Austin, TX

The Disappearance Of Texas Toddler Who Vanished From Her Front Yard. What Happened To Tanisha?

The Vivid Faces of the Vanished
Tanisha Lorraine Watkins Age 2 and Age Progression to 38 yearsPhoto byThe Charley Project

Debra Watkins was only 14 years old and in the 9th grade when she dropped out of high school. According to the Charley Project, Debra quit school to give birth to her daughter Tanisha Watkins. Tanisha was born on August 22, 1981, in Austin, Texas.

In early 1984, Debra, Tanisha, and Debra’s grandmother, Loraine Dory, lived in a mobile home at 2110 Thrasher Lane. Just four days after the New Year, 2-year-old Tanisha Watkins vanished.

It was January 5, 1984. According to police reports, Debra was inside the mobile home, sweeping a rug. She told authorities that when she finished a few minutes later, around 1:30 pm, she went to check on Tanisha. The 2-year-old had been playing on a swing set in the front yard.

Debra was unable to find her daughter, so she went to a neighbor’s house to use the phone. The neighbor convinced Debra that Tanisha wandered off, and the two searched for the little girl. They never located Tanisha.

At 3:37 pm, Debra called the police, the Charley Project reports. Authorities used search dogs, brought in a helicopter with an infrared sensing device, and performed ground and grid searches.

Six days after she vanished, 25 volunteers and half a dozen officers performed a grid search over 15-30 acres of land for Tanisha. There was no evidence of the child.

According to authorities, a witness later reported seeing Tanisha walking eastbound on Riverside Drive. The witness told investigators that Tanisha was with a bearded, slim man wearing a green Army hat. The Austin Police Department said they searched the area and were unable to locate the man or Tanisha. The blog, True Crime Diva, reports this witness statement was unheard of before 2001.

Tanisha has never been found. Tanisha Watkins was 3’0 and weighed 42 pounds when she vanished. Tanisha was last seen wearing a white pullover short-sleeve shirt, red sweatpants, and white tennis shoes with velcro fasteners. Please contact the Austin Police Department at 512-974-0916 with any information.

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