When Lauren Colvin Thompson called her mother, Torie Colvin, on the afternoon of Thursday, January 10, 2019, it was clear that something was wrong. The 32-year-old wanted to speak with her children, but they weren’t home at the time. Lauren sounded as if she were somewhat distressed; she apologized to her mother for some of the decisions she had made in the past and asked her to tell her father that she loved him. As Torie tried to calm her daughter down, she could hear a man’s voice in the background. It sounded as if he and Lauren were arguing; Torie heard him tell Lauren that she didn’t need to be calling her children at that moment.
Lauren then made a chilling comment, telling her mother that if she managed to get out of the situation she was in, she was never going to do drugs again. Unsure what her daughter was talking about, Torie told her that if she thought she was in danger she needed to call the police. Lauren changed the subject, asking her mother to tell her kids that she loved them. She ended the call at 2:00 pm.
Less than 10 minutes after she hung up with her mother, Lauren placed a call to 911. She sounded absolutely petrified as she told the 911 operator that she was being chased through a wooded area; she stated that she was unfamiliar with the area and had no idea where she was. The operator could hear noises in the background, and it was obvious that Lauren was running while she was on the phone.
The 911 operator was able to determine Lauren’s approximate location from her cell phone pings; she was somewhere near Rock Hill, Texas. Deputies from the Panola County Sheriff’s Office were immediately dispatched to that area.
Lauren remained on the phone with the 911 operator for 21 minutes. She told the operator that she had fled from her vehicle and insisted that she was being chased, though she was unable to provide a description of the person or persons who she believed were after her. At one point she seemed to believe that she was being shot at, but the operator didn’t hear anything that sounded like gunshots.
Just before 2:30 pm, Lauren was heard saying something to an unidentified person; the call then ended abruptly. The operator made numerous attempts to call Lauren back, but she didn’t answer her phone. She was never heard from again.
Deputies arrived in the area less than five minutes after the 911 call was terminated. They quickly located Lauren’s vehicle; it was stuck in a ditch on an oil and gas lease road just off of Farm-to-Market Road 1794 outside of Rockhill, Texas. Unfortunately, finding Lauren wouldn’t be nearly as easy.
About 20 minutes after the 911 call was disconnected, Lauren’s phone sent out one final ping and then either died or was turned off. This left police with no way of contacting Lauren; it also meant that they had no way of tracking her location. They immediately launched a search of the thick woods surrounding the area where her car was found, but it was a daunting task. The terrain was exceptionally rugged; some parts of the woods were nearly impenetrable.
Tracking dogs were brought in to aid police in their search, but they were unable to pick up any kind of trail. A heat-seeking drone was launched in the hopes that it would be able to detect Lauren’s heat signature, but it fared no better than the tracking dogs. A few hours into the search, deputies found a shoe that was later confirmed to belong to Lauren.
By comparing the spot where the shoe was found to the location of Lauren’s car, investigators were able to determine the approximate path Lauren had taken through the woods. They followed this estimated route through the woods, but it didn’t lead them to Lauren.
Deputies continued the search for Lauren throughout the night. The following morning, a large-scale search was launched, with search crews from the Texas Department of Safety, the Texas Rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Forest Service, and the Panola County Sheriff’s Office taking part. They conducted an extensive ground search, combing through nearly 2,000 acres of woods during the next week. Helicopter crews from the Texas Department of Public Safety were able to scan a much wider area from above; they would eventually cover nearly 8,000 additional acres. Despite their efforts, they found no sign of Lauren.
Although many people from the community volunteered to help in the search, they were turned away. The entire search area was located on private property; though the property owners were fine with allowing law enforcement on their land, they didn’t want to assume the inherent liability of allowing civilian volunteers to participate.
A prayer vigil was held for Lauren a few days after she went missing, and dozens of her friends and family members attended the event. They were confident that Lauren, who they described as a fighter, would return home safely. One friend, Elizabeth Miles, spoke with a news reporter at the event and stated that something had seemed to be bothering Lauren a couple of days before she went missing. Lauren, she said, “was just worried. I could see it all over her. She just wasn’t okay. Something was just up with her.”
Another friend admitted that Lauren had a history of mental illness; they insinuated that she had made calls to the police before because she believed that someone was following her. Their comments, though well-intentioned, caused many people to question if Lauren had truly been in danger when she called 911 or if she was experiencing some sort of mental breakdown. The fact that police refused to release the 911 recording to the public only deepened the mystery, and it soon became hard to separate fact from rumor.
Although officials were rather tight-lipped about the contents of the 911 call, they did reveal that Lauren had provided the operator with the names of the three people she had been with prior to fleeing into the woods. These three individuals were all interrogated and at least one of them took a polygraph about Lauren’s disappearance; none of them were considered suspects and their names were never released to the public.
Lauren had been with a man and two women in the hours leading up to her disappearance; the man told investigators that they had been in the Rockhill area because they planned on going fishing on the Sabine River. They were in two separate vehicles; the man was riding with Lauren in her truck while the two women followed in their car. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but they had some kind of confrontation and the woman driving behind Lauren hit her truck, sending her off the road and into a ditch.
The man told investigators that he had told Lauren to stay with her truck while he walked home to get his vehicle and some chains so he could pull Lauren’s truck out of the ditch. It was at this point that Lauren fled from her truck and ran into the woods.
Because Lauren had given the 911 operator the names of all three individuals, deputies were able to contact them while Lauren was still on the phone with the operator. According to officials, when deputies made contact with the man who had been in Lauren’s car, he was indeed walking to his house to get his vehicle. It’s unclear what the women were doing at this time; some reports stated that they were at the scene when deputies arrived, but this has not been verified. It’s also unclear if Lauren’s truck was hit deliberately or accidentally.
As the search entered its second week, the ground search for Lauren was scaled back. Detectives started going through Lauren’s cell phone records and social media accounts, hoping to find something that might point to her location. Lauren’s friends and relatives were interviewed, and the people who had been with her on the day she vanished were each interrogated on multiple occasions.
Detectives received numerous tips during the first few weeks of their investigation and carefully followed up on each one. Unfortunately, most of them were based on rumors, and no solid leads were developed. Although investigators stated that they hadn’t found any physical evidence pointing to foul play, they considered Lauren to be missing under suspicious circumstances and weren’t ruling out any possibilities.
A month after Lauren went missing, her family announced that they were offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to her whereabouts. Although this generated a few tips, none of them led police any closer to Lauren. It seemed as if she had vanished into thin air; there had been no reported sightings of her since the day she disappeared, and her cell phone, bank account, and social media account hadn’t been touched.
Two months into the search, Lauren’s family admitted that they were growing increasingly desperate. They were adamant that Lauren would never have voluntarily abandoned her three children; her father told a reporter that she was either being held somewhere against her will or she was no longer alive.
Officials conducted another physical search for Lauren in March; a team of 30 officers and 12 dogs spent two days combing through more than 600 acres of woodland that hadn’t been searched during the initial investigation, but they found no evidence of Lauren.
In April, search teams attempted to search an area adjacent to the Sabine River near where Lauren’s phone had last pinged, but the weather was uncooperative. East Texas was being drenched by heavy rain, and much of the search area was completely underwater. Investigators were forced to wait until the water receded before they could continue the search effort.
Six months after Lauren disappeared, Sheriff Kevin Lake turned to the local news to address allegations that the Panola County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t handling the investigation properly. There had been many rumors going around about Lauren’s disappearance; one of the most prevalent was that a relative of a Panola County detective had been with Lauren the day that she went missing. Lauren hadn’t mentioned this person to the 911 operator and the three people who had been with her denied that this person had been present, but some people refused to believe this and insisted that a cover-up had taken place. Sheriff Lake denied this allegation and noted that the FBI and the Texas Rangers had also been involved in the investigation and could attest to its integrity.
By the time the investigation reached the one-year mark, it appeared that the case was starting to stall. Detectives admitted that they still had no idea what had happened to Lauren; they had followed up on dozens of potential leads but all of them were de*ad ends. Sheriff Lake noted that there were no official suspects in the case because there was no hard evidence that foul play had taken place, but he admitted that he found it hard to understand how Lauren could have simply vanished. He stated that he considered the last three people who were seen with Lauren to be persons of interest, but had no evidence linking them to any crime.
In June 2020, Lauren’s family announced that they were increasing their offered reward to $10,000 in the hopes that someone would finally come forward with the information needed to solve the case. They also hired a private investigator to look into Lauren’s disappearance. Officials allowed the private investigator to listen to the 911 call; he agreed with their decision to not release the recording to the public, noting that there was information in the call that would be extremely valuable if the case were to go to trial.
After reviewing the facts of the case and doing some investigating on his own, the private investigator believed that Lauren had most likely been kidnapped. He came to this conclusion after reviewing Lauren’s phone records, online activity, statements she made during the 911 call, and interviews with locals. Lauren’s family hopes that the information the private investigator has uncovered can assist authorities in their investigation so that they can finally bring Lauren home.
Lauren Colvin Thompson was 32 years old when she went missing in 2019. She has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance she was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark leggings. Lauren has permanent eyeliner tattooed around her eyes and has a tattoo of a butterfly on her back. If you have any information about Lauren, please contact the Panola County Sheriff’s Office at 903–693–0333 or private investigator Joey Ortega at 805–824–8314. There is a reward for information that leads to Lauren’s recovery.