042 - The Disappearance of Tiffany Daniels
Tiffany Heaven Daniels was born on March 11th, 1988 in Dallas, Texas, to parents Cindy and Rodney Daniels. Despite the Texas location of birth, Tiffany and her family, which included two sisters, settled in the Pensacola area of Florida, where she would live for the rest of her life. Pensacola is the western most city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County. The city boasts a population of nearly 52,000 residents, and while these are locals, during the Summer time, Pensacola becomes a hot spot for vacationers looking to take advantage of its beaches and night life. Pensacola is a sea port on Pensacola Bay, protected by the barrier island of Santa Rosa, and feeds out into the Gulf of Mexico. The city itself is comprised of 40.76 square miles, 18.16 square miles of which is made up of sea.
Tiffany was a loving young woman with an undeniable charisma that tended to draw in those around her. Making friends was not a challenge for the young woman who seemed to possess an innate magnetism that others simply couldn’t resist. Perhaps it was the deep compassion of her heart, or the way she could take any situation and find a way to make others laugh that was the secret to her charm and personality. Those who knew her often described Tiffany as a fun loving, free spirited young woman who did her own thing and didn’t give much attention to the mainstream, let alone the opinions of those who might try to reign her in. In an interview, Tiffany’s mother, Cindy, stated “Tiffany marched to the beat of a different drummer. Artists are like that, they get perspective out of things that you and I would not see when we look at them.”
From an early age, Tiffany’s love for art was apparent, and she possessed a talent when it came to putting the paint brush to the canvas. Tiffany’s involvement in the artistic side of life would become a lifelong passion for her, and would feed into all aspects of her world. Her mind was also shaped by this affection for the creative arts, and she often found herself drawn to picturesque locations and individuals who were also invested in expressing their creativity. Almost everyone who ever came across Tiffany described her as the kind of beautiful soul you wanted to have around you. She was bubbly, full of energy and always looking to share an adventure. Tiffany’s sister, Candace, said of her “Everybody loved Tiffany. Tiffany is a light, that’s the best way I could describe her. When you’re around her, you just feel light. Everything gets brighter, more colorful, more beautiful.”
Tiffany’s adventurous interests fed well into her love of nature. She could often be found outdoors being active and was an avid cycler, riding her bike frequently. She would eventually get tattoos on the tops of her feet showing seeds, growing into vines and blooming. On top of riding her bike, Tiffany enjoyed hiking and camping, whatever the activity, if she could be enjoying the beauty of the world around her, she was in. Tiffany’s father, Rodney, described her as butterfly girl, saying “She would be talking or doing something and if a butterfly came by, she’d take off and follow it.” Her family had grown used to her spontaneous nature over the years, knowing that at the drop of a hat she could completely change her plans for the day and drive down to the beach for a swim or hop on her bike where she’d ride for hours just enjoying the freedom of being out of the everyday rat race of traffic and city congestion.
Tiffany’s artistic talents were apparent to her instructors when she was in high school, and the young woman excelled when it came to the arts. It was during this time that she truly began to hone her craft, specifically her painting. She began to consider a career where she might be able to pursue painting, and she would eventually achieve that goal. As she continued through school, Tiffany distinguished herself as not only an artist, but a bright and reliable young woman who had a strong independent streak and wasn’t afraid to strike on her own if necessary. Interestingly, while she was surrounded by a strong group of friends, some noted that she also had a loner aspect to her personality. She enjoyed going off on her own, communing with nature in a way, and if she was having any difficulties, or needed some space, she could often be found sitting on the beach at night or hiking on her own.
Something else that Tiffany loved deeply was dance. She could often be found twirling on the dancefloor with her friends, and it was through her love of swing dancing that, as she grew older, she expanded her circle to encompass many of a similar mind who would often accompany her out for the night. Little has been disclosed about Tiffany’s life prior to the years leading up to her disappearance, though she has often been shown to be a very loving and caring, while having a tremendous sense of humor and the ability to brighten the day for anyone she knew. She was one of those people that you just want in your life, and this led to her having a wide social circle involving people from all different walks of life. However, Tiffany’s kind nature also left her open to being taken advantage of, or pushed further than she should be. Tiffany’s father stated that she was “the kind of person that would avoid confrontation at all costs."
After finishing with school, Tiffany struck out in the world on her own. She leased a home, located across Pensacola Bay, near Pickens Park. According to her sister, Candace, Tiffany often ventured down to the neighborhood of Longhollow, which was seated in downtown Pensacola between Palafox and Tarragona Streets. Long Hollow was known to be an artsy area of Pensacola and it isn’t uncommon to see murals, sculptures and other works on the streets. This, for Tiffany, was the perfect place to spend her off time. It was inspiring, beautiful and spoke straight into her artistic soul. She eventually got a job working at Pensacola State College, in the theater department. Here she could put her art to good use, painting the scenes and backdrops for plays. Her mother said “She built scenes for them and painted them. Chicago was one of the ones she did a fantastic job on.”
In 2012, Tiffany met and fell in love with a man named Grey Thomas. Thomas was a bright individual, who also loved dancing, and the two simply clicked. Their releationship developed quickly and it was obvious to everyone around Tiffany that she was absolutely head over heels for Thomas, and he for her. Cindy Daniels later said “He and Tiffany were cute as a button together, we thought this might be the one.” Thomas was a very kind young man when Candace was asked about him, and the relationship between Thomas and Tiffany, she said he was a “very smart, talented guy that works with robotics and they seemed to have a very strong connection and loved to dance.”
Their love of dance was often explored in Tiffany’s home where she frequently held parties. Friends would come by in droves, moving furniture out of the way to make for a larger dancing area. These parties revolved around swing dance, with jazz, blues and big band music playing late into the night. Friends would step out onto the porch for a break, glistening with sweat, laughing and having a good time. One of these friends was Terry Strickland, who later said “I don’t remember the exact moment that we met, but I am pretty sure I was standing awkwardly on the side of the dance floor. All the other dancers wouldn’t give me the time of day, but she made a point to ask me to dance. She was somebody who cared about people, everybody.” While all seemed well in Tiffany’s world, there were some issues beginning to rise to the surface, and her endless compassion for others was becoming a point of contention between her free spirited personality and the constraints of a world that revolves around structure and finances. Her family first took notice in July of 2013.
In the previous months, Tiffany had been sharing her home with various roommates, usually friends who needed a place to stay. Friends were obligated to pay rent, split the utilities, the usual setup when you move in with someone, but several had taken advantage of Tiffany’s kind nature. Cindy later said “Most of the time she was too nice, she didn’t want to ask for the rent, for the utilities, when they were due, so we found out she was paying the things up front and then trying to collect from the roommates.” This wasn’t working out well, and Tiffany found herself financially strapped more often than not.
Hoping to solve her issues with regard to roommates not helping out, and needing the assistance of a more mature and financially secure person, Tiffany posted an ad on craigslist looking for a new roommate. To her surprise, the ad was answered by fifty-four year old Gary Nichols, the father of one of her friends, Noel. Nichols had recently separated from his wife and was looking for a place to stay, and while Tiffany was excited by the proposition of having a more mature and reliable roommate, her family felt strange about an older man living with their then twenty-five year old daughter.
Cindy expressed her lack of comfort with the situation, saying “We didn’t feel comfortable with it because we thought it would be kinda odd. I didn’t want Tiffany to feel like she had a father living with her.” Despite her family’s feelings on the situation, Tiffany was determined to go her own way, as always, and Gary moved in in late July of 2013. Things were going well, he was dependable and provided her with his rent and utility payments on time. Things seemed to be improving, and on top of the financial security, Gary and Tiffany had a lot in common, as well. Both were interested in cycling and gardening. Noel, Gary’s daughter, later said “Tiffany was very welcoming to my dad, she invited him to the first party she threw.” Despite the age gap, the two got along well and Gary did his best not to cramp the style of his younger roommate, but he also couldn’t suppress his fatherly instincts all of the time. However, Tiffany was an adult and didn’t find it necessary to tell him all of the details of her life or plans.
While Tiffany’s financial situation had vastly improved, and this had certainly worked to lighten the emotional burden she had been feeling, there was something else also weighing heavily on her mind. Her boyfriend, Grey Thomas, with whom she had been for a year, was accepted into the Robotics program at the University of Texas in Austin. Tiffany had a difficult decision to make, while she loved where she was living, she also wanted to continue her relationship with Thomas. He asked Tiffany if she would come with him, and Tiffany considered it. Austin is also known to be a city with a thriving art culture, and certainly the kind of place she would have fit into and likely fallen in love with. Candace described this time in her sister’s life, saying “Austin would have been a great town for Tiffany. She’s very creative and it’s a creative town, but she was torn.”
Tiffany spoke to her friends and family about the proposition, but ultimately, she told Thomas that she couldn’t leave Florida at this time. Cindy later said “I think she wanted to be with Grey, but I don’t think she wanted to move. It was so funny because she was always wanting to go travel and do this and do that, yet when it came down to actually moving, she had put her feet down and said no, I’m not moving, I’m not leaving.” Though it broke her heart to do it, Tiffany told Grey she wasn’t going to come to Austin, and the two talked about the future of their relationship. Ultimately, they decided to give long distance a try, and Tiffany told him that she would be coming out to visit him whenever she could. That seemed to lessen some of the sadness about his move, and Tiffany expressed to friends that while she didn’t want him to go, she was excited by the possibilities of visiting him and experiencing Austin for herself and who knew, perhaps the city would call to her and she’d find herself following the man she loved.
Thomas was set to leave on the morning of Sunday, August 11th, 2013. Tiffany, not wanting to miss the opportunity to say goodbye, and to spend more time with him. The two shared breakfast and talked about their possible future together. Thomas wanted Tiffany to come with him, and it’s been suggested that, during breakfast, he made one last bid for her to come out to Austin. Tiffany is alleged to have stood fast to her determination to stay in Pensacola, but assured him that she would be visiting as soon as he was settled in. The two parted ways shortly after breakfast when Thomas hit the road, on his way to Austin. According to friends, Tiffany was sad about his exit, but it was clear that she loved him and wanted to see where they could go as a couple. While the distance would be a challenge, the free spirited Tiffany wasn’t overly concerned, as many of her friends and even family members have said, it wasn’t uncommon for her to take on an adventure off a whim, and if indeed she wanted to get to Austin, she’d simply go.
When Tiffany arrived home that night, Gary Nichols was there and he later reported that she seemed a little down, and not her usual bubbly self, but considering the circumstances, that was to be expected. Regardless of the situation, Tiffany had plans for the evening. The theater department was going to be beginning work on the play Spamalot, and Tiffany had research to do regarding her work on the production. Whether it was truly due to the need for research, a desire for something light hearted to assuage her sadness, or some combination of the two, she had plans to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the movie that the play is in part based on. Nichols joined her for the viewing, and the two laughed and enjoyed the night. Although there was still a hint of sadness, Tiffany seemed lighter and didn’t show any outward signs that anything major was wrong, beyond the obviousness of Thomas leaving. When the film ended, they said goodnight to one another and retired to their bedrooms.
According to Tiffany’s father, of the many things she was, an early riser was not one of them. In an interview, he stated “If for some reason she had to be at the school at 7 o’clock, she probably wasn’t gonna leave until about 5 til, or maybe right at 7 o’clock.” Tiffany typically arrived at work around 8am, though some days she was earlier, which makes the report later given by Gary Nichols somewhat out of character. According to Nichols, he was awakened by strange sounds between 4 and 5am on Monday, August 12th. He described that sounds as, what he believed to be, the front door opening and closing multiple times. Not thinking too much of it, Nichols fell back asleep. When he woke up to begin his day, Nichols went about his usual morning procedure, which had him leaving for work at approximately 7am. When he stepped outside, he noticed that Tiffany’s gray, 1999 toyota 4 runner was gone. This was out of the ordinary, but the two hadn’t discussed their plans for the next day and while it was odd, Nichols didn’t think too much of it and went about his day.
Tiffany arrived at work for her normal shift that day, and nothing seemed to be different about her behavior until a few hours into her shift. According to Don Snowden, the performing arts instructor and Tiffany’s supervisor, she approached him and “asked to get off a little early, and she normally got off at 5:00pm.” According to her supervisor, Tiffany explained beyond this that she had some things going on, though she didn’t specify what they were. In addition to leaving early, she explained that she may be needing some time off, possibly the rest of the week, but again she didn’t divulge any information which might have suggested what she needed the time off for. An interesting detail to note is that while Tiffany was telling her boss she needed time off, she had no conversations with friends or family members about taking time off, plans to travel or anything which may have required her to need the days off. Being that this was the first her supervisor had heard of the time off, it seems safe to say that whatever had come up wasn’t planned. Some have speculated that Tiffany simply wanted some time off to clear her mind and deal with Thomas’ leaving, while other think it’s possible she may have decided, on a whim as was her prerogative, to travel or spend a few days hiking, biking or simply relaxing.
That afternoon, Tiffany clocked out at 4:43pm, walked out of Pensacola State College and was never seen again. The fact that Tiffany had disappeared wouldn’t be immediately noted as no one was in the habit of checking in with her and no one had any plans with her for which she failed to appear. The first acknowledgement that anything might have been wrong was around 10pm that evening. Nichols was home, but he hadn’t seen Tiffany all day. As the day turned to night and the hours kept ticking by, he couldn’t help but acknowledge his fatherly instincts and he began to worry. He placed several calls to Tiffany’s cell phone, though she failed to answer. After multiple failed attempts, he called his daughter, Noel. According to Noel “He called me, probably around 10 o’clock and he was starting to get concerned because he hadn’t seen her all day and he didn’t think she’d been back to the house. I told him he was overreacting and that she was an adult and that maybe she just didn’t want to hang out with him all the time.”
Nichols accepts this and assumes he’s just overreacting. He goes about his normal business that evening and goes to sleep later on, not giving it much more thought. When he awakens the next morning for work, he finds that Tiffany still isn’t home. He places several more calls to her phone, but again, receives no answer. Trying to take his daughter’s advice, and accepting that Tiffany is an adult and can take care of herself without needing to check in with him, he leaves for the day. It isn’t until he returns home from work that he realized something must be wrong. When he enters the home, he finds the light switches unresponsive. After checking around, Nichols discovers that the power to the home has been cut off. Assuming that Tiffany failed to pay the bill, something that is completely unlike her, he calls his daughter and is clearly very concerned. At this point, Nichols requests that Noel get in touch with Tiffany’s family and let them know what is going on, hoping that they are aware of her locations and that she simply didn’t tell him, but with the power turned off, and no signs of Tiffany having come home at any point, he can’t shake his suspicions.
Several days pass between the time that Nichols’ suspects something strange is going on and the time that Noel finally makes contact with Tiffany’s mother. According to Cindy, she first is notified on Saturday, August 17th. In a statement she later said “I was here in the house and I got a Facebook private message from a young lady named Noel Nichols and she told me that her father was Tiffany’s roommate and he had not seen Tiffany since Sunday. I thought ok, she’s gone with someone and she’s just having a good time and she’s failed to tell anyone, and I’m gonna call her voicemail and say this is your mom, I need to hear from you, and I’ll hear from her. At that point it never crossed my thoughts that she could possibly be missing, as in missing missing.”
Cindy and Noel make plans to try and find Tiffany by reaching out to her extensive list of friends. They make phone calls, send facebook messages, leave voice mails. They discover rather quickly that almost everyone they speak to hasn’t seen nor spoken to Tiffany for days, and most, if not all, assume that Tiffany is spending time with someone else. As they near the bottom of their list, it becomes apparent that Tiffany is not with any of her friends and no one has any clue where she could possibly be. Calls are placed to work, which is when they discover for the first time that Tiffany had told her supervisor she may be needing time off. Cindy later says “I know that she had a lot on her mind that week and she had told her boss that she might not be able to come into work the rest of the week cause she had some things she had to take care of. That, we don’t know what that was all about.”
As days pass and concern grows as Tiffany fails to be located, Cindy makes the decision to file a missing persons report. Based on her location, living outside the city limits of Pensacola, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department sends officers to her home to take the report. Cindy is adamant that Tiffany is known to travel and do things spur of the moment, she never fails to maintain contact or tell someone where she is going and what she is doing, but the Sheriff’s department doesn’t appear to be overly concerned, nor taking the report as a significant sign that anything serious is going on. They run through a list of her friends, places she may have gone, people who might be able to provide information, but ultimately Cindy is told that Tiffany is twenty-five years old, and she’s an adult. If she elected to leave, if she chose to run off without telling anyone, there wasn’t a whole lot that the Sheriff’s department could do. Angry with the way they are treating her report, and feeling that she isn’t being taken seriously, Cindy instructs the Deputy to file the report and find her daughter.
While Cindy lives outside of city limits, making her home the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Department, Tiffany lives within the city and so the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department passes the case file and notes along to the Pensacola Police Department. The case finds its way into the hands of detective Daniel Harnett. Harnett takes things more seriously than the Sheriff’s Department does, and while he isn’t immediately certain what he is dealing with, he plans to investigate it as more than a person simply choosing to walk away. Of missing person’s cases, in general, Harnett says “As law enforcement, we’re going to investigate missing person’s cases as if they’re a crime. The way we worked this case was as if it was a worst case and he hoped for the best.”
Harnett’s first step is to visit Tiffany’s home, looking for any signs or indications of where she may have gone, what she may have been planning, if anything, or in a bad situation, to find clues to suggest the possibility of foul play. When he arrives at the home, he finds Cindy Daniels waiting for him. Harnett tells Cindy to wait outside the home, not knowing what he may find inside, and not wanting to possibly expose her to something, or contaminate what could be a crime scene. He enters and begins looking around, but finds nothing out of the ordinary. He procedes to Tiffany’s bedroom, but again, sees nothing there which indicates the possibility of foul play. On the other hand, he also finds nothing which seems to indicate that Tiffany was planning any trips. Her clothes are present, nothing appears to have been packed up. Harnett had been told that Tiffany often goes camping, but he also finds her tent inside the home. According to the detective, there is nothing which indicates that Tiffany had planned to leave, nor is there anything in the home which suggests that she was forced to leave.
With nothing to work with, outside of the fact that Tiffany can’t be located, Harnett has to start at square one. When he gets back to his office, he issues a BOLO, or be on the look out, for Tiffany’s vehicle. He also issues alerts to the local news media, giving descriptions of Tiffany, her vehicle, last known whereabouts and how long she has been missing for. In addition to this, he takes a comprehensive list of Tiffany’s friends and family, originally recorded by the Sheriff’s Department, and begins looking into everyone. Often times, in a disappearance, someone close to the victim plays a role or has more information than they choose to share, or possibly information that they don’t realize is vital to the case. Harnett later says “Whenever we’re working on a missing person’s case, we’re talking about the possibility of a homicide and the majority of homicides, the suspect pool are people that the victim knows.” The name that immediately stands out to Harnett is Tiffany’s boyfriend, Grey Thomas. When he learns that Thomas left town the day before Tiffany vanished, he becomes even more curious about any possible connection there. He doesn’t immediately think in terms of foul play, but does consider the possibility that Tiffany may have changed her mind and chosen to follow him to Texas.
Tiffany’s father, Rodney, is already a step ahead of Detective Harnett. As soon as he learned his daughter was missing, the first call he placed was to Grey Thomas. Thomas assures Rodney that he left on Sunday morning and the last time he’d seen Tiffany was outside of his home. He has no idea where she could possibly be, but he wants to help if that’s possible. When he later speaks to detective Harnett, he is asked to go down to the local police department in Texas and submit his fingerprints and DNA and Thomas cooperates fully. According to Harnett, he asked Thomas when the last time was that he spoke with Tiffany and Thomas says it was the day he arrived in Texas, the day before Tiffany went missing. Harnett pulls cell phone records and verifies that was the last call between the two, and that, at the time Tiffany went missing, Thomas was in fact, hundreds of miles away in Texas. Of course, for Harnett, this doesn’t immediately dismiss other possibilities. Harnett says “Is it possible that he came back to Pensacola, and we just can’t verify it? Sure. All kinds of things are possible, but as far as the evidence that we’ve found in regards to Grey, everything indicates that he was in Texas.”
With Grey Thomas mostly ruled out, Harnett had to begin looking at other possibilities. The next name on his list was Tiffany’s roommate, Gary Nichols. He was one of the last people to have seen Tiffany, with only her supervisor having seen her after him. They lived together, and like many, Harnett found the circumstances a little out of the ordinary, that such an older man would be living with the younger friend of his daughter. Through their investigation, they came across information which, to them, suggested that Tiffany may have, in fact, arrived home at some point the day she disappeared. When questioned, Nichols says that he had left work at 4pm the day Tiffany disappeared. Harnett believes this places him in the home by approximately 4:20. Nichols explains that he was on the phone with his then girlfriend, who lived out of state and that, if Tiffany did come home, he didn’t hear her due to the call. Cindy finds this hard to believe, and points out that there is a section of wall missing in Tiffany’s closet, which adjoins Nichol’s room. She says you can throw an item through the hole, and it will land in the next bedroom, meaning that it’s hard to imagine Nichols could be in his room on the phone and not hear Tiffany in her room.
Harnett isn’t initially sure what to think about the situation, but every question he asks, Nichols’ answers. When he is asked to submit fingerprints and DNA for the investigation, he agrees to do so and is very cooperative. While there is the discrepancy about whether or not Nichols was home when, and if, Tiffany stopped there, nothing else jumps out during the investigation. Nichol’s doesn’t seem suspicious, nor does he act out of the ordinary. If nothing else, he is very direct with officers and gives his full support to the investigation. Harnett also feels that, had Nichols’ played a role in the disappearance, he wouldn’t have been pushing so hard to get the family notified that Tiffany hadn’t come home. Harnett later says “He seemed appropriate, and there’s nothing clear in anything that he told us that would cause us alarm.”
With both Thomas and Nichols’ moved into the column of people they felt didn’t play a role, Harnett had to examine other possibilities. At the time, there were a handful for him to sort through. In his estimations, either Tiffany had taken a trip and not told anyone, though it seemed unlikely she wouldn’t have been checking her voicemail. If not a trip, then it left a few grim scenarios: An accident, the possibility of suicide or abduction and or murder. For Harnett, suicide was the first angle he began to dig into deeper. He had reports from her family about her recent financial struggles, coupled with Thomas leaving town and reports that, as of lately, Tiffany hadn’t seemed to be as bubbly and happy as she was known to be. Several friends reported that she seemed as though something was bothering her, but never shared what it was. According to Terry Strickland, Tiffany was used to having her friends around her, but things had changed recently. In an interview, Terry said “All of the friends who were closest to Tiff, for different reasons, we had kind of drifted away from each other. At least temporarily, and so I feel like maybe she didn’t have the support structure that she normally would have.”
Harnett had to consider the possibility that everything had simply added up and Tiffany found herself in a corner from which she couldn’t escape. It’s impossible to try and grasp the mentality of someone who had reached a point where she’s willing to take her own life, but in Tiffany’s case, there wasn’t anyone who though suicide was a possibility. Cindy was adamant that Tiffany would never do that, she was a fighter and even if she found herself down, she’d fight her way out of it. Terry Strickland felt that Tiffany cared far too much for those around her to ever consider doing something like that. In an interview, Terry said “She’s not that selfish, she cared too much about the people in her life.” Outside of the opinions of those who knew and loved Tiffany, there were other factors which seemed to play against the possibility of suicide. She’d made plans, including a dance party at her home within the next two weeks. While a possibility, Tiffany just didn’t seem to be in a suicidal place and, in the opinions of her family, she had too much to live for at that time.
As the days began passing, and information was coming up short, Tiffany’s family and friends were growing frustrated. Wanting to do something to help out, and wanting to find Tiffany as fast as they could, they turned to social media. The Facebook page “Help Find Tiffany” is created, and requires multiple moderators to handle all of the comments that come flooding in. Fliers were created, displaying Tiffany’s photo, her tattoos, as well as her Toyota 4 runner and license plate. They use twitter as well, and begin spreading the word about the disappearance. While they are desperately looking for Tiffany, they are also looking for her vehicle which is missing as well. The absence of the vehicle contributes to some theories regarding the possibility that Tiffany could have been carjacked, or possibly gotten into an accident and gone into the ocean or a lake.
Initially, not much comes from the fliers or social media, but over time, the online influence will bring in tips and information. The fliers, however, plant the images in people’s minds and soon, a discovery is made. On the morning of Tuesday, August 20th, nine days after Tiffany was last seen, the police receive a call that her vehicle has been located. A woman riding her bike, who also happened to be friends with Tiffany’s sister, Angela, recognized the Toyota 4 runner during her morning ride. It was found parked in the parking area just outside of Fort Pickens, on Pensacola Beach, located not very far from Tiffany’s home. Angela later said “A friend of mine was out for a bike ride yesterday and found the car parked at the very last public parking lot at Pensacola Beach.” The friend, after notifying police, also notifies the Daniel’s family and Cindy rushes down to the scene, despite investigators requests for her to stay home. Upon arrival, she approaches the vehicle but is instructed not to touch it. They don’t want to contaminate the scene before detectives can have a look. Cindy doesn’t touch, but she does lean forward and look inside the windows. According to her report, she could immediately see a jug of water, a jar of peanut butter, various clothes as well as Tiffany’s purse, tablet and wallet. He bike was in the back of the SUV.
According to Angela, Tiffany’s phone was also located in the SUV. It should be noted that Tiffany did not have a regular cell phone provider contract, and instead, used a phone purchased from a store onto which she was required to add minutes. When calls were made to her phone, if she had no minutes, they simply went straight to voicemail, which would not indicate that the phone was not in service at that time. Investigators later said that, when they examined her phone, it had been out of minutes for days prior to her disappearance, making their ability to track her movements during that time, impossible. After investigators sweep the vehicle, they have it towed back to the impound lot at the Pensacola Police Department where forensics technicians will begin examining it in finer detail. While this is happening, officers are sent to question anyone they see about whether or not they had seen anything going on near the vehicle.
Across the street from the parking lot is a complex of condos, and so they go in to question the residents. Unfortunately, for the most part, there isn’t much information gained. Harnett later says “Theres a very transient vacationing population that’s here, especially Pensacola Beach during the summers. I couldn’t tell you the cars that I passed on the way to work today, so how can they remember a vehicle that they may have casually passed a week before? Unless there’s something traumatic about it, or special about it, or unique.” They receive several contradictory statements, with some saying the vehicle hadn’t been there days prior, and others saying they had seen it there for a week or more.
Wanting to chip in more, and believing that someone had to have seen something, Cindy along with several of Tiffany’s friends swarm down to the area where the vehicle was found. They hand out and post over 40,000 fliers during the next two weeks. They also go door to door at the condo complex, asking if anyone had seen anything out of the ordinary, if they’d noticed the SUV, if they had seen Tiffany. The beach is located on the barrier island of Santa Rosa, and during this time, they canvass the area. They comb over every square inch of beach, parking lot. Everywhere they can possibly get to, but much like investigators, they fail to find anything which indicates what may have happened to Tiffany, or where she may have gone.
When forensics returns with their report on the vehicle, they make note of several things. First and foremost, they find a fingerprint on the handle of the driver’s side door, as well as one on the steering wheel, which they cannot match to anyone and which is not in their system, meaning that whoever it belongs to, has never been fingerprinted and entered into law enforcement systems. It also doesn’t match the prints of anyone they have taken them from during the course of this investigation and while the prints could belong to a possible suspect, they could also belong to a friend of Tiffany’s having left them there randomly. Then there is the bike, on which they find sand on the frame, seat and tires. However, up in front, there is no sand on the floorboards or seat, which indicates that Tiffany likely did not re-enter her vehicle after riding her bike. They begin to theorize that it’s possible Tiffany may have gone for a swim, and been pulled in by a riptide or was caught up in the current and swept away.
Detective Harnett begins to investigate the camera system of the Bob Sykes Bridge, which leads to the location where Tiffany’s vehicle was found. There is a system in place which captures the license plate of all vehicles entering the beach area, and so he goes through the video looking to try and lock down an exact timeline. According to the tag reader, Tiffany’s vehicle entered the park area at 7:51pm on Monday, August 12th, the day she disappeared. Unfortunately, the system is only set up for scanning license plates, and while they not have proof of when it entered the area, they cannot confirm whether or not it was being driven by Tiffany, or possibly someone else. What it does confirm is that the vehicle has been sitting there ever since she vanished, which seems to rule out the possibility that Tiffany simply chose to leave, being that she wouldn’t have left behind all of her belongings as well as her vehicle.
The family wants there to be a comprehensive search of all of Santa Rosa island, but the island is fifty miles long and the Pensacola Police Department has limited resources to cover every square inch of it. Cindy Daniels is put in contact with the KLAAS Kids Foundation, which was started in 1994 and named after Polly Hannah Klaas, a twelve year old girl who was kidnapped and murdered. The organization performs many activities, including search operations for missing person’s. On August 25th, Klaas Kids comes to Santa Rosa to conduct a massive land and water search for Tiffany. Two other professional search and rescue teams join in, and along with them are 250 community volunteers, park rangers, firefighters and search dogs. The island is divided into nearly 80 sections and a massive grid search is conducted. They are looking for anything that may tie to Tiffany, including but not limited to clothing, jewelry, or possibly even, body parts. Nothing is found, and while this is heartbreaking to family, it keeps alive the hope that Tiffany may still be alive. This left really only one possibility in the family’s mind: that Tiffany did not leave of her own choice, but was likely taken by someone.
Days begin turning into weeks, and weeks into months, with no new information or leads. Following the discovery of her vehicle, and the beach search, the investigation seems to hit a stand still. Investigators, and the family, are frustrated. In hopes of garnering more information, the Daniel’s family sets up an anonymous tip line and they push their social media agenda harder. Suddenly, through the Facebook group, they receive a tip from a convenience store clerk who claims to have seen Tiffany. He describes Tiffany accurately, even addressing her tattoos. Investigators from the Pensacola Police Department arrive at the store, speak to the witness and take copies of the surveillance footage. Sadly, the surveillance footage shows that Tiffany never entered the store, and the transaction that the clerk described never actually took place. This will be the first of many false tips.
Authorities quite prepared to officially declare this a case of foul play. Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons stated to reporters “We’re checked her home, we’ve checked her vehicle, some other checks and there’s nothing at this point that leads us to believe foul play is suspected. Quite frankly, we don’t know what happened to her.” Shortly after the search fails to turn anything up, rumor begins to spin that Tiffany may have been the victim of a human trafficking operation. Cindy states “When we first started this, we knew there were many avenues Tiffany’s disappearance could have taken, all the way from her accidentally drowning, to purposefully drowning, to walking away, to someone taking her away. We set up an anonymous tip line a few months back, and we did receive a tip that steered us in that human trafficking direction.”
The tip, received in January of 2014, five months after Tiffany vanished, came from a waitress in a restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to the tip, not long after Tiffany’s disappearance, she was working a shift when three women entered. There were two younger woman, and one older, Hispanic woman. She described the older woman as being well dressed, and the other two as seeming shy and possibly frightened. She says that one of the younger women was a dead ringer for Tiffany. The two younger women had long sleeves on, pulled down over their hands, despite the fact that the temperature was warm. Tiffany’s parents have said that she often pulled her sleeves down over her hands.
She also noted that neither of the younger women made eye contact with her, and that the older woman did most of the talking for them. The woman believed to have been Tiffany asked whether or not one of the seafood dishes used fish broth, or chicken broth, which the waitress found to be an odd question. Tiffany’s mother recalled a time when she had gone out with her daughter, who ordered a seafood dish, and discovered that chicken broth was being substituted for fish broth, and Tiffany being a vegetarian, noticed immediately. According to the waitress, she mentioned to the young woman how she looked remarkably like Tiffany Daniels, the young woman who was missing from Pensacola, Florida. At this point, all three women immediately got up and left the restaurant.
This seemed like a very reliable tip, and police were aware of another case in which a woman was taken from Panama City Beach, Florida, drugged and trafficked to New Orleans, where she was told that she was going to be forced into prostitution. They immediately traveled to the restaurant to speak with the waitress and get the security camera footage, but sadly, the waitress had waited too long to report the tip and by the time authorities checked, the footage had been taped over. Though this tip was unable to be verified, it did lead both the family and authorities to more seriously consider the trafficking possibility. Detective Harnett stated “I don’t have any evidence to suggest that that’s what happened here, but I’m open to the possibility that someone could have traveled through Pensacola, come across her, and taken her and moved her somewhere else, because we haven’t found her here.”
According to Brad Dennis, the national search director for the Klaas Foundation, Florida is ranked third in the number of reports of human trafficking reports in the United States. Dennis stated that the human trafficking possibility is “just as valid as any of the other scenarios. There’s just no trace of her outside of the last contact of her coming across that bridge. Since that point, none one can claim where she was. We’ve got no video of her. We don’t know what took place. We don’t even know if she’s the one that literally parked the car out there.” Interstate 10 is well known as a route used by traffickers, and it runs straight into Jacksonville, passing through Pensacola.
Tips continued to come in, though none led to Tiffany. A woman in Alabama reported seeing her hitchhiking, but when police arrived, it was a different woman who had a similar appearance. In August of 2015, a year and five months after Tiffany vanished, Cindy received a disturbing message online. A woman named Tammy Shull claimed that her boyfriend admitted to her that he had murdered Tiffany, and for $3000 she would give the audio recording of his confession to Cindy as well as leading her to the body. Cindy requested a snippet of the audio, which she was given. The audio was found to have been recorded off of YouTube, and was the confession of a Police Officer who had killed his girlfriend. The confession is in no way related to Tiffany and when the users IP address was traced, it led to Russia, where Police could do little about the false tip and extortion attempt.
On August 12th, 2015, two years after Tiffany vanished, her family and friends gathered to hold a candlelight vigil in her honor. They didn’t want to refer to it as an anniversary, as it is not a time for celebration, but a time for them to show their love and express their sincerest hopes and desires that she will return home to them. The absence of anything which signifies a murder, while frustrating in terms of evidence, is comforting because it allows the family to keep the hope alive that Tiffany is still out there somewhere. Tiffany’s father stated “Until somebody brings me a body, or a piece of her body, I’m never gonna give up hope that she’s alive and that she’ll come show up at our door.”
Police held a press conference in December of 2015 in which they discussed Tiffany’s disappearance, and for the first time, publicly addressed information in regard to a possible suspect. According to the Pensacola Police Department, they are looking for information about a male seen in or around Tiffany’s vehicle in the days after she went missing. This information tracks back to a tip given to police in the days following the discovery of her car, but at the time couldn’t be confirmed. When newspapers ran articles about the candlelight vigil which two place two years after the disappearance, a new witness came forward and gave an account which matched the previous statements. The man was described as being a white male, between the ages of thirty and forty years old, and at the time, was wearing red shorts and no shirt. The witnesses who gave the tip said that they saw the man there on August 19th, a week after Tifanny vanished and that they were curious because the vehicle was parked facing oncoming traffic, in an area preserved for wildlife. The man was spotted to the rear of the vehicle and it was said that he appeared to be closing the tailgate. Tiffany’s father, when asked about the tip, stated “We feel encouraged by it, it’s something new that being pursued. We’re hoping someone will come forward with additional information.”
Though this tip was new to the public, little was stirred up by it, and sadly, Tiffany’s case continued to grow cold. No new leads could be developed, the man wanting for questioning was not located and for investigators, and the family alike, frustration settled in. For the next few years, the case became quiet and while detectives continued their investigation, it continued to lead to dead ends. They tracked down tips, but these tips failed to lead to Tiffany or any major breaks in the case. In an article written in August of 2017, some four years after Tiffany’s disappearance, Investigator Chad Wilhite was asked about whether or not he believed Tiffany was still alive. He responded “I think Tiffany will come home one day. Obviously, hopefully alive. The reason I think that is because she hasn’t been found. I’m very optimistic. I don’t want to let anything go, or stop investigating anything until I’m 100 percent sure. “ On the day which marked four years, the Daniel’s family was asked about Tiffany’s disappearance, and how they were handling it four years later. The family responded with a statement, which in part reads “We will definitely be gazing to the heavens tonight for Tiffany and adding another yellow ribbon around the tree and another candle in the window.”
In the nearly five years since Tiffany Daniel’s vanished, little information has been discovered to offer a probable insight into what may have happened to the twenty-five year old artist. While there are small fragments of evidence which are publicly known, questions loom for both the family and investigators. It’s a bizarre set of circumstances where a young woman can simply vanish and the truth remains concealed so deeply. In the absence of verifiable proof, several theories have been purported. Some by family members, some by law enforcement, and others from tipsters and internet investigators. In a case which took place in a city like Pensacola, involving a beautiful, talented woman, coverage has not been nearly as prolific as we have seen in other cases, and this leads to speculation and rumor.
The first theory in the disappearance of Tiffany Daniels is that Tiffany, the free spirited young woman known to change her plans on a whim, simply elected to hit the road. We know from her past that she had a penchant for travel and both friends and family said it was very much in her style to just take on a new adventure and not realize how far she’d gone before it was too late to turn back.
The second theory is that Tiffany, overwhelmed by financial woes, the sadness over another boyfriend leaving town and a slowly degrading system of friends, may have turned her pain inward and elected to take her own life, either by swimming out into the ocean, or by some other means which have yet to be discovered.
The third theory suggests that Tiffany may have lost her life, or been lost, in some form of an accident. Investigators have speculated that she may have gone for a late night swim and been caught up in riptides or strong currents which could have easily washed her out into the Gulf of Mexico.
The fourth theory brings forward the possibility that Tiffany may have been abducted, be it by a total stranger in a random act, or by someone working in the underbelly of human trafficking who had either stumbled across her, or had been possibly watching her for some time and planning out a time to execute the kidnapping.
The fifth, and final theory, is that Tiffany Daniel’s may have been the victim of a homicide, conducted either by a stranger at random, or perhaps even, executed by someone she knew and trusted. Her circle of friends was wide, and while almost all have had glowing things to say about the young woman, there were those who had difficulties with her, including former roommates. Others have speculated about the possibility of a jealous would be suitor who took Thomas’s exit as a chance to approach her, and when rebuffed, may have struck back violently.
Tiffany Daniel’s vanished on August 12th, 2013. It has been nearly five years since she was last seen, and in that time, while theories have abounded, little truth has been uncovered. For the investigators working the case, it’s a startlingly frustrating story about the dangers the world can harbor for a strong, independent woman who dares to be free while opening her compassionate heart to those she meets. For her family, it has been a devastating twist of reality which has left them haunted by the possibilities, yet hopefully clinging to the memories. For those who loved Tiffany, she is very much alive in their hearts and minds, and not a day goes by without wondering where she is and when she will be able to come home.
The way in which someone can simply vanish without a trace is undeniably disturbing, but when it is someone who was always so capable and strong, someone who had been out on her own and wasn’t afraid to follow her own unique path, it can be even more haunting. For Tiffany’s family, the search is far from over. Each time human remains are discovered in the area, their breath catches in their throat as they hope for the best, and so far, each time the victim has been identified as someone other than Tiffany. They refuse to give up, and they refuse to let go of the possibility that they will someday have their daughter back. For Cindy Daniels, she speaks to her daughter every day, both out loud, and in the written word. In an interview, she said “I write on her facebook page, I write to her every month and tell her things. I tell her that we’re here and that we’re not gonna give up.”
[Thoughts & Theories]
The disappearance of Tiffany Daniels is one of those cases that just haunts me for reasons I can’t begin to explain. While I research a great many cases of disappearances, and they all bother me, some stand out more than others and I find myself making an emotional connection. For whatever reason, Tiffany’s case really bothers me and during my time researching and writing this episode, I’ve dreamed about it quite a bit. I suppose it just got stuck in my mind and I can tell that this is one of those stories that will stick with me and years from now, I’ll still be sitting here wanting to know what happened and trying to figure it out. Watching interviews with her family was also difficult, you can see the pain in their faces, you can hear the grief in their voices. This is a loving family that has been so severely damaged by the disappearance of their daughter, of their sister. Almost as soon as I looked at the case I knew I would be covering it.
Tiffany was a beautiful young woman with a brilliant mind and a remarkable talent for art. I’ve always admired artists, whereas I write, they create beautiful visuals that I could never imagine doing. While Tiffany always questioned her abilities, and what artist doesn’t, it was obvious to everyone around her just how incredibly talented she was. She used that talent both in her personal life, as a form of expression, and at work, designing and painting sets for plays. She was a kind person, the type of woman that everyone wants to be around. She had a beaming smile and sharp wit, and would always make those around her laugh. She lightened the mood, she brought joy into lives and she wasn’t afraid to say what she felt. In her absence, those who loved Tiffany do their best to remain within the light that she created, though they cannot help but notice the darkness left behind.
This is a tough case, with a lot of possibilities and little evidence regardless of which direction you go. We have a handful of theories, and while they all have their merits, they also have their detractors. Each can be argued for with the same vehemence as the others, and in many cases this can create a situation where people lose sight of the purpose, and simply get caught up in fighting for what they personally believe. While it’s important to have a firm platform to support your argument, you have to try to not get so biased to your personal thoughts that you ignore things which contradict that angle. In Tiffany’s case, I’ve selected five theories that seem to encompass almost all of the thoughts, evidence, rumor and speculation. The first of these theories suggests that Tiffany’s disappearance was not a crime, but her own personal choice.
Tiffany was defined by almost everyone she knew as a free spirit who loved to travel and would often take off with little notice, if any at all. She was an avid cyclist, hiker, backpacker and camper. She had spent time during college backpacking through Europe, she had drive across the country on a long trip to see it all. Even her mother has said she was surprised that Tiffany elected not to most to Texas with Grey Thomas because she was the kind of girl who loved to move around, so is the concept of Tiffany electing to hit the road one that is impossible? Not by any stretch of the imagination. I know in cases of adult disappearances we often have to deal with this theory, but in some, including this one, there is a solid basis for feeling that way.
If we examine the state of things in Tiffany’s life at the time she vanished, there were certainly things going on that she may have wanted to take the time to escape from. She had financial issues which may have been greater than anyone in her life was privy to. Her boyfriend, the man she loved, had left town and while they were going to attempt a long distance relationship, that can often be challenging and difficult to work through. Many of her close friends had slowly drifted away, as life begins to take over more, people move, they forget, they get deeply involved in their relationships, their families, and a sad truth about life is that, often times, the greatest friendships can just slowly fizzle out as other things come into play. For Tiffany, she was still in the same space while those around her were moving on, finding new lives, and though she didn’t express it, some have argued that she may have felt lonely, or possibly even a little lost.
It’s not difficult to see travel as a possibility, a desperate need to disconnect and just experience that freedom of traveling which always seemed to revive her soul. The problem with this theory is, essentially, why didn’t she ever return and would she have gone without every contacting her loved ones? That is where it begins to seem unlikely. Tiffany was described as being a deeply caring and empathetic woman, not the type of person to just up and leave while leaving her family to wonder what happened to her. On top of that, it’s been nearly five years, and unless her travels began as a short trip and something unforeseen happened, there’s no real explanation for why she wouldn’t have contacted someone by now, were she able to.
There’s also the lack of anything trackable. There has been no activity on her social security number, and while its possible she could be out in the world roughing it without the need to use her personal information, that seems again like an unlikely possibility. Not something that can be ruled out, but when weighing the probability it seems low. We also have the lack of sightings, and while some have stated that they have seen Tiffany, it’s never been verified. With her image out there the way it is, with national television exposure on the show Disappeared, it seems unlikely that if Tiffany were living somewhere new, someone wouldn’t have recognized her by now. It also seems unlikely that this caring young woman would become aware, if she wasn’t already, about the search for her, and wouldn’t reach out to someone to confirm that she was alive and well, even if she didn’t want to return. While I understand the arguments for the possibility that Tiffany left of her own volition, it just doesn’t seem like the most likely scenario in this case.
This brings us to the second theory, which is that Tiffany may have been suicidal at the time she vanished and may have acted on that impulse and taken her own life. Again, proponents of this theory point to difficulties in Tiffany’s life as indicators that she may have wanted a permanent escape. It’s nearly impossible to try to put yourself into the mindset of someone who is seriously considering suicide, but as far as we are aware, Tiffany had no mental health diagnosis which would make her more likely to be a risk for suicide. While she certainly was facing a difficult time, it doesn’t appear from an outside view that these issues were insurmountable.
Tiffany’s suv was found in the parking lot of a beach that wasn’t far from her home, and was a place that she frequented. It seems unlikely that she would have driven herself out there with the plan to commit suicide if the location she had selected was going to be elsewhere, so rational thought would dictate that the place of her possible suicide would have been at that beach. We know from descriptions from her mother that she had numerous personal affects inside the suv when it was found, which seems to indicate that she wasn’t bringing them with her but we have no way of knowing whether or not Tiffany carried any items with her when she did her usual activities at the beach.
If indeed the beach was going to be the location of a possible suicide, there are several possibilities here, though most have suggested drowning. While we often hear stories of people, back in the old days, being overwhelmed with life and stricken with grief, electing to walk into the ocean to drown themselves, it’s actually a fairly difficult task. The brain and the body are hardwired for survival, and dying by drowning isn’t comfortable by any means. You’re going to breathe in water, you’re going to choke and your body is going to fight to bring you back to the surface to survive. Now, it’s entirely possible that Tiffany could have done this and by the time she changed her mind, was unable to get herself back to shore, but what would have happened to her from that point on?
In drownings, bodies are frequently located. Considering the location of the beach, it has been pointed out that she could have been swept out into the gulf of mexico and there have been numerous accounts of people drowning off Florida beaches and having their bodies drifting as far as South America. In an interview with Cindy, she mentioned that the currents in that area do not run in the way most people expect them to and that there have been several instances during where an individual has drowned, or disappeared in the ocean, and was later found in the opposite direction searches had gone. There is also the possibility that sea life could have come along and taken her body below. These are all possibilities, but the concept that nothing was ever found makes it difficult to imagine. The ocean is a giant, vast space where people and items can easily seem to vanish from the face of the earth, but to have found absolutely nothing to indicate that Tiffany went down to the water that night does give cause for concern and for questioning the possibility.
This is a theory where you can gather evidence to support it and evidence to argue against it fairly equally. However, Tiffany’s friends and family all feel firmly that she would not have committed suicide. If she were the caring and loving woman she was described to be, that does seem like an act that wouldn’t be high on her list of options. She was a resourceful young woman, and though suicide has to be considered, it seems more like something she’d have turned to if she had exhausted all other options. She had turned to her parents for financial assistance before, so wouldn’t she have tried again before feeling it was hopeless? Her boyfriend had moved away, but if nothing else, she had expressed excitement about the possibility of visiting him. She also had plans for the future, including a dance party, which she loved throwing. While I understand that this is a theory which has to be considered, again, it is a possibility, but without further information, it seems like a slim one.
Interestingly, the third theory keeps in line with the theory that Tiffany may have gone down to the beach that night with the plan of swimming, but it considers the possibility that she may have drowned, not on purpose, but as the result of an accident. While the idea of swimming in the ocean at night sounds romantic, there are a lot of risk factors involved. We also have to consider the possibility, as was suggested by Detective Harnett, of rip tides and strong currents which could have overwhelmed Tiffany.
Frankly, there are a myriad of factors which could have played a role in a possible accidental drowning. What kind of physical shape she was in, what her mindset was, the movement of the ocean that night, how much visibility there was, the temperature of the water, what she was wearing. It’s almost impossible to consider everything, and in my experience, the ocean can be incredibly unpredictable and unforgiving. We know that Tiffany liked to go swimming there, so she obviously had a familiarity with the area, and this wouldn’t have been the first time she’d done it at night, but so many things could have happened to transform a calm night swim into a fight for survival.
A strong current could have sent Tiffany into a rock, where she bumped her head and lost consciousness. Her foot could have gotten tangled in something, an animal could have come along and attacked her. The possibilities are endless, and much like the suicide theory, there are way too many things here to be able to properly consider them all. The accidental drowning theory, again, presents similar problems to the suicide theory. Nothing was found to indicate that she’d gone into the water that night, no one saw anything nor heard anything which suggested someone was in the water and struggling. Tiffany’s mother believes that, had she gone into the ocean that night, she’d likely have left her flip flops or an article of clothing on the beach, but clothes were found in her vehicle so it could be argued that she simply changed out of them in her suv rather than on the sand. Again, we would have expected the recovery of the body or something that might point investigators toward the ocean as a possibility. It’s an interesting theory, and one which can’t be ruled out. Many people believe that Tiffany’s life ended in the ocean that night, whether it was by her own choice, or purely accidental. Unless something is found, or someone comes forward with information, this aspect remains an utter mystery which cannot be ruled out, nor in.
The fourth theory presents the possibility that Tiffany was the victim of an abduction. This theory has been presented with several possibilities, those being that Tiffany could have been abducted by a stranger in a random act, or possibly by someone with the intent to move her into the world of human trafficking. Looking at both aspects, it’s difficult to rule one out in favor of the other. With such an overwhelming lack of evidence in this case, there isn’t much which can be used to support one over the other. If we first examine the possibility of a random attack, we have to consider a lot of factors. Tiffany is believed to have driven to the beach that night, even though we can’t know for sure because of the license plate reader not taking a photo of the entire vehicle. So, if we assume that Tiffany went to the beach by her own choice, many people local to the area have reported that, in the evening, the beaches are often sparsely populated and incredibly dark. On the one hand, this would make Tiffany much more likely to be victimized by someone, but on the other, if someone were out looking for a young woman to attack or abduct, would he choose a beach at night were people were known to not be out?
Of course, there is the possibility that the suspect could have been out on the beach that night, or in the area and watched Tiffany drive out there, and elected to follow her. In one of his interviews, Tiffany’s father talked about his daughter being far too kind to strangers, and suggested a possibly scenario during which someone could have asked her for directions and, when she got close enough, pulled her into the vehicle and driven off. Obviously not something which can be ruled out, and sadly, something that happens every day around the world. For a while, Tiffany’s mother was worried about the possibility that she could have run out of gas and may have taken a ride from a stranger. While that isn’t what appears to have happened here, it does tend to show a more trusting and possibly naïve side to Tiffany that could have opened her up to an assault or abduction.
There are several possible scenarios, from someone coaxing Tiffany into a vehicle to one or more suspects using physical assault to get her in. Whether or not police followed up on tags for vehicles seen leaving the beach that day after Tiffany entered is unknown, but it is well known that there is another bridge which leads off the beach, in the opposite direction, and its tag checking system was not functioning so if a possible abductor was familiar enough with the area, he or she could have known to come in and exit via that bridge. If Tiffany was in fact abducted, there are a few possibilities. One is that she may have been murdered, which will be addressed in the next theory, but the more popular belief is that if Tiffany were abducted, it was likely with human trafficking in mind.
There have been multiple busts over the years involving human trafficking in that area, and some of those busts came within months of Tiffany’s disappearance. It’s impossible to get into the depth of this theory completely, and with trafficking sadly being such a major operation, coast to coast, it isn’t something that can be easily dismissed. We know of the account of the woman from Panama Beach who, just weeks after Tiffany vanished, was abducted, drugged and told she was going to be forced into prostitution in New Orleans. This is not necessarily a scenario which is completely out of the realm of possibility in terms of what may have happened to Tiffany.
Florida moved back and forth between being ranked second and third in the United States for reported instances of human trafficking. The I-10 corridor, which runs through Pensacola, is well known for being a route used by traffickers. Were someone able to have abducted Tiffany, a beautiful, young blond woman, it isn’t unlikely that she could have been trafficked in some form or fashion. While trafficking is tremendous problem, and a horrible circumstance for anyone to be involved in, the evidence is lacking to support the theory. While it fits in, and is certainly a possibility, we simply have nothing to go on outside of witness reports of Tiffany being in the Louisiana area, and allegedly in the company of an older, Hispanic woman. While this is a startling witness account, there is no way to truly verify it, though it seems unlikely that the daughter of one of Cindy’s friends would lie, it also seems unlikely that so many tipsters would make up accounts or try to extort money from the family.
Abduction, be it for trafficking purposes, or something else, is a theory which has existed in this case nearly since the beginning. It’s obviously something that needs to be considered, and needs to be examined more closely. The sad part is, truly, that in a lot of trafficking operations they can be difficult to track and even if the rings are broken, locating specific individuals or getting the cooperation of suspects is notoriously difficult. There is a great deal of compartmentalization going on, and in most cases, the people on the street who are running the abductions are not the ones with the knowledge of where specific individuals go. Beyond that, the victims of these heinous crimes are not treated as people, and more like product and due to the dehumanization and the lack of interest in leaving behind information or evidence, there isn’t much of an accounting of who goes where. In most cases, the people who are running the operations at a street level aren’t aware of much about the victims, let along their names or where they were taken from.
Victims are often plied by injecting them with drugs and other substances, building up their addiction to the drugs and then using that addiction to control them and manipulate them into acts of prostitution or, in some cases, even treated them as sex slaves who are locked up and only visited by men who are going to conduct abhorrent acts. This is a highly disturbing area to look into, but it is one which needs more attention as it’s a worldwide plague that has been going on for a long time and shows no likelihood of stopping anytime soon. Whether or not Tiffany fell victim to a situation such as this, we cannot know for sure.
The final theory in this case is that Tiffany may have been the victim of a homicide, conducted either by a total stranger in a random act of violence, or possibly by someone she knew and trusted. Much like the previous theories, it’s difficult to begin to try and put pieces of information together to construct a possibly scenario, but there are several possibilities in relation to this theory which warrant further investigation. We can’t know for certain just how much the Pensacola Police looked into specific individuals, but beginning with the possibility of a stranger or random encounter, we do have the witness tip about the man in red shorts being seen near Tiffany’s vehicle in the days around and following her disappearance. According to these statements, the man was seen towards the rear of her SUV and appeared to be closing the tailgate and possibly shaking out a blanket.
There are a few details here that need to be examined more closely. The description of the individual leaves a lot to be desired as tracking down someone described simply as Caucasian, between 30 and 40 years of age and wearing red shorts doesn’t give police much to go on. Also, someone being seen near the vehicle doesn’t necessarily imply murder, abduction or violent activity. Her SUV had been sitting there for a while, and if he wasn’t seen the night she disappeared, we know that the 4 runner was unlocked meaning this could have been an individual looking to steal, rather than someone responsible for an abduction or murder, but again, with a lack of evidence and information, it’s difficult to say.
Whether or not this individual played a role, we can’t know, but being that it was a beach which wasn’t heavily populated in the evening, there are any number of possible scenarios which could have involved Tiffany running into someone with bad intentions. Again, we also don’t know for certain that Tiffany was the one who drove her vehicle out to the spot where it was located, meaning that she could have been attacked anywhere between her home, her job and the beach itself. In terms of a total random act of violence involving an unknown individual, there are questions there which demand answers, but despite the investigative efforts of the Pensacola Police, the lack of evidence leaves these questions looming.
When it comes to individuals that Tiffany specifically knew, three names are often mentioned. Grey Thomas, her boyfriend, Gary Nichols, her much older roommate and her work supervisor, Bob. Beginning with Thomas, we know that he was highly cooperative with authorities and seemed to be taken aback and even traumatized by the disappearance. According to Cindy, he didn’t play a role in much of the investigation and has since lost touch with the family, not due to a lack of care, but as she once said, possibly due to his own grief over the situation. There is no history of abuse between the two, and there have been no reports of Thomas being violent or controlling. In fact, he left town the day before Tiffany vanished, and even police have considered him as a non suspect considering his cooperation. He voluntarily gave fingerpritnts and DNA as well as answering every and all questions from investigators and the family. It seems unlikely that Thomas would have traveled to Texas, only to come back the next day to commit a crime against someone who spent his last morning in Florida with him.
If we rule out Thomas, as authorities and the family have, we move on to Gary Nichols. Nichols drew suspicion from the family when he moved in with Tiffany due to the age difference and the fact that he was the father to a friend of Tiffany’s. Cindy has said that she and her husband were against the arrangement but that Tiffany felt secure in it, knowing that Gary was financially stable and she knew him, at least somewhat. While living with a roommate less than half your age may raise eyebrows, it doesn’t mean that someone has negative intentions. From what is known, Gary doesn’t have a violent past nor a wrap sheet to make him suspicious. He too cooperated with investigators who felt he had nothing to hide. Whether or not they ever considered him a person of interest is unknown.
The issues which do make some suspicious of Gary revolve around his behavior and statements from the day Tiffany vanished. According to multiple reports, Gary is alleged to have told two different stories, one being that he was home on the phone that day, and another that he was not home during the time Tiffany is believed to have stopped in. Cindy Daniels has been very suspicious of Gary’s statements and feels that it’s unlikely he was awoken by a door opening and closing between 3 and 5am but didn’t hear her daughter entering, walking around or leaving between the hours of 5 and 7:50pm. According to Cindy, their bedrooms shared a wall and a piece of that wall was missing, which would make it almost impossible to not notice or hear Tiffany in her bedroom that afternoon.
Beyond that, we have the fact that Gary moved out of the home very quickly after Tiffany’s disappearance and is alleged to have asked if someone was caught before anyone was truly considering abduction or murder. This, again, doesn’t necessarily paint Gary as a suspect, and while for some it is suspicious, for others it is simply a question that someone would ask. One interesting aspect is that while Gary expressed so much concern early on in the investigation, he didn’t have many conversations with the family once the investigation was fully launched and within a year of the disappearance, Gary moved out of the country to Italy for work. When the television show, Disappeared, recorded about Tiffany’s story, Gary was not on camera and, in his place, was his daughter Noel. According to Tiffany this caused some issues between them and Gary is alleged to have received death threats online following the airing of the show.
It’s hard to say where Gary stands in the investigation, but for many he needs to be labeled as a person of interest. Much of what revolves around him is rumor and speculation, which could be cleared up through conversations with law enforcement, or the family. It does seem strange that he wouldn’t be interested in picking up a phone and answering Cindy and Rodney’s questions if indeed he was so concerned about the disappearance. This leads us to the final person many people have spoken about, which is Tiffany’s supervisor, Bob.
We know from Cindy that Bob had a close relationship with Tiffany and often gave her advice. He is alleged to have advised her against the move to Austin, which many see as bizarre. In addition to this, there are rumors that there may have been an inappropriate relationship between the two at some point in time, though there is no way to truly verify this. Bob was reported to be uncooperative with police and has had little if nothing to say about the disappearance. One interesting point to mention is that Cindy reported seeing paintings in Tiffany’s vehicle in the impound lot. She stated that it was not common for Tiffany to drive around with paintings, but she suspected, that they may have been there with the intention of selling them.
Bob had allegedly told Tiffany he could help her sell her artwork, which has led many to speculate that Tiffany may have met up with Bob that night under the guise of selling art, which would explain its presence in her vehicle. While this is a fascinating theory, it does raise certain questions. If Tiffany thought they were meeting to sell the art, why would she have left it behind in her SUV if indeed she got into Bob’s vehicle? It’s easy enough to imagine he could have offered to take her to dinner, or perhaps someplace where they might engage in romantic activities, but it seems strange that she would leave her beloved vehicle behind to do this. Also, meeting at this location is somewhat out of the way unless the plan involved spending time on the beach.
Sadly, when it comes to Bob, everything is purely speculative and whether or not investigators dug into him deeply enough is hotly debated. Much of the files in relation to this case are still secured and the information there within has never been released. Even Cindy has said that she doesn’t know all of the information in the files and her questions about Bob, his activities in the days leading up to and after Tiffany’s disappearance as well as his relationship to her daughter remain a mystery. It’s difficult to condemn a man based on rumors that spread around a campus regarding his alleged fraternization, but at the same time, there are obviously questions here which would raise someone’s suspicions. It is important to note that police are still in possession of two fingerprints from Tiffany’s vehicle which have never been identified. Though it cannot be known for sure, it is believed that these fingerpritnts were, at a minimum tested against Grey Thomas and Gary Nichols’ samples. Whether or not Bob submitted anything remains unclear. Suffice it to say, this is yet another theory where it has merit, but nothing has thus far been proven.
The disappearance of Tiffany Daniels is remarkably disturbing and frustration. This is a case with seemingly endless possibilities and not enough hard evidence or information to narrow it down very much. In most of these theories, it would suggest that someone out there has the answers as to what happened to this talented young woman. Whether or not that information comes to light remains to be seen, but there is yet hope. Tiffany vanished just under five years ago, and while for her family this may feel like a lifetime, and justifiably so, there are so many cases which have been solved after much longer periods of time. This is still a relatively new case, in terms of your average cold case and investigators assure the family, and the media, that they continue to track down leads and follow tips.
Sadly, this case has grown more cold since 2015 and in the last three years there has been almost nothing new stated or revealed. The case continues to move through the hands of different investigators, which while that can be frustrating, also gives fresh eyes the opportunity to find something which may have been overlooked in the past. The Daniels’ family remains in contact with the Pensacola Police Department and they are kept informed of any developments, though tragically there have been few, if any. Twenty-five year old Tiffany Daniel’s had her entire life ahead of her. She had talent, beauty, grace, kindness and a brilliant mind. Something happened to her, and one August night she mysteriously vanished into the darkness of Pensacola. Her vehicle was found days later, and her family and police have been on the hunt for her ever since. Until someone comes forward with more information, a sighting can be verified or there is a miraculous break in the case, the disappearance of Tiffany Daniels remains open and unsolved.