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25 years of reporting in ENC: The biggest mystery I have covered, the disappearance of Timeka Pridgen

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 6:49 PM EDT
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LA GRANGE, N.C. (WITN) - Today marks the 21st anniversary of the disappearance of a Lenoir County girl. It’s a story I covered when it happened on May 12th of 2001 and have revisited over the years. As I continue my look back at my 25-years of reporting in eastern Carolina, the case of Timeka Pridgen remains the greatest mystery I have covered.

Timeka’s La Grange home is the last place she was seen.

La Grange Mayor Bobby Wooten recalls how the town felt when she vanished. “Shocked that a ya know, a child would go missing with no trace whatsoever.”

She was just 16-years-old at the time. Twenty-one years later her family, friends, and investigators ask the same question. What happened to Timeka?

Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram says, “Just to completely disappear off the face of the earth is very, very unusual.”

Timeka’s mom Cosandra Best talked with me over the years as the investigation into her daughter’s disappearance continued. She told me in 2010, “Every day I miss her and I want so badly to know where she is and what happened.”

I sat down with her again as another year passes with no answers. She said, “I miss her every single day. Think about her every single day. People don’t just disappear into thin air. But this is what this feels like. Like no trace? No trace at all?

That is the nightmare Cosandra lives with every day. She says Timeka seemingly vanished from their home while she was taking a nap.

She still believes today, as she did when I talked with her previously, that someone abducted her and that she did not leave on her own. Cosandra told me in 2010, “She, um left her shoes, her purse and it had money in her purse. This evening it rained and was cool and I knew she would not have walked out without her shoes on.”

The La Grange Police Department originally investigated Timeka’s disappearance from her home. So where do they stand with the investigation today? Well, the police department doesn’t exist anymore.

The case is now in the hands of the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office where Sheriff Ronnie Ingram says investigators were back out searching around the house in the past few years. He says, “We actually went out and met with a group and we went over the area, walked all through the wooded area, down there with dogs, cadaver dogs. Dogs still didn’t hit nothing. We did a couple of fields there just past the house, nothing.”

Cosandra told me years ago she felt like the initial investigation into her daughter’s disappearance was hindered because a missing persons case weeks earlier, involving a classmate of Timeka’s, turned out to be a hoax. She still feels that way. Cosandra says, “There just wasn’t enough attention on it when it first happened. Ya know, people say those first 48 hours are so crucial. That is true.”

She first suspected her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend at the time knew what happened, and that hasn’t changed. Fueling her concerns is the fact that he’s been convicted of multiple sex offenses and kidnapping and served time in prison. But he had consistently said he wasn’t there that day.

Today, Timeka would be 37-years old. About ten years ago, an age progression composite image was released of what she may look like.

While the case remains cold, Cosandra says she knows there are answers. “Someone knows something and they’re just refusing to come forward and it’s very difficult.”

Sheriff Ingram says, “I know for the family’s sake they need some kind of closure.”

Mayor Wooten says they continue to hope Timeka is still alive. “Ya know you hate to think the worst. You hope for the best and we hope that somewhere, she is still somewhere out there.”

Hope is what Cosandra holds onto. Hope that Timeka is still alive, and hope that one day, she will see her again. “I think about her every day and I guess I have no other choice because I wake up to her picture staring at me every morning. I really miss her. a lot.”

If you have information that can help in the disappearance of Timeka you can call the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office at 252-559-6100 or Crime Stoppers at 252-523-4444 where you can remain anonymous and may qualify for a reward.

Next month I’ll continue my look back at my 25-years of reporting at WITN by focusing on how my job has given me such an incredible opportunity to help people and organizations in ENC.

To watch and read my April anniversary report on working through and covering a pandemic you can click here.

To watch and read my March anniversary report on familiar faces and changes through the years you can click here.

To watch and read my February report on my most impactful story you can click here.

To watch and read my January report on my first story I ever covered you can click here.

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