Nineteen years after a young woman vanished while sunbathing on an Ohio River beach in western Kentucky, police are still digging for clues that could solve the mystery of what happened to Heather Teague.
Kentucky State Police received fresh tips recently that led investigators to excavate two sites — retention basins at a hog farm and a cistern at another location. No evidence was found.
Tuesday marks another anniversary of Teague’s abduction from Newburgh Beach in Henderson County. The one-time honor student and beauty contestant was 23 years old when she disappeared in 1995.
A man came forward claiming to have seen the abduction through a telescope on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. He told police that a burly man with a gun pulled Teague into the nearby woods by her hair.
Early on, police appeared to be making headway in the investigation.
The one suspect named in the case owned a red Bronco like one seen on a videotape of vehicles entering and leaving the Newburgh Beach area. Farmers had hired a photographer to videotape the traffic because of damage done to cornfields by motorists.
Then the suspect fatally shot himself a week after Teague’s disappearance as police attempted to serve a search warrant on his property. Since then, the mystery has confounded investigators and added to the agony for Sarah Teague, the victim’s mother.
“It will take a miracle to find her, but I have to believe in miracles,” Sarah Teague said recently.
As the years went by, state police said tips barely trickled in as the case faded from the public’s memory.
But investigators received information recently that led them to dig out two areas in search of clues or, perhaps, human remains, said Trooper Corey King, a spokesman for the state police post at Henderson.
Retention basins at the hog farm in Henderson County were drained and the contents were dug out and spread across a field, King said. The work yielded no evidence, he said.
At the other site, investigators lowered a submersible camera into a 20-foot-deep cistern. Police then excavated the cistern and inspected it contents, but again uncovered no evidence, King said.
Detectives at the Henderson KSP post have made breakthroughs to solve other cold cases in recent years, and they’re hoping to do the same with the Teague case, he said.
“We haven’t given up,” King said. “We have vowed to do everything and anything we can to bring information to the Teague family.”
Sarah Teague, who lives in Madisonville, believes authorities pinpointed the wrong suspect and failed to follow up on leads that she brought to their attention.
She sued members of the FBI, state police, Henderson Police Department and others in early 2013, alleging a cover-up. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled the case was brought to court too late to be prosecuted and that the allegations lacked merit.
As another anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance approached, Sarah Teague remained critical of the state police investigation, but said she appreciated the recent excavation efforts in the search for clues.
“I’m very thankful for any and all efforts that the state police have made to find my daughter,” she said.
Meanwhile, two Webster County high school graduates recently split a $1,000 scholarship created in memory of Heather Teague, an honor student and cheerleader who enjoyed writing poetry. She was a student at Western Kentucky University. She would be 42 years old now.
Her mother is pursuing a criminal justice degree and hopes to someday apply it by working on missing person cases.
She hasn’t given up hope of finding out her daughter’s fate.
“I have no proof that she is alive, and I have no proof that she is not,” Sarah Teague said. “It’s the not knowing that I have to balance in my heart every single day.”