Nearly 25 years after University of Florida student Tiffany Sessions vanished, authorities believe they now know who was behind the cold case disappearance. NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports.
Nearly 25 years after University of Florida student Tiffany Sessions vanished, authorities believe they now know who was behind the cold case disappearance.
Paul Rowles, a convicted murderer who died in prison last year, is the man who likely killed Sessions after she went missing while taking a walk near UF the night of Feb. 9, 1989, Alachua County Sheriff's Office officials said at a news conference Thursday.
"This guy is the scum of the earth, he destroyed three, four familes that we know of," father Patrick Sessions said of Rowles.
Sheriff Sadie Darnell said a DNA connection was made between Rowles and Beth Foster, who was murdered in the same area in 1992.
"All indicators have pointed to him, there's not a DNA connection with him and Tiffany Sessions and it's probably remote at this point 25 years later that there will be a DNA connection, but every other indicator is there," Darnell said. "He was in this community, he murdered in this community."
The disappearance of Sessions, who was from South Florida, made national news and led to one of the largest missing persons searches ever.
An extensive investigation by the sheriff's office, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Sessions' parents has provided few clues in her disappearance.
Now authorities believe Sessions, who was 20 at the time of her vanishing, was murdered by Rowles, who died last year from natural causes.
Foster's remains were found in the wooded area where Thursday's news conference was held, and authorities are still searching the area in the hopes of finding Sessions' remains.
Authorities said Rowles was working in the area at the time of Sessions' disappearance, and when he died, authorities found the date of Sessions' vanishing written in his journal along with the number "2," Darnell said.
Tiffany's family attended the news conference Thursday, where they thanked authorities for their efforts.
"It's very important that for me that I find out because this is my only baby, she's my masterpiece, and I just want everybody to know that it's been a 25-year struggle and it would be nice to be able to put her to rest after all these years," mother Hilary Sessions said.
Darnell said that although it's "highly probable" Rowles is responsible for the murder, the case is still not over.
"We want to have this last piece of conclusive connection so that the family can at least have some peace after all this time and that we can complely say with difinity that it's Paul Rowles," Darnell said.
Anyone with information is asked to call authorities at 352-955-1818.