While most missing persons are reported to police after a loved one realizes they are missing, Lauren Colvin Thompson’s case is different: Police were searching for her before she had even disappeared.
“On January 10, at 2:24 in the afternoon, our 911 operator received a call from a female reporting she was in a wooded area and she thought someone was chasing her,” Panola County, Texas Sheriff Kevin Lake told Dateline. “We could hear background noise and it was clear she was running.”
Sheriff Lake told Dateline the female caller identified herself as Lauren Colvin Thompson and sounded “disoriented and confused” as she told the operator she had fled her vehicle. Through 911 phone pings, officers quickly obtained a general area of where Lauren had called from, and located her vehicle within a few minutes. It was stuck in the mud on the side of a road in the Rock Hill community outside Panola County.
“The 911 call actually lasted for 21 or 22 minutes,” Sheriff Lake said. Dateline has not listened to the 911 call, as authorities say it’s still part of sealed evidence in her case. While the 911 operator still had Lauren on the phone, officers were also able to get in touch with people Lauren said she was with earlier in the day.
“One person she was with told us they had been in the area, reportedly fishing,” Sheriff Lake said. The friend had been in the car with Lauren when he said she ran off the road. “He said he then told her he was going to walk to his house to get a vehicle to get them out of the mud, but then she took off running into the woods.”
Sheriff Lake said although authorities are not ruling anybody out, they “have no information that leads them to believe” the people Lauren was with had anything to do with her disappearance. He added that authorities believe the 911 call Lauren placed only ended because Lauren’s cell phone battery died.
The search for the 32-year-old single mother of three started that afternoon. Off-road vehicles and canine teams scoured the area, Sheriff Lake said, and officers remained on the scene through the first night.
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The next morning, three hours away in Fort Worth, Texas, Lauren’s mother Torie Colvin awoke to missed calls from the sheriff’s office.
“Me and my husband called them back and they asked if we had heard from Lauren,” Torie told Dateline. “I said no. They said they’d gotten a 911 call the day before, and she was missing.”
Meanwhile, organized search teams were working to find Lauren.
“We did locate a shoe that we weren’t sure was hers, but later we were able to determine it was hers,” Sheriff Lake said. He added that since it is such a heavily-wooded area, no footprints were found around the shoe. “Since then, we have searched approximately 2,000 acres of heavily-wooded terrain and open fields with ground searches [and] have covered approximately 9,000 acres with drones and helicopters.”
Despite the search efforts, investigators say they are no closer to finding Lauren.
“We have nothing to indicate foul play is involved,” Sheriff Lake told Dateline. “But again, just like anyone being a suspect, we haven’t ruled anything out.”
According to Sheriff Lake, there has been no sign of activity from Lauren since the 911 call abruptly ended: Her bank accounts and phone records have remained untouched. Her mother Torie is clinging to hope that her daughter is still alive.
“She is so loved by so many people. There were three prayer rituals in three different cities for her from friends and relatives,” Torie told Dateline. “There are people all over the world praying for her return. This has to speak on her character. She’s such a beautiful person inside and out.”
Torie added that Lauren’s 33rd birthday is coming up on April 17.
“I’ve already been looking at the calendar and dreading it,” Torie said. “We would always talk on her birthday.”
Lauren’s three children, aged 3, 5, and 9, are currently living with Torie in Fort Worth. Lauren’s family is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to her safe return. Police urge anyone with information to come forward.
“We would love to have that information. We obviously want to bring closure to Lauren’s family,” Sheriff Lake said. “It’s hard to continue working with no clues and no leads to bring closure to the family.”
Lauren Colvin Thompson is described as being approximately 5’5” tall and weighing 135 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing dark-colored pants/leggings and a dark-colored hoodie. If you have any information regarding Lauren’s disappearance, please contact the Panola County Sheriff’s Office at 903-693-0333.
Bianca Hillier covers missing person and homicide cases for NBC News.