In July 2022, Dateline NBC launched a new podcast series called Dateline: Missing in America. Alexis Ware's case was featured in episode 5 with correspondent Andrea Canning reporting on her disappearance.
It’s available now:
Click here to follow and listen to Dateline: Missing In America wherever you find your podcasts.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated with comment from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s been just over a month since Alexis Ware was last seen in South Carolina. Her family says it’s very unusual for the 29-year-old mother of two to be out of touch with them for this long.
Coming from a big family, Alexis has a lot of people worried about her – including her mother, Alberta Gray-Simpkins, and her stepfather, Frank Simpkins Sr.
“She would never go this long with -- without her kids,” Alberta told Dateline. “She always had her kids with her. She's always calling me all day long like it's -- it's gonna be unusual if we went two days without talking.”
Alexis’s younger half-brother, Travis Ware, told Dateline that he’s worried, too. “She has always been supportive, kind. She's just always been the person that wants to help everyone,” Travis said. “Everything that came with being a big sister, that was her. She always supported me and my career. Always encouraged me.”
Alexis is a hairstylist, who loves fashion and doing make-up. “Alexis has a great personality,” Alberta said. “She had several appointments set up to -- to do photoshoots. She wants to do Instagram modeling. She was going to build her platform with that.”
But before she could make it to those appointments, Alexis disappeared.
Alberta told Dateline that during the last weekend in January, Alexis had been hanging out with the family all weekend long. “It wasn’t the Alexis that we’re used to,” Alberta said. “I knew that something was going on with her -- something was freaking her out.”
During the family weekend, Alberta said her daughter was crying about her upcoming 30th birthday. “She -- she said stuff like she didn't feel like she was gonna make it to see her birthday,” Alberta told Dateline.
Alberta thought this was very out of character because Alexis has always gone all-out for her birthday. “That’s big for her, where, you know, months in advance, she’s, you know, she’s got her birthday outfit together, she would have her shoes together, how she’s gonna style her hair.”
But this year, Alberta said, “she hadn't done anything.”
Alberta told Dateline that late that Saturday night – January 29, 2022 – Alexis talked about being followed. “She sat here and cried. She wasn't telling me exactly what was going on,” Alberta said. “It's like she knew something was going on. She -- she felt like something was gonna happen to her.”
The next day, Alexis Ware vanished.
“She left around noon that Sunday. And then I called her to check on her around 3,” Alberta told Dateline. “I saw that she was laying in her bed because I did a video chat. She answered right away and she was laying on her bed taking a nap.”
A few hours later, Alberta said she got a call from the father of Alexis’s youngest child around 7:30 p.m.
Alberta knew right away that something was wrong. “He asked me, have I spoke with her and he was explaining that they had met at the gas station – she gave him the children.”
But Alberta said, “It was because of the way they parted ways that caused him to have some concern.”
Alberta told Dateline that after getting gas, Alexis planned on following him to his mother’s home, before heading back to Alberta’s house. Instead, after giving him the kids, Alberta said, “She actually shot around him with the high rate of speed and made a quick -- a quick right at the red light and took off from there.”
Alberta said that the father of Alexis’ youngest child told her that he tried calling her but couldn’t get ahold of her. So after a few tries, he called Alberta. Alberta tried calling Alexis herself, but the call went straight to voicemail.
The last known sighting of Alexis Ware is at the 7-Eleven gas station off Highway 29 in Anderson, South Carolina on January 30, 2022.
The family grew more concerned on Monday, January 31, when Alexis still hadn’t gotten in touch.
On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, Alberta’s sister filed a police report that Alexis was missing.
When asked if there was any security footage from the gas station, Alberta told Dateline, “They actually showed us the footage of the meeting in the 7-Eleven parking lot. Nothing seemed out of the norm, at all. Nothing looks suspicious or anything.” Until, of course, she reportedly sped off.
Alexis’s stepfather Frank told Dateline that the father of Alexis’s youngest child proceeded home from the gas station and went to work the following day. “His alibi and everything checked out with the detectives,” Frank said. “We made all types of efforts to find out where she may have gone to, or whatever, and all of our leads have come up empty-handed.”
A few days later, Alexis’s red Honda Accord was found in McCormick, South Carolina, around 30 miles south of Anderson. “All of her belongings were left in the vehicle. Her cellphone, her daughter's cellphone, her purse, her identification,” Frank said. There was also a bag with clothes found in the trunk.
Alexis’s mother and stepfather think it’s odd that Alexis would be in the McCormick area. “She lives in Greenville, South Carolina,” Alberta began to say when Frank finished her sentence, “Which is 30 minutes opposite of Anderson.”
They said Alexis did not have friends or family in McCormick and had no ties to the area that they knew.
The McCormick County Sheriff’s Office posted a statement from the sheriff on February 9, 2022, that a search was conducted in the surrounding area where Alexis’ car was found. They joined with almost 10 other agencies to execute “a grid search of 222 acres of land at or near where the vehicle of Alexis Ware was discovered.”
Despite the help of over 35 law enforcement personnel and their K-9 teams and air support via helicopter, there was no trace of Alexis. “This was truly a unified event with all having the same purpose to find Alexis Ware,” the sheriff’s statement read. “Please know that while this search ended with negative results, our focus and search continue until Alexis is found and reunited with her family.”
Dateline reached out to Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride, whose office is in charge of the investigation. “The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has been working diligently to find information and evidence relating to the disappearance of Alexis Ware,” the sheriff said in an email. “We are exhausting every possible avenue of inquiry on this case and will continue to work diligently until this case is solved. We are committed to finding Alexis and providing answers to her family.”
The sheriff detailed all the avenues that detectives have taken to help find Alexis. Sheriff McBride wrote that their office has obtained numerous search warrants and spent countless hours reviewing and analyzing the results generated by those search warrants.
In a follow-up phone call, Sheriff McBride told Dateline that they were “obviously combing through all that with a fine-tooth comb, as they say, to make sure we don’t miss a specific detail.”
He added that they have reviewed surveillance footage from Alexis’s last known locations and followed tips on possible sightings of Alexis. He also noted that their detectives have interviewed family members and friends, including those who saw or spoke with Alexis prior to her disappearance.
“We have interviewed a number of people,” Sheriff McBride said. “We’ve been able to verify a lot of what we’ve been told by these folks, especially when it comes to some of the last folks that have seen her.”
Detectives have checked coroners’ offices and hospitals for unidentified patients, in addition to checking with TSA for flights that Alexis may have taken. The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has also partnered with the McCormick County Sheriff’s Office, SLED and other agencies to search the surrounding areas and counties.
“The area is vast,” Sheriff McBride told Dateline. “I think right now it's -- it’s like a needle in a haystack. So we're not exactly sure where to search -- where to start, until we have some more information developed.”
Alberta told us that last Wednesday, the family had a meeting with detectives on the case. “We found out that her hair bonnet was laying outside her car, right on the ground,” Alberta said. “That right there is enough to say that there had to be some kind of scuffle to take place.”
“When she was at the gas station, that was on her head. So if it -- if it came off, you know, the first instinct that you would do as a woman is pick it up and put it back on,” Alberta explained. “They didn't see that as suspicious. They didn't see her walking away from her vehicle -- with leaving all her personal items and purse and everything in the car. That is not -- that's -- that's not what a woman would do.”
Alberta told Dateline that authorities told the family Alexis’s car had done quite a bit of traveling before being found in McCormick. “They did give us information that it was seen at an apartment complex in Anderson, South Carolina, where the – the outgoing camera actually caught that,” Alberta said. “They still said they don't know if she was driving the vehicle, but her car was there.”
Alexis’s car also apparently traveled to Augusta, Georgia during that time, according to Alexis’s stepfather. “Augusta, Georgia back to McCormick is 30 miles. So that vehicle traveled at least an hour from Anderson to travel to Georgia and it ended up in a hunting field in McCormick, South Carolina,” Frank Simpkins Sr. told Dateline. “And all that is rural area – when I say rural areas, like, it’s basically recreational hunting.”
Sheriff McBride told Dateline, “Obviously her car has been found, you know, several counties over in McCormick County. You know, there’s -- there’s been some other reports where she has potentially gone out of state and that kind of stuff. But the last footage that we can see with— with, you know, her and, I guess, a normal everyday state, is leaving the gas station on Highway 29 within Anderson County’s jurisdiction.”
In the past month, Alexis’s family has been conducting their own searches. “We've been passing out flyers with searches and we've -- we've exhausted all our avenues of trying to bring her home,” Frank said.
Alexis’s half-brother, Travis Ware, is a radio and television personality and he runs a non-profit organization in Charleston, South Carolina. Since he’s a bit further away, he hasn’t been able to help with any of the in-person searches, but he has been trying to help in his own way. “By me working in the broadcast field, I have used my platform to really spread awareness,” Travis told Dateline. “I'm doing everything I can in my power by making sure that everyone knows that my sister is missing and we're looking to find her safe and unharmed.”
Travis told Dateline that he hopes Alexis’s disappearance doesn’t have anything to do with her activity on social media. “She has a huge following, whether that's on Facebook or Instagram. I hope this is not related to anything social media-wise,” Travis said. “One thing I've known, ‘cause I also have one, too: You have to make sure that you're careful at any given time because you don't know who knows you, or anything. Of course, you would hope that everyone that follows you loves and supports you, but you also may come across those select few that may envy you. So I hope this doesn't have to do -- anything related to social.”
To Alberta and Frank, it makes no sense that Alexis would just pick up and leave. “You're talking about somebody that's on social media every day, all day,” Alberta said. “She had a large clientele, as far as her clients coming in rapidly. You know, she had clients in Charlotte, North Carolina – Atlanta, Georgia. She had clients all over that will come and get their hair done. And everything just ceased.”
They think it’s odd that between her busy work schedule and being a mom, Alexis would just drop off the grid. Alberta also recalled Alexis being worried about the safety of her children. “She actually said to me, ‘Mom, I don’t know what I would do if something happens to me and my kids is in the car with me.’”
Alberta told Dateline that when she found out Alexis had met up with the father of her youngest child to give him the children that night she disappeared, she immediately understood why. “She did what mothers would do. She separated herself from the kids because she felt like she was in danger. So, motherly instinct. She protected her kids.”
It’s been a month since Alexis disappeared and her family feels like not enough is being done to find her.
“They [The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office] said they do not object to the FBI stepping in and giving them some assistance and then you have the FBI saying that ‘we’ll be glad to help with some assistance but they have to invite us in,’” Alberta said. “I feel like if it's, you know, you're doing everything you can do, which I don't doubt that – but if I'm gonna hit a stump in the road and a set of new eyes would -- would help, why not -- why not invite them in?”
The Anderson County Sheriff informed Dateline that they have now requested assistance from the FBI South Carolina Field Office and as of Wednesday, March 2, 2022, the FBI officially began assisting in the investigation. Sheriff McBride said they have plans to meet with an agent who specializes in missing persons situations later this week. “Hopefully, you know, our-- our FBI missing persons specialist will be able to help shed some light on some more ideas that we could do,” Sheriff McBride said. “Maybe we can come up with something together that will maybe give us a better location or pinpoint an area that we need to focus on.”
Alberta thinks there has to be more to her daughter’s story. “I don't think it's just as simple as being missing,” Alberta told Dateline. “I do feel like some people or person is involved in her disappearance because this is something that has never happened.”
Alexis has always been a devoted mother to her 9-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. Alberta told Dateline, “I just feel like it is something going on, some foul play's involved because there's nothing -– there's nothing that would keep her from coming home to her kids. Nothing.”
Sheriff McBride told Dateline that as of right now, “It would be hard for me to say that we’ve, you know, identified any particular person of interest or suspect, at this time.”
The sheriff continued on to say, “We’re just trying -- just trying to figure out where Alexis is and we hope and pray, of course, that she is alive and well and just doesn't want to be found for the moment, or whatever that case may be.”
Travis says the family just wants answers and to know that Alexis is safe. “I know my sister is missing but I haven't accepted the fact that she's actually, in fact, missing and that's the part that's been the hardest for me, because I feel like I'm in a nightmare,” Travis said. “I'm waiting to wake up from this nightmare.”
Alexis was last seen wearing a black bonnet, a black jacket with a purple shirt and blue jeans, and black Crocs. Alberta said Alexis has multiple tattoos. Some of the more recognizable ones include a leaf-like feather on the front side of one hand and a rose on the other hand. Alexis also has dimple piercings. She has long black hair and brown eyes. Alberta said Alexis is about 5’6” and weighs around 215 lbs.
“We need all the help that we can get,” Travis said. “We don't want to go another 30 days or another three days or really another three hours knowing that my sister is still missing.”
Sheriff McBride told Dateline that their detectives are continuing to follow up on all leads received through phone calls, email, social media and tip lines. If anyone has information that can help bring Alexis Ware home safe, please contact the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office at 864-260-4405 and reference Alexis’s case number 2022-01369 or you can submit information through CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC (274-6372).