In the afternoon of August 12, 2013, Tiffany Daniels left her theater technician job, telling her supervisor she wouldn't be back for a few days, but she did not disclose why. She returned home briefly, and then left. She has not been seen since.
Because her supervisor believed she had planned time off for the next few days, she was not reported missing until the end of the week, when she didn't show up to work. Her friends and family did not know of any reason she would have not gone to work. Her roommate recalled she had left for work on August 12 unusually early after some "strange activity" early that morning.
Security footage on the Pensacola Beach Bridge captured her car crossing the bridge 3 hours after she left work. Her car was found 8 days later in a parking lot at the beach along with her bike, purse, and phone. Residents said the car had only been there a few days, and they had seen a male hanging around it.
As is common with such a disappearance, several theories exist as to what happened, including foul play and drowning. Her family believes she was a victim of human trafficking and is still alive.
Tiffany was from Dallas, Texas, and was known for her artistic abilities and outgoing personality. She was a free spirit who could lift the mood by just being around. She worked at the Pensacola State College theater in Florida, using her passion for painting to paint sets.
She loved Pensacola's attractions and would often organize and attend dance parties. She'd often hike or bike in the dunes. She was a nature lover - a pescatarian with tattoos on her feet showing plants growing and blooming.
Though she loved her life, she struggled with money. In 2013, her parents noticed that Tiffany had been covering the rent for previous roommates who didn't, or couldn't, pay their share of rent. So in July, she placed an advertisement on Craigslist for a new roommate.
Her ad was answered... by the 54-year-old dad of one of her friends named Gary Nichols. He was going through a separation with his wife and wanted to live closer to his job. And so, he moved in with 25-year-old Tiffany. Of course, her parents weren't in love with the idea of their daughter living with a man over twice her age, but he actually paid his bills, so that was a nice change of pace. He was also an avid cycler who followed a similar diet to Tiffany, so their shared interests made for an amenable living situation.
The day before her disappearance, Tiffany had a farewell breakfast with her boyfriend who had just been accepted into the robotics program at the University of Texas in Austin. Though he wanted her to move to Austin with him, she chose not to. She didn't want to end the relationship, but she wasn't ready to leave Pensacola.
Nichols recalled that, for the remainder of that day, she was a little bit depressed, understandably, but her mood lifted when she talked about visiting him in Austin. Her friends believed she would love and easily adapt to the city.
That night, she and her old man roommate watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Once the film was over, they went to their respective bedrooms to go to bed before work the next morning.
At 5 AM, Nichols heard the door open and close several times. However, when he looked out from his room, he didn't see Tiffany. When he left for work at around 7, he noticed Tiffany's car was gone, and assumed she had just left for work early. However, her parents said it was unusual for her to get up early. She typically left right before she had to be somewhere.
But whatever happened that morning, she arrived to work on time to start painting sets. In the afternoon, she asked her supervisor if she could take off a little bit early, and let him know she had some "things she had to take care of" and may be out for the whole week. He agreed, and she left at 4:43 PM.
When Tiffany didn't return home by 10 PM, Nichols became worried. He called his daughter, Noel, Tiffany's friend, but she convinced him not to worry. She said she's an adult and "might want to hang out with friends closer to her age" (burn). He agreed and went to bed. But she still was not back the following morning, and he was unable to reach her.
That night, the electricity shut off, and he realized that Tiffany didn't pay her share. He called Noel again, who offered to reach out to her parents on Facebook. They began contacting everyone they knew Tiffany was close with and realized nobody had seen her in a few days. They figured if she was visiting someone, it would be someone on their list of her friends. By the end of the week, they called the police and reported her missing.
Tiffany's mom, Cindy, went to the Escambia County sheriff, who was dismissive of the case, believing she had just gone out partying and would turn up. But, he referred the case to Pensacola, who took more interest in the case.
Pensacola Detective Daniel Harnett searched Tiffany's home, but found no signs of foul play. When he learned her boyfriend had just left for Austin, he explored it as a possible angle, but to no avail. She was not with him, and there was no sign that he had returned to the area.
Though he determined she was very sad because her boyfriend left, her sister knew that she had plans for the immediate future, including a trip to Austin and a dance in just a few weeks, and as such, it didn't make sense that she'd take her own life, or decide to start a new one.
The investigation turned up that Tiffany did return to her house after work briefly, while Nichols was there, but he was on the phone and did not notice her arriving home. Cindy is skeptical, given the open floor plan of the house, but the police do not believe he had anything to do with Tiffany's disappearance.
Her friends and family began distributing flyers on the streets as the media began to pick up the story. The attention produced some evidence... Tiffany's car. A jogger recognized her car in the parking lot at Pensacola Beach on August 20. She commonly went hiking alone in the nearby dunes. Her bike, cell phone, purse and wallet, some clothes, some paintings, a jug of water and peanut butter were found inside the car. It was towed for examination, where 2 fingerprints were found that didn't match Tiffany's. A resident of a nearby condo claimed the car had not been there a few days before, and 2 other residents claimed they had seen a man getting out of the car just that day.
Security footage was examined to determine exactly when the car had been taken there. At 7:51 on the evening of Tiffany's disappearance, her car passed through the nearby tolls, however, it could not be determined who was driving.
Police found sand in the bike tires, and believe she may have gone for a bike ride on the beach that night. They believe she may have gone for a swim afterward, lying on the beach to watch the Perseid meteor shower, and ended up drowning. However, no bodies ever turned up, which detectives said would be uncommon.
She also may have met foul play somewhere on land, but there is no evidence to suggest that. Her family set up a Facebook account, where they sifted through many possible leads in the case. One, they believed to be very credible, from a waitress in Metairie, Lousiana, who reported seeing her shortly after the disappearance with 2 other women. They were behaving strangely, and when the waitress told one of them that she looked like the missing girl from Florida, they left. The security tapes were shot, so there was no way to corroborate the story.
Her parents believe this was Tiffany. For one, the waitress said one of the girls was pulling her sleeves over her hands, which Tiffany did when she was cold. The waitress had also recalled Tiffany asking if the soups used chicken or fish broth, which she would do as a pescatarian. Because of this, her parents believe she may have become a victim of human trafficking.
For me, I don't have an impossible time believing, but have a hard time believing she was just randomly met with foul play after some bizarre behavior. I mean, what are the chances that on the day you tell your boss you need a few days off for seemingly no reason, you happen to drown or get abducted? If she drowned or was abducted, then there is still another mystery: why did she take time off? I suppose she could have just been sad because her boyfriend left, but "taking care of some things" doesn't sound like needing personal time.
For that reason, I'm drawn to a Reddit theory about her supervisor. Now, do I actually think that her supervisor at the local theater she painted sets for did it? I don't know. But, the user points out that he was the only one aware of this supposed hiatus from work, and thus, he could have just made it up to buy him some time. Not only did she provide a very lazy excuse for taking time off, but also asked for an ambiguous, and potentially long, timeframe leading up to an upcoming show. It seems a little sketch that he'd just tell her she could take a few days, no questions asked. But of course, he could have just been nice, and realized she worked part-time at a college theater and didn't think he needed to ask more questions.
Some are skeptical of her roommate. I mean, he does lend himself to skepticism being a 54-year-old who moved in with someone in her mid-20s. Technically, he could have been the last person to see her alive, as police did confirm she went home after work, though he claimed not to see her. Police cleared him of suspicion because he raised the concerns about her being missing, but he certainly could have done so just to cover his tracks. This certainly could align with my concern in the previous paragraph... perhaps she had told him she planned to take a few days off to clear her head and so he knew the supervisor wouldn't raise any red flags, and took his chance. However, he wasn't just some rando old man, he was the father of one of her good friends. There's really no motive, but certainly a possibility. Additionally, he claims the door opened and shut various times early in the morning, which can only be corroborated by him - this may have been a ruse to lead investigators to believe she was into some shady business, or going through something troubling, but not actually true.
I don't subscribe to the trafficking theory at all. I don't think a person pulling sleeves over their hands is uncommon enough to actually mean anything, and recollecting the story months later isn't always accurate. If it was true that she ordered a pescatarian meal and left when the waitress mentioned the missing girl from Florida, that is odd, but by the time the waitress came forward, the story was wide public knowledge. Her being a pescatarian could have been public knowledge. Additionally, if you saw a missing person, you wouldn't approach them and tell them they looked like the missing person, watch them leave when you get suspicious of them, and then not tell anyone until you tell the parents on a Facebook tip months later. At some point, you'd call the authorities. I think her parents are grasping at straws, hoping their daughter is still alive. But I don't believe she was trafficked.
There is another theory that she was lured to the beach by someone posing as an interested buyer in one of her paintings. Perhaps she had the meeting scheduled before work was over so she asked if she could get off early, and then went home to grab the painting. Perhaps she thought she'd spend some time the next few days clearing her mind with art, which is why she asked for additional days off. There were paintings found in her car, which could support this theory. However, when she arrived at their meeting place, he may have killed her and dumped her body. Again, this at least starts to tie in why she'd leave abruptly.
Some believe she may have committed suicide. "Swim as far as you can until you can't swim back," the user says. And while nothing can be ruled out, again, her body never turned up, and being depressed because your boyfriend moved away is different than being depressed. It doesn't appear she showed any signs of mental health crises or depression or anxiety. She was just sad her boyfriend was in a different state, and had plans to visit him. Committing suicide the day after seems like a very rash decision for someone who didn't have any previous mental health concerns.
And finally, some believe that she did get in the water on purpose, but drowned. It was later in the evening, she was sad. She got in the water and just couldn't swim back. I don't really see this theory as holding up because again, her body didn't ever wash up. And, this theory doesn't tie in with her requesting a week off of work. Sure, that great mystery could just be that she needed some time after her boyfriend left, but what are the chances she'd just happen to drown during a solo 8 PM swim the same day she said she wouldn't be back for a few days? I just don't quite buy it.
I don't really have a theory here. If I had to pick one, I'm probably most inclined to believe she had a meeting with someone scheduled that was a ruse, or otherwise ended fatally. It makes sense, and explains her planned absence in some way. I think her roommate and supervisor are fair suspects, but not because of who they are, just because of circumstances. And that doesn't hold up in court, my friends.
I know her parents want her to still be alive and are holding out hope, but I am not sure I'd hope for my loved one being alive but in sex slavery over being dead and at peace. It is an impossible dichotomy. I think I'd rather just have closure, even if it meant knowing my loved one was gone, but no longer in pain. But wondering, believing they are being trafficked... I just can't imagine. For that reason, I truly hope this case is solved one day. Her parents and loved ones deserve the closure.