It was around 11:00 pm on Monday, January 19, 2009, when Althedia Vaught decided to retire for the night. The 41-year-old told her son, Emmanuel, who was watching television in the living room, that she was tired and headed into her bedroom. She turned on a small space heater to warm up the room, then flipped on her television and got ready for bed.
About 30 minutes later, Emmanuel heard Althedia’s cell phone ring. He could hear her talking to someone but was unable to make out what she was saying. She had a short conversation with the unidentified person on the other end of the line, then she walked out of her front door, wearing only her pajamas and a pair of slippers.
Emmanuel glanced up from the basketball game he was watching when he heard his mother leave the house; she appeared to be in a rush but didn’t say anything to him as she walked out of the door. He didn’t hear the sound of her car starting or leaving, so he assumed that she had simply gone outside so she could have some privacy while she was on the phone. She never reentered the house, however, and when he checked on her a little while later, both Althedia and her car were gone. She was never seen again.
Althedia’s daughter, Teanna, woke up around 2:00 am because she needed to use the bathroom. When she walked down the hall, she noticed that her mother’s television was on; she assumed that Althedia had simply fallen asleep with it on so didn’t check the room to see if her mother was there.
At the time of her disappearance, Althedia and two of her three adult children shared a home on South New Haven Avenue, a quiet, tree-lined street of single-family homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Althedia was a certified nursing assistant at the Tulsa Nursing Center; she had worked there for more than a decade and was considered a reliable and competent employee who had never missed a shift without calling her supervisor first. She was scheduled to be to work at 7:00 am Tuesday but failed to show up; although coworkers thought it was odd that she hadn’t contacted anyone to say she wouldn’t be in, they weren’t overly concerned.
Althedia’s boyfriend, Chris Smith, was the first to realize that Althedia seemed to be missing. He had tried repeatedly to contact her throughout the morning but had been unable to reach her. Around 1:00 pm on Tuesday, he called Teanna to see if she knew where her mother might be. Teanna assumed that she was at work, so she called the Tulsa Nursing Center and asked to speak with her. She was told that Althedia hadn’t shown up for her shift that day and all calls to her cell phone were going straight to voicemail.
After hanging up with the hospital, Teanna tried to call her mother’s cell phone but she too could only reach her voicemail. She then called Chris back and told him what she had learned; he told her that she needed to call the police. Not wanting to overreact, Teanna waited a couple of hours, hoping that her mother would come home with a good explanation for why she was out of touch. When darkness fell with no word from Althedia, Teanna knew something had to be wrong. She called the Tulsa Police Department and reported her mother missing.
Detective Marcus Harper was assigned Althedia’s case. He interviewed Althedia’s relatives and determined that none of them had spoken with the missing woman since the previous day. Although there was nothing found in her home to suggest that she had met with foul play, Althedia’s children were certain that something terrible had happened to their mother. It was uncharacteristic of her to go anywhere without telling someone; she was in constant contact with her family and would always tell one of her children where she was going to be, even if she was only making a quick trip to the market. She would never stay out all night and leave her kids at home to worry.
Teanna was heavily pregnant at the time and due to give birth any day. Althedia had been extremely excited about the upcoming birth and couldn’t wait to meet her first grandson. She was constantly checking on Teanna to see how she was feeling and loved being able to feel the baby kick Teanna’s stomach. Teanna knew there was no way her mother would have voluntarily gone away so close to her due date. It was her first pregnancy and Althedia planned to be there with her every step of the way.
When Althedia left her house, she took nothing with her but her car and her cell phone. All of her other belongings were left behind, including the jewelry that she wore each day. It was found sitting on top of her dresser, where she would place it every evening before she went to bed. Her space heater and television had both been left on, as if she expected to be gone for only a short amount of time. All of her clothing was accounted for, except for a pair of her pajamas, her house slippers, and a headscarf.
Investigators went door-to-door and spoke with all of Althedia’s neighbors but none of them recalled hearing anything unusual on the night she disappeared. They described the missing woman as outgoing and friendly, a very sweet person who devoted her entire life to her children and her elderly patients at the nursing center. It seemed like she was an unlikely candidate to voluntarily vanish.
Detectives entered Althedia’s information into a national missing person database so that law enforcement across the country would know that she was missing. They also released a bulletin about her missing car, hoping that someone might see the dark green 1995 Infiniti and call police.
Four days after her mother went missing, Teanna gave birth to her first child, a son she named Stefan. What should have been a joyous occasion was marred by the absence of Althedia, who remained missing without a trace.
It would be another day before the first major break in the case; on January 24th, Althedia’s car was located in the parking garage of the Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, about 10 minutes away from Althedia’s home. There was no sign of Althedia, and there was no evidence of foul play found in or around the vehicle.
Detective Harper knew that the parking garage was covered by surveillance cameras; he combed through the footage hoping to determine when the car had been parked there. He started looking at the footage from the night Althedia vanished. Around 11:55 pm, a white pickup truck pulled into the parking garage and parked somewhere out of view of the camera. 35 minutes later, Althedia’s car pulled into the same garage. The white truck left the lot shortly after that; Althedia’s car never moved.
Detectives immediately appealed to the public for help in identifying the white pickup truck. Although they said they had not connected it to Althedia’s disappearance, they noted that, except for Althedia’s car, no other vehicles entered or exited the parking garage during the time the white pickup truck was there. It was very possible that she had parked her car and then left in the truck.
After closely analyzing the surveillance footage, investigators determined that the truck was a white 2003 Chevrolet extended cab pickup with some sort of insignia consisting of three triangles on both of its doors. This truck has never been identified.
Teanna believes that her mother left the house to meet with someone she knew that night; the fact that she was in her pajamas seems to indicate that this was someone she was comfortable around. Detectives believe Althedia could have been involved in a secret love affair of some sort with the person in the truck, but have been unable to find any substantial evidence to back up this theory.
Although police believe that Althedia is most likely d*ead, her family believes she was abducted and continues to hope that she will be found alive.
Althedia Vaught was 41 years old when she went missing in January 2009. The single mother was devoted to her children and loved the fact that two of her adult children still lived at home with her. She was happiest when she was taking care of others, but also enjoyed the occasional night out with friends, listening to music, and dancing. Althedia has black hair and brown eyes, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds. She was last seen wearing pajamas, house slippers, and a headscarf; due to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance police believe that Althedia met with foul play. If you have any information about Althedia, please contact the Tulsa Police Department at 918–596–1221.