LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sarah Teague hasn't given up hope of solving an agonizing mystery confounding police since the mid-1990s, when her 23-year-old daughter was kidnapped while sunbathing on an Ohio River beach in western Kentucky.
Sunday marks the 17th anniversary of Heather Teague's abduction from Newburgh Beach in Henderson County. The one-time honor student and beauty contestant would now be 40 years old.
"I believe with all my heart that every question I've ever asked will be answered," her mother said Friday
Sarah Teague said she thinks her daughter's kidnapper is still on the loose: "There's somebody out there that took Heather."
Kentucky State Police said in a release Friday that investigators are still searching for clues and answers.
"Seventeen years later, we're still full-steam ahead on trying to solve her case," said state police Trooper Corey King.
King, a spokesman for the KSP post at Henderson, said police have pursued every possible lead but to no avail. The investigation has taken detectives as far away as Arizona and Florida to chase down possible information and witnesses that didn't pan out, he said.
Police put out a new plea Friday for people to come forward with any information in the case.
"Right now we don't have anything," King said.
In one instance, someone who claimed to have firsthand information about the case posted information in an online forum that turned out to be false, he said. State police tracked down the poster and interviewed the person. No charges have been filed yet, King said.
Heather Teague, who attended Western Kentucky University, was last seen on Aug. 26, 1995.
A witness who lived on the Indiana side of the Ohio River claimed to see the abduction through his telescope. He told police he saw a burly man approach Teague with a gun and pull her into the nearby woods by her hair.
One suspect was named in the case. The man 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.
The suspect fatally shot himself a week after Teague's disappearance as police attempted to serve a search warrant on his property.
All these years later, Sarah Teague has grown increasingly frustrated with the police investigation. She contends authorities pinpointed the wrong suspect and failed to pursue some leads.
"Every time I came in with a lead, then the story would change," she said. "The truth doesn't change."
King said state police have remained steadfastly determined to solve the case for the family.
"I can make promises to the Teague family that the Kentucky State Police are doing everything, and we're giving it 100 percent," he said.
Asked if she holds out hope her daughter is alive, Teague said, "All I know is I have no proof that she isn't. And I have none that she is."
She said her daughter was high school salutatorian from Webster County in 1990. She was a cheerleader and first runner-up in the local Junior Miss competition. She wrote poetry and "could work a chemistry problem all over a chalkboard," her mother said.
Now a scholarship has been created in Heather Teague's honor. The award will go to a Webster County graduate who tries to succeed against difficult odds. The winner will be named each year on April 25 — Heather's birthday, her mother said. A scholarship fund has been set up, and people interested in supporting it can do so by purchasing T-shirts and bracelets or by making monetary donations.
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