Watch CBS News

KDKA Mysteries: The Unknown Surrounding Case Of Missing 25-Year-Old Thomas Hughes Terrifies His Family

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's been nearly three weeks since 25-year-old Thomas Hughes disappeared.

On Wednesday, the reward for information on his disappearance doubled to $10,000. His employer, Bluewater Thermal Solutions, matched his family's initial $5,000 reward.

The Hughes family is doing everything they can to find Thomas. His parents, Jeanene and Tom Hughes, say their son has always been outgoing and loved by many.

"He walked in a room and he just shined. People gravitated to him. Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. Was he perfect? No. I'm saying it as if he's not here. Is he perfect? No. But he's my imperfect son," said Jeanene.

Thomas Hughes

Thomas' parents say until recently, everything was normal. He had a steady job and has been in a relationship with his longtime friend, turned girlfriend Regan Ruff since last summer. He'd also been happy, helping to care for her three children.

"He was just telling me how good it feels to come home and have the kids give him a hug. He said it made him feel special," said Tom.

However, at least one of Thomas' friends noticed a change shortly before he disappeared.

"We found out he recently confided in a friend that he was feeling depressed," said Jeanene.

On Jan. 23, Thomas and Ruff came to visit his family from their home in Ridgway, Elk County.

"He was with me, his sister, and Regan at his sister's house," said Tom.

Halfway into his first beer, Tom says his son went upstairs to the bathroom and was in there for almost an hour.

"The next thing you know, he comes running down the stairs and the last thing he said was, 'Could you just trust me one time?'" Tom said.

Thomas got in his minivan and left. Tom followed a short time later, driving all over the area looking for him. The Hughes family eventually called the police and the official law enforcement search began.

Thomas Hughes
(Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Police)

The 25-year-old's minivan was later found on 18th Street on the South Side, just before the railroad tracks and the entrance to Riverfront Park. It was his parents who found the car with the keys still in the ignition.

"Everything was in there. The only thing that was missing was him," said Tom.

Police later tracked down surveillance video of Thomas in the immediate hours after he left his family.

First, in a gas station on Brighton Road buying an energy drink. Then, driving his minivan at the intersection of 10th and Carson streets. And finally turning down 18th Street toward the Monongahela River.

That final video was captured at 3:38 a.m. on Jan. 24.

Despite extensive searching by family and police over a number of days since then, there have been no other signs of Thomas. His phone and credit cards have not been used.

"It's just like he literally disappeared," said Jeanene.

Given his recent admission to a friend that he was feeling depressed, could Thomas have harmed himself?

"If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would've told you there's no chance," said Tom.

"I can't imagine him not at least reaching out long enough to tell us that he's OK," Jeanene added.

The unknown is agonizing and terrifying.

"I just don't know, and I'm scared to death. He's out there somewhere. Whether he's dead or alive, I just want him home," said Jeanene.

So Tom and Jeanene wait, hoping someone will come forward with the tip, the clue or the sighting that will bring their son back to them.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.