La Grange, NC

Authorities Accused Missing North Carolina Girl Of Running Away. Now They Realize She Was Abducted

The Vivid Faces of the Vanished
Timeka Donyale PridgenPhoto byThe Charley Project

Timeka Donyale Pridgen was a typical teenager who enjoyed drawing. Timeka lived with her mother, Cosandra Best, in an apartment on South Street in La Grange, North Carolina. Cosandra was dating a man named Eric Earl Mercer Moore, Sr.

On May 12, 2001, Cosandra made plans to break up with Eric. She spoke with him on the phone around 10:15 pm. Eric told Cosandra that he would be home soon. 16-year-old Timeka was at home with her mother during the time.

That evening, Cosandra fell asleep before Eric arrived home. When she awoke around midnight, she discovered her daughter Timeka was missing. Eric was not in the house, either. Timeka's shoes, money, and purse were left in the house. Timeka was nowhere to be found.

"I started looking around to see if anything was missing, and I saw that the shoes that she was wearing was still there (and) her purse. That's when the panic set in," Cosandra told WRAL.

She called authorities and reported her daughter missing. Initially, the police classified Timeka as a runaway.

“She, um left her shoes, her purse and it had money in her purse. This evening it rained and was cool and I knew she would not have walked out without her shoes on,” Cosandra told WITN.

Authorities found out Timeka was on the phone with a friend that evening. The friend said someone knocked on Timeka's door and the call ended reports WRAL. Investigators later said they believe Timeka was forced out of her house after she let someone inside. She left the house barefoot and Timeka left her personal belongings behind.

Authorities insisted Timeka ran away. Primarily because the week before her disappearance, a classmate was reported missing, but it turned out to be a hoax.

“There just wasn’t enough attention on it when it first happened. Ya know, people say those first 48 hours are so crucial. That is true,” Cosandra told WITN.

After Timeka disappeared, Cosandra was shocked to discover Eric had a lengthy criminal record. He was previously convicted of theft, kidnapping, and assault.

"I had no idea. All I knew about his past was what he had told me," Cosandra told WRAL. "It was actually the chief of police who asked me how much did I know about his background. I was blown away."

In 2006, Eric was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. He served nine years in the Eastern Correctional Institute and was released in 2015. He denied any involvement in the disappearance of Timeka.

"I go day to day with my faith and my hope that everything is going to turn out OK," Cosandra told WRAL. "I really feel that he knows what happened to her. But I cannot accept that she's no longer with us without solid proof of that."

Timeka has never been found.

“I miss her every single day. Think about her every single day," Cosandra told WITN. "People don’t just disappear into thin air. But this is what this feels like. Like no trace? No trace at all? I think about her every day and I guess I have no other choice because I wake up to her picture staring at me every morning. I really miss her. A lot.”

The police department that originally handled her disappearance no longer exists. The case is now being handled by the Lenoir County Sherriff's Department.

“We actually went out and met with a group and we went over the area, walked all through the wooded area, down there with dogs, cadaver dogs. Dogs still didn’t hit nothing. We did a couple of fields there just past the house, nothing,” Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram told WITN.

Timeka Donyale Pridgen is 5'7"-5'10" and weighed 165 pounds when she vanished. If you have any information, please contact the La Grange Police Department at 252-527-5117.

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