Five years after Rebecca Henderson Paulk went missing in rural Lauderdale County, her family is offering a $20,000 reward for information on her disappearance.
"I know someone knows what happened to Rebecca,” Paulk's mother, Janet Henderson, said Thursday. “They know where she is. We want to bring her home.”
Henderson last spoke with her daughter the evening of Sept. 7, 2015. Paulk's abandoned Honda Civic was found the next day in a ditch in the Whynot community. Her purse, laptop and iPad were found inside but not her cellphone.
A search of the area by deputies and canines yielded no clues, authorities said at the time.
Paulk, 26, had been in Meridian that Monday, but Henderson still doesn't know how she ended up in Whynot, a rural community about an hour away from Paulk’s home in Linden, Alabama.
‘We had no idea why she was going over to Whynot,” Henderson said. “Never heard of that place ... never had a clue.”
A few weeks after Paulk’s disappearance, a Lauderdale County man was questioned, but investigators found no evidence connecting him to the case.
Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun of the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday that investigators are still working the case.
“We’ve run down every lead,” Calhoun said.
With few tangible leads, Henderson worries her daughter could have been a victim of human trafficking.
“She could’ve been sold into sex trafficking,” she said. “Every scenario has gone through my mind. Was she hungry? Did she starve? Was she was beaten?”
Henderson said the last five years have been devastating for her family.
“Unless you’re going through it, you will never know,” Henderson said. “It’s a like a nightmare that never ends. You have have hope one minute, hoping she’ll walk through the door. But, then you’ll think that maybe she’s no longer with us.”
Paulk, who had finished training to be an OSHA inspector when she disappeared, called or texted her mother daily. Henderson said she liked to spend her free time outside.
“I miss her hugs and her laughter,” Henderson said. “I just miss her terribly – talking to her or getting a text from her.”
Paulk is described as 5-foot-6, weighing 145 pounds, with blonde hair and green eyes.
Henderson remains hopeful that someone will eventually speak up.
‘“I just don’t understand how anybody could not tell us,” she said. “I don’t know how they’re keeping their mouth shut. I truly don’t understand.”
“I hope it’s weighing on their conscience,” Henderson said. “I hope they can’t eat or sleep … they just need to put themselves in our situation – how would they feel if no one came forward to help get their child back?”
Anyone with any information in the case is asked to call Janet Henderson at 334-654-7055; the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department at 601-482-9806 or East Mississippi Crimestoppers at 855-485-TIPS (8477).