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New search in old missing woman case yields no new clues

February 28, 2020 GMT

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The search of a tract of land has yielded no new clues in the case of a University of Florida student who disappeared while on a walk in 1989, sheriff’s officials said.

Investigators searched a pine stand on a tract of commercial timberland after getting a tip corroborating earlier information that a man and woman were seen along the road at the time Tiffany Sessions disappeared. The descriptions matched Sessions and now-dead convicted rapist Paul Rowles, Alachua Sheriff Sadie Darnell said Thursday during a news conference.

Sessions’ remains have never been found.

“If someone held onto information for a variety of reasons... please bring that forward. You never know how one piece of information can complete the puzzle,” Darnell said.

Sessions was 20 years old when she went out on a walk Feb. 9, 1989. She was wearing a distinctive Rolex watch, which could be key evidence if it’s ever found, The Gainesville Sun reported.

An exhaustive search followed. Her father, Patrick Sessions, was a South Florida developer who enlisted the help of Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and future Gov. Jeb Bush to get publicity for the case.

In 2014, authorities searched another location in Alachua County, near where the remains of Santa Fe College student Elizabeth Foster were found in 1992. DNA later linked Rowles to Foster’s death, the newspaper reported.

Rowles died in state prison in 2013. Authorities dubbed him Sessions’ killer after the 2014 search.

Rowles was convicted of killing Linda Fida of Miami in 1972. He was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 1985 and moved to Gainesville, the Sun reported. In 1994, Rowles was sentenced to 19 years for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a teenager from Clearwater.

Kevin Allen, who is a cold case detective for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, said Rowles was interviewed before he died about Sessions and Foster, but became extremely hostile.

On Thursday, Allen said investigators had walked through the property when it was covered in pine trees. The land was cleared about a month ago and a more extensive search was conducted.

He said no new leads were found.

Sessions’ mother, Hilary Sessions, was at the scene and said she remains hopeful.

“God told me I had to learn patience...,” she told reporters. “I can’t tell you how happy I am that we are still out here 31 years later, and I am not going to give up.”