Sixteen-year-old Tabitha visited her father and stepmother at their apartment complex in Shawnee, Kansas on April 27, 1998. Her 19-year-old boyfriend, Nicholas Travis, accompanied her during the late evening hours. The couple was last seen departing the residence with a friend, Brandon B. Howell, at approximately 12:00 a.m. They were going to run an errand together.
Brandon told authorities that he dropped Tabitha and Nicholas off at the Circle K convenience store near 75th Street and Interstate 35; however, they never returned home. Tabitha was carrying a comb and a pocket knife at the time of her disappearance.
Authorities initially assumed the couple ran away together, but soon discovered foul play was likely involved in their disappearances. Both Nicholas and Tabitha's charred identification and Tabitha's purse (with her jewelry & pictures of her family inside) were discovered in a dumpster on the corner of 55th Street and Paseo Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri approximately three days after they vanished. There were no other signs of Tabitha or Nicholas at the scene.
In August of 1998, Nicholas's body was found buried in a shallow grave in the 5400 block of the Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri. His corpse was only found four doors down from the location where the couple's belongings were located more than one year earlier. He was the victim of a homicide and he had several fractures in the back of his skull. There was no sign of Tabitha at the scene. She has never been heard from again.
Tabitha & Nicholas had been dating for over a year prior to their disappearances; and they lived with Tabitha's mother. They both dropped out of the alternative high school they attended. Tabitha's mother stated that her daughter wanted to marry Travis and have his children. Tabitha is a good typist and she was employed as a secretary at a mortgage company at the time of her disappearance.
Authorities identified Brandon as a suspect in Tabitha's disappearance and Nicholas's murder not long into the investigation. Nicholas's body was found in the backyard of a home that Howell's father had worked on and blood spatters matching Travis's DNA were located. There was a scuff mark like a shoeprint on the underside of the Howell car's trunk lid as well.
Investigators initially lacked the evidence to charge Howell. He was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault, attempted aggravated robbery and animal cruelty and has been incarcerated since 1999. The charges stemmed from a home invasion robbery.
In 2006, eight years after Nicholas and Tabitha disappeared, Brandon Howell was charged with the murders of both of them when witnesses came forward with additional information. A witness stated that on a night in April of 1998, they heard Tabitha's voice from inside Brandon's father's home, then a man and a woman screaming, and after that the witness saw Brandon with blood on his shirt. Brandon had also allegedly spoken to several people of a plan to kidnap Tabitha and Nicholas & rob and kill them.
Tabitha had received a $40,000 car accident settlement shortly before her disappearance, but the money was held in a trust fund and she did not have access to it. Brandon was tried in March of 2009 and was acquitted of both murders. Brandon was later convicted for the murders of 5 people in an unrelated case and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Tabitha has never been found, but foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
Tabitha has brown hair & brown eyes. She has scars on her left knee, on her left hand and under her right eye. One of her ears is triple-pierced while the other ear has a single piercing.
She has the initials "TD" on one of her ankles. Her skull and left wrist were previously fractured as the result of a near-fatal car accident that occured when she was 14 years old. A wire was inserted into Tabitha's jaw after an additional injury prior to her 1998 disappearance.
Her nickname is Tabby. The jewelry that she was wearing at the time of her disappearance were earrings, a bracelet, a necklace and a silver ring with a purple stone.