Piedmont woman's disappearance still unsolved - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Piedmont woman's disappearance still unsolved

Carla Fuqua. Source: WBRC video Carla Fuqua. Source: WBRC video

It's been over two and a half years since 28-year-old Carla Fuqua vanished from Piedmont, Alabama and the investigation into her disappearance has generated little solid evidence.

Her family is speaking out about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance with the hope that new information may come to light.

Her cousin, Michelle Thacker, continues to pass out flyers around Alabama and Georgia even though she feels frustrated by a lack of information.

"We're getting nowhere, it's like we are stuck in 2009," Thacker said. "I mean, you know we just we don't know what to do. We know that we love her and we want her to come home and we know she's very important in our lives and she's missing."

Fuqua hasn't been seen since October 29, 2009, but since then there have been over two dozen unconfirmed sightings of her around north central Alabama and Georgia.

Her mother, Darlene Taylor Cook, says Carla's life wasn't easy. She married her high school sweetheart Jerry, but he died some years later in an ATV accident. Her father died the following year and one year to the day of her husband's death.

"Carla was devastated," said Darlene. "That changed her life completely."

Her family says Carla was hanging out with a bad crowd and her grief drove her to drugs, pills and crystal meth.

"She just wasn't strong enough to stay away from the ones that weren't good for her," Thacker said. "No matter how hard she tried, because she did try. She tried really hard. But those demons they just kept coming back and pulling on her and she wasn't strong enough."

Fuqua's trouble with the law began in 2005 when she was arrested and pleaded guilty to illegal drug possession and served two years probation. She was arrested again in 2008 in Cherokee County after a deputy pulled her over with a working meth lab in her vehicle. Again, she pleaded guilty and agreed to go through drug court, but failed to finish her sentence when she vanished.

Her family says she was getting her life together and the timing of her disappearance just doesn't make sense.

"Was she scared, is she running for some reason, or is somebody holding her?" asked Thacker. "We just don't know."

Another factor that puzzles her family is Fuqua's 9-year-old son, Justin. Her family says she loved her son and the possibility that she simply ran away just doesn't add up.

"You know Justin was her world," said Darlene. "I mean, that's what makes us not understand because it was all about Justin."

Sergeant Carolyn Durham with Piedmont Police also knew Fuqua personally and says the length of time she's been missing is concerning.

"She usually prioritized motherhood," Sgt. Durham said. "And Justin was usually, you know, she was going to be there for Justin."

Sgt. Durham says their investigation into Fuqua's disappearance is extensive, but at this point they are stuck at a dead end.

"I can't find anything that's absolute and haven't in two and a half years," she said. "With some of the people that she was hanging out with, that's been very problematic in the investigation, finding people who have credibility, who you can have some faith in what they say."

Piedmont Police have worked with 24 different public safety agencies and have followed up on more than two dozen reported sightings. The most recent was in Rome, Georgia. None of the sightings has been confirmed. Authorities have also conducted 37 searches across three states, but still no sign of Carla Fuqua.

"For me to feel like I'm not getting any results and not helping this family in the way I want to help them, is incredibly frustrating," Sgt. Durham said.

Here's what we do know: the last time Darlene saw Carla was October 29, 2009 when she left to see a friend named Danielle Phillips. Phillips and another friend of Carla's named Marty Lockridge are the last two people to see Carla alive, according to police.

Their story has always been that on the night of October 29, Lockridge dropped Fuqua off to meet someone at a rock wall located outside Piedmont on Piedmont-Jacksonville Road. She hasn't been heard from since. Police have questioned Phillips and Lockridge and they both underwent polygraph exams.

"There were some things that came up in the polygraph that we had to dig a little deeper about," said Sgt. Durham. "To try to find out why somebody might not be telling whole truths or something like that, but nothing came out that led us to believe these people were guilty of anything."

Phillips did admit to using Fuqua's debit card after she went missing. She pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a credit card and paid a fine. Sgt. Durham says Phillips use of Fuqua's debit card did not track in any direction and did not show evidence of foul play.

The family believes Phillips and Lockridge know more than they're telling.

"We know that there's two people that know, and I do believe with everything in me that they know something, they know more than what they're telling," said Thacker.

"We just wish they would finally have the heart to tell us."

Neither Phillips nor Lockridge responded to FOX6 News' request for an interview.

Investigators and Fuqua's family remain hopeful that someone who knows something will come forward.

"We need some kind of closure, good or bad," said Thacker. "How long can we keep going like this? I mean, we're not going to give up, at all, never. I will look for her until I take my last breath."

The Piedmont Police Department asks anyone with tips about this case to contact them by calling 256-447-9091 or send an email to crimetips@piedmontcity.org.

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