Originally created 04/22/01

Family searches for teen-ager



DEARING - It's a parent's worst nightmare: the day a child disappears.

One Dearing couple was living this nightmare when their 13-year-old daughter didn't come home from school Friday.

Saturday night, they were still waiting.

The teen, Kayce Collins, went to classes at Thomson Middle School on Friday but did not get onto her bus after school, said her father, Earl Collins.

"She always calls if she's not coming home on the bus," he said. "When she didn't call by 4:30 (p.m.), we started getting worried."

He and his wife, Sally, filed a missing-person's report with the McDuffie County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Logan Marshall said Saturday that his department would start an investigation 24 hours after Kayce was reported missing.

"We don't just go out and start searching," he said. "What we'll do is investigate it."

The sheriff said that often teens who disappear have run away from home, and he said he had talked to the girl's father about problems.

"The daddy had told me that he had had some problems with her," Sheriff Marshall said.

The Collinses said that their daughter does not have a history of running away from home and that the discussions with the sheriff were about peer pressure Kayce was facing at school.

"It's not like she took anything and left. She didn't leave a note," Mrs. Collins said. "We don't know what to think."

Neither do Mrs. Collins' co-workers.

They were setting up for a health fair at Thomson High School when Mr. Collins called to say his wife wouldn't be there because Kayce was missing.

Sandy Lloyd and Kym Snyder immediately began trying to help their friend, who is the VISTA Volunteer coordinator in McDuffie County, but no one knew where to start.

Mrs. Snyder said she was frustrated by the lack of information available to them on what to do.

"I'm a little frightened because they've given (Mrs. Collins) no resources," Mrs. Snyder said.

Mrs. Snyder said she found the Web site for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and sent her friend the application to fill out.

Mrs. Lloyd called one of her friends, who advised the family to get Kayce's picture and information out to the public as soon as possible.

They made posters and got a copy of the missing-person's report from the sheriff's office. The two then drove into Augusta to distribute the posters and Kayce's picture to the news media.

Kayce, who is in the eighth grade, is described by family members and classmates as a sweet girl who makes good grades and is active in her school choir.

"She doesn't look like she would (run away)," said classmate Tia McNair, who was at the Collins' church, Springfield Baptist in Thomson, on Saturday.

Sketchy reports filtered back to the family Saturday afternoon that people thought they had spotted Kayce around Thomson, getting into a car with some unknown males.

"But they don't know it was Kayce," Mrs. Lloyd said.

If Kayce did leave home, her family members said, they just want to receive word that she is safe.

"I just miss her; I want her to come home," said Kayce's 9-year-old brother, E.J.

Kayce is 5 feet 7 inches tall, has brown eyes and straight brown hair. She was wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a blue jacket. She was carrying a small purse with a shoulder strap.

Anyone with information about the teen is asked to call the McDuffie County Sheriff's Office at (706) 595-2145.

Until they hear from their daughter, the Collinses said, they plan to stay close to their Dearing home.

"We don't want to think the worst," Mr. Collins said. `We're not angry with her. We just want her back home."

Staff Writers Lisa Lohr and Preston Sparks contributed to this article.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.