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Christy Ruffin often catches herself listening to her sister’s voicemails.
“I thank God for technology,” she said. “You really never know how important that stuff is until that’s all you have.”
It’s been nearly six months since Ruffin’s sister, 35-year-old Tammy Ann Grady, vanished without a trace. And as each day passes, Ruffin’s fears are met with the unknowns as she tries to come to terms with what happened to her sister.
“It’s taken a very large toll on me personally,” Ruffin said. “It’s torture. I wake up and cry, and I go to bed and cry.”
Ruffin tries to keep her mind occupied and hopes for the best. But she knows her gut is telling her something different.
“I do 100% believe foul play was involved,” she said.
Police continue to investigate Grady’s disappearance as a missing person case. Grady was last seen at the Heart of Wilson motel on Nash Street at 10:21 a.m. Nov. 24, getting into a cab alone and proceeding toward downtown Wilson, according to Wilson Police Sgt. Steve Stroud.
Grady was wearing a burgundy hooded sweat coat with a white design across the chest that extended down the inside sleeve, police said. Grady was also wearing yellow stretch pants and black shoes.
“She was also carrying a black duffle bag with a shoulder strap on her shoulder,” Stroud added.
LIVING WITH THE UNKNOWNS
Seasons have changed. Birthdays and family gatherings have come and gone. Then a pandemic hit, making it even harder for Grady’s family to continue the search.
While Grady lived a transient lifestyle, she and her sister remained close. Grady always checked in with her family, her sister said.
Ruffin last spoke with her sister shortly after 11 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23. She said her sister seemed in good spirits. Before the two hung up the phone, they told each other they would talk the next day.
But that call never came.
“I never heard from her again,” Ruffin said. “It’s different when you talk to someone one day, hang up the phone and then never hear from them again. You go to bed thinking everything is fine.”
Grady’s relatives reported her missing on Thanksgiving Day after she had not contacted them in a week.
Grady’s case information was entered into the National Crime Information Center, a database used by law enforcement agencies around the country, as well as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a national clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases throughout the country.
Grady hasn’t been active on social media since her disappearance. The last time she made a transaction was on Nov. 23 when she used her food benefits card in Wilson. Ruffin said her sister left an abusive relationship more than a year ago. She has also struggled with substance use disorder and was homeless at the time of her disappearace.
Ruffin said the winter months were extremely difficult to get through.
“Every time it rained or it got cold outside, I had to think about my sister,” she said. “Is she frozen solid because somebody dumped her body somewhere?”
As the weather warms, Ruffin also fears the worst.
“I think about ‘Is she out there laying somewhere, like a piece of trash?’” she said. “I just worry about her being thrown out there like she’s nothing. She might not be anything to the world, but she is my whole world. I need my world back.”
Ruffin said the family can’t heal until Grady’s found, whether she’s dead or alive.
“It’s like an incomplete feeling,” she said.
When Grady’s birthday came this year, Ruffin still cooked her sister’s favorite meal and made her favorite cake.
‘I WON’T STOP UNTIL I FIND MY SISTER’
Ruffin said before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, family members posted fliers around areas that her sister frequented including Black Creek Road and U.S. 301, as well as neighborhoods near the Midway Market near Pender Street and the area in between known as the “schoolyard.” They also posted fliers in Sharpsburg where some of her family lives.
Ruffin is pleading for the public’s help regarding her sister’s disappearance.
“There has got to be one person who knows something,” she said. “Whatever happened to her, it didn’t happen by herself.”
Ruffin said there may be some people with information who are fearful to contact police. She said that shouldn’t stop anyone from doing the right thing.
“People can call Crime Stoppers anonymously,” she said. “It could be the smallest information that could be a big lead or a big help for police. You never know. Let police decide. They are trained to do this stuff.”
Ruffin said she is grateful to investigators who continue to work on her sister’s case. She said despite the emotional pain, she will never give up.
“I won’t stop until I find my sister,” she said. “ I can’t let her down. I’ve got to fight for her.”
Police ask anyone with information regarding Tammy Grady’s case to contact the Wilson Police Department at 252-399-2323. To provide information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 252-243-2255.