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02/01/2019

Searching for Jessica
Searching for Jessica
  • One year ago, Jessica Hamby went missing; investigators are still searching for clues
hamby.jpg
Jessica Hamby
 
Article and photo contributed by The Journal Record
 
By Michael e. palmer
Staff Writer
 
HAMILTON - A year has passed since Jessica Hamby went missing and investigators are not letting up in their search for the Haleyville woman who was last seen in Marion County on Jan. 3, 2018.   
 
“We’re not going to let up. We’re still going,” said Sgt. Chris Sims, a narcotics investigator with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
 
Keith Hamby, Jessica’s father, said he is confident the investigators will soon discover what happened to his daughter.
 
“The investigators are hard at it. They ain’t slowing down,” Hamby said. “They’ve gone above and beyond and they are always working on it.”
 
Jessica Hamby, 24 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen, according to witnesses, walking on Elgin Cochran Road off Highway 43 between Hamilton and Hackleburg.
 
 The Marion County Sheriff’s Office, working closely with the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation (ABI), has issued 10 or more new search warrants in the past few weeks and more are forthcoming, Sims said. Sims said he has interviewed more than 50 witnesses in the past year.
 
“We’ve been offered several leads that have taken us in a few different directions,” he said. Sims said the last people to see Hamby “tell different versions of the same story. However, we’ve not had any information that indicates she ever left Elgin Cochran Road. All that we’ve heard leads us back to there. Everything keeps going back to Elgin Cochran.”
 
Hamby said the day before his daughter went missing, she left a drug rehab center in Haleyville. From there, a friend drove her to Marion County where Hamby met some friends at a camper across from Elgin Cochran Road. Later, Hamby and three other individuals were driven to a residence on Elgin Cochran Road near Edward’s Roof Truss, a business that fabricates roof trusses for houses. “Going to that house was the worst decision she ever made in her life,” Hamby said.
 
“We know she was there all night. We’ve got phone records,” Hamby said.
 
The case has drawn statewide attention and has been covered by media outlets such as al.com, the Florence Times Daily in Florence, WAFF 48 in Huntsville, and ABC 33/40 in Birmingham.
 
ABC 33/40 reported that Hamby was last known to be with witnesses Eric Edwards, Alicia Motes and her brother Derek Motes at Edwards’ residence on Elgin Cochran Road on the morning she went missing.
ABC 33/40’s Cynthia Gould reported on Jan. 3, the one-year anniversary since Hamby disappeared, that those three witnesses have taken polygraph tests administered by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.   
 
Alicia Motes, one of the last persons investigators say saw Hamby, was scheduled to meet with ABC 33/40 reporter Cynthia Gould in Hamilton to discuss the results of Motes’s polygraph test.
 
Motes failed to show up for that meeting, Gould reported. In the report that aired, Gould asked Marion County Sheriff Kevin Williams if he was surprised that Motes failed to show.
 
“No, I’m not surprised,” Williams said. Williams told Gould that Motes will hold some answers in what ultimately happened to Jessica Hamby.
 
During the subsequent investigation the three witnesses have admitted his daughter was there, Hamby said. “But, each time you talk to everyone that was in that house, they tell a different story. It changes. The truth never changes, only lies change,” Hamby said.
 “By their own words we know there was some kind of argument or altercation that morning a little bit after 6 in the bathroom.”
 
Hamby said that one of the witnesses said his daughter left the house to go watch the sunrise.
 
“First of all, it was six degrees outside and she didn’t have a coat on,” Hamby said.
 
Phone records indicate Hamby’s last phone communications were to Eric Edwards while she was on the Edwards property on the morning she went missing, Hamby said. At 7:51 a.m. his daughter sent a cryptic message to Edwards and called his phone twice at 7:53 a.m.
“The message was ‘Hey, they ain’t gonna shoot me for walking.’ She called him and then she vanished off the face of the earth,” Hamby said.
 
When asked if he had any idea what that message may have meant, Sims responded, “No clue. No clue. But, there’s only a couple ways to read that.”
 
Derek Edwards is currently in prison at Ventress Correctional Center in Barbour County for burglary and drug possession charges, Sims said.
 
Sims noted that the case is still considered a missing persons case. “Elements of the case are questionable, but we don’t have any evidence yet to move it beyond that,” he said.
 
Hamby said he stopped considering the case a missing persons case months ago and knows that he will never see his daughter again.
 
“We know she’s gone. We just don’t know where those folks put her.”  
Even though drugs are involved and his daughter was trying to get her life straight, Hamby wants people to know that his daughter was a kind and loving mother to her three children, now ages 10, 6 and 5.
“I have custody of them now and they live with me, but they deeply miss their mother, as do I,” Hamby said.
 
Hamby said speaking with the children about Jessica has been tough.
“That is something I struggled with and I felt like I probably needed some guidance and some help,” he said.
 
Hamby said he sought the help of child psychology specialists in Muscle Shoals on how to talk to the children about their mother.
“Because of their age difference, you have to speak to the 5- and 6-year-old a little bit differently than you do the 10-year-old. I simply told the younger ones that mommy died and she’s in heaven with Jesus.
 
“One thing they stressed to me, is don’t be afraid to use the word ‘died,’ because if you don’t, that leaves them thinking that maybe she’ll come back, and we don’t want to give them false hope.”
Hamby said the people responsible for his daughter’s disappearance will be brought to justice.
 
“Sooner or later, their time is coming. We are going to know the truth and I hope it’s not too far off. The investigators have kept their noses to the grindstone for the past year, collecting evidence and information. We do have witness statements from a lot of people that have come forward with information on a lot of stuff. The people responsible will be held accountable.”
 
Hamby said new electronic phone evidence is coming in daily.
 
“We know every device that was on that road, and we know who owns those devices and who they are registered to. So we’ve got some good information as to everybody’s movements that night and that morning. But, we don’t have it all yet. We’re waiting on it right now,” he said.
 
As that information flows in, Hamby said he has plans for group ground searches that will take place in the future at, as yet unnamed, sites in Marion County. Hamby said he didn’t want those places printed in the newspaper because it may hinder current investigative efforts.
 
“There has to be justice and we won’t stop until we have it. You can definitely print that,” he said.
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