A week after a Vinton woman was reported missing, her body turned up in a rural part of East Texas. Authorities confirmed the victim to be 41-year-old Tami Higginbotham. A suspect is reportedly in custody. Her family speaks to KPLC's Lee Peck.
"She was connected to her cell phone. It was ridiculous because she was always on it," said Staci Robinson, Tami's younger sister.
Ironically, Tami was going to sell a cell phone to a recent acquaintance, Josh Latham, 26, of Orange, Texas.
According to her family, Tami made the trip from Vinton to Orange on a Friday, Feb. 8.
"She sent me a text throughout the whole time they were meeting up and about 1:02 p.m. she said, 'Hey sis, he wants me to go help him pick out a wedding ring for his girlfriend.' And that was the last time I heard from her," Robinson said.
Tami's family became worried when Tami's boyfriend said she never made it home. Robinson filed a missing person's report with Orange Police and even confronted Josh Latham.
"He denied ever meeting up with her that day. And his girlfriend said he was at work and come to find out he never had a job," Robinson said.
Witnesses told the family Tami was seen with Latham on that Friday. With his story not checking out, Latham left town.
"I instantly knew it wouldn't be good. I just had a feeling," said Linda Mauldin, Tami's mother.
As authorities opened their investigation into Tami's disappearance, Mauldin said the next week was agony.
"We just wanted to find her and bring her home. We already knew who had done it. We just knew it," Mauldin said.
Authorities would catch up with Latham in Tennessee and arrest him on an outstanding warrant. They said he provided information that led them to Tami's body at a hunting camp in Newton County, Texas. Tattoos would help identify the body.
Robinson said she wasn't prepared for the news.
"I thought I was ... I thought I was," Robinson said.
Tami was the oldest of three daughters and a Desert Storm veteran. She also is the second daughter the family will have to lay to rest.
"We lost our youngest daughter 12 years ago. I had talked to Tami many times telling her to be careful because I could not bury another child. I don't know what I would do. So, I think my daughter Tami has given me the strength to do this so I can be here for the rest of the family. Because we have to be strong," Mauldin said.
At last check, no formal charges have been filed against Josh Latham.
Meanwhile, Tami leaves behind two sons. The family is still waiting on her body to be released by the coroner to begin making funeral arrangements.
Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.
730 North Summit Street