frezza, knew something was very wrong. Kathleen left the apartment and drove along Tiffany's route looking for any sign of her roommate. With no sign of Tiffany, Kathleen called the Alachua Co. Sheriff's Office and Tiffany's parents - Patrick and Hilary Sessions.
No one could have predicted this would be the start of a more than 25-year-long search for Tiffany Sessions.
Tiffany's Big Plans
Before Tiffany's disappearance she was a very serious student with a 3.5 grade point average. She was studying finance at the University of Florida and had aspirations to one day run a company.
A Good Friend
Tiffany's roommate Kathleen described Tiffany as, "really warm and friendly. [She] always had a smile on her face, always willing to help. You just got a really warm kind feeling from her. She was pretty much always smiling."
Patrick and Hilary Sessions divorced when Tiffany was 8 months old. Tiffany was raised by her mother, who was in the Air Force, and spent much of her childhood traveling. They formed a strong mother- daughter bond. Even in college, Tiffany would call her mother almost daily.
Hilary treasures the last memory of her daughter from Christmas 1988. As Tiffany was leaving the house she gave her mother the biggest hug and kiss and said, "Mom, I love you."
Hilary Sessions often refers to her daughter, Tiffany, as her masterpiece. "I only had one. I worked really hard making sure she was as nice on the inside as she was on the outside."
Following in Dad's Footsteps
Tiffany didn't become close with her father, Patrick Sessions, until her teenage years. With a successful career as a marketing executive, Pat had a reputation of being a charismatic and aggressive real estate developer in South Florida. He oversaw the creation of Weston, a suburban community in Broward County, Fla, that attracted the rich and famous -- including many professional football athletes, entertainers and politicians.
Tiffany also became close with her half brother, Jason Sessions. Jason recalls fond memories of summers on their dad's boat and their annual ski trips to Aspen in the winters. Jason was 17 when Tiffany went missing and was actively involved in her search.
Pat Sessions arrived in Gainesville and sprang into action. He used his business savvy to organize one of the largest missing person searches in Florida history. By utilizing the media, Pat was able to put widespread attention on Tiffany's disappearance.
Strengthening the Team
Part of Pat Sessions' plan involved hiring Wayne Black, a private investigator who specialized in missing persons cases. They coordinated their search efforts with the sheriff's office. Black said, "From day one he was so driven. He ran [the search] like a business."
Their friendship grew over the years and the men remain very close to this day.
The Press Conference
Worried that Tiffany may have been abducted and taken out of state, Pat Sessions knew he had to get the word out about her disappearance on a national level. He scheduled his own press conference and asked Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and missing children activist and "America's Most Wanted" host, John Walsh, pictured, to join him.
Having been through the nightmare of having a missing child himself, John Walsh was a source of strength for Pat and provided him with crucial advice.
Friends in High Places
Pat Sessions had befriended Dolphins player Dan Marino after selling him his home in Weston. Attaching Marino to the search helped bring Tiffany's case to a national level.
Gainesville on High Alert
One week after Tiffany had disappeared, Pat returned to Gainesville with a small army of volunteers to conduct an air and ground search of the area. Over 700 people showed up to help; including University of Florida students, naval recruits from the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Marine reservists and even members of the Miami Dolphins football team.
John Offerdahl Joins the Search
The searchers -- including Dolphins player John Offerdahl -- wore white T-shirts with Tiffany's name and the toll free hotline on them. At the height of the search the hotline was receiving as many as 600 calls a day.
A Determined Dad
"My goal was simple. It was to make sure that everybody knew what [Tiffany] looked like. To try and get as many people out there looking for her as I could," said Pat Sessions.
Detective Jim Eckert was one of the earlier investigators to work Tiffany's case. In 1989, technology was almost primitive and the size of the case quickly became overwhelming for detectives.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office didn't even own a fax machine -- so Pat Sessions bought them one.
With the hotline churning out hundreds of possible leads daily, there was always the fear that something may have slipped through the cracks.
No Stone Left Unturned
Despite all their efforts, the massive search turned up absolutely nothing. Tiffany's whereabouts were still completely unknown. "This woman literally vanished off the face of the earth," said Jim Eckert.
Two weeks after Tiffany's disappearance, as tips continued to dwindle; Pat Sessions offered a $75,000 reward for information on his missing daughter. At this point, her disappearance was reclassified from a missing person to a kidnapping.
The Extortion Attempt
As weeks turned to months, hope in the Sessions camp was beginning to wane. But there was one lead that seemed credible.
A man who said he knew of Tiffany's whereabouts, claiming she was sick and in need of medical attention. The caller then tried to extort $200,000 from Pat Sessions, pictured, and threatened Tiffany's life.
In the end, the FBI caught the man, who was a professional con artist, and he was sent away to prison for six years and eight months. His information on Tiffany's whereabouts was completely unfounded.
By the fall of 1989, Pat Sessions increased the reward from $75,000 to $250,000 for the safe return of his daughter.
Student Beth Foster Murdered
Three years after Tiffany's disappearance, another student was found murdered in the Gainesville area. Beth Foster, a student at Santa Fe Community College, was discovered badly beaten to death in a shallow grave in the woods - just a mile from Tiffany's apartment complex.
With no leads, the Foster case went cold. Hilary Sessions always believed Beth's murder was somehow connected to Tiffany's disappearance.
A Possible Suspect
On the fifth anniversary of Tiffany's disappearance, Pat Sessions goes public with his belief that Michael Knickerbocker, an inmate at Martin Correctional Institute, had something to do with her disappearance.
Knickerbocker, a convicted serial rapist and murderer, confessed to killing Tiffany in an anonymous letter. When confronted about the letter, Knickerbocker never confessed to detectives that he killed Tiffany, but he did admit he wrote the letter as a cruel joke. Pat still believed Knickerbocker was involved, but police ruled him out as a suspect.
Making the Case a Priority
As months became years and leads dried up, there was one person who was always in Pat Sessions' corner: Sadie Darnell. Darnell first took interest in the Tiffany Sessions case when she was working as a PIO for the Alachua Co. Sheriff's Office in 1989. While Darnell was never actually assigned to Tiffany's case, she would mail and fax Patrick words of encouragement. In 2006, she was elected Sheriff of Alachua County and started the County's first Cold Case Unit. In 2013, she hired Det. Kevin Allen to work in the Unit and told him to make the Tiffany Sessions case a priority.
Detective Kevin Allen said, "She told me matter of factly, 'I want this solved during my tenure here."
The Paul Rowles Connection
In 2012, Sheriff Sadie Darnell took interest in convicted murderer Paul Rowles when forensic technology was finally able to link him to the Beth Foster murder. Sheriff Darnell suspected Rowles could have also killed Tiffany Sessions when they learned he was living and working in Gainesville at the time of her disappearance.
Paul Rowles' Criminal History
When Det. Kevin Allen looked into Paul Rowles, he found Rowles had a rather long and violent past. In addition to Beth Foster, Det. Allen found that Rowles had killed others as well. In 1972, Rowles was convicted of murdering 20 year old Linda Fida in Miami and was sentenced to life in prison. However, after serving only 13 years, he was paroled. Back then due to prison overcrowding and high crime, the average life sentence was only 15 years. Then in January of 1994, Rowles struck again when he kidnapped and raped a 15-year-old girl in Jacksonville. Rowles was convicted and sent to prison for good.
The Address Book
In December 2013, Det. Allen went to confront Paul Rowles, who was 64 at the time, but Rowles was in a coma and dying of lung cancer. When he died almost two weeks later, Sheriff Darnell had the detective retrieve a box of Rowles's personal belongings. What they found changed the entire investigation.
In the box was an address book. Not only were the names of Rowles's victims listed, but in the middle of the book was a date - 2/9/89. The date Tiffany disappeared. And on either side of this date Rowles wrote "#2," indicating that Tiffany may have been Rowles's second victim. Finally, investigators had a suspect.
Going Public about Paul Rowles
Just three weeks after the excavation on the 25th anniversary of Tiffany's disappearance, Sheriff Sadie Darnell held a press conference announcing Paul Rowles as Tiffany's abductor. Darnell hopes someone will come forward with new information that could lead to Tiffany's remains.
Even without finding Tiffany, Pat and Hilary Sessions take solace in knowing who is responsible for their daughter's disappearance. At the press conference they expressed their gratitude for the help they have received over the years. They are especially grateful to Sheriff Sadie Darnell and Det. Kevin Allen for their dedication to Tiffany's case.
If Tiffany Sessions were alive to today, she would be 46 years old.
Her case remains unsolved. Anyone with information in is asked to contact Det. Kevin Allen of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office at 1-352-384-3323 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org