MILAN, Tenn. — Federal agents Wednesday searched the former home of a 14-year-old girl who went missing from Milan more than two decades ago.
Nearly a dozen agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched the former home of Cayce McDaniel for more than three hours using new technology to test for evidence that could help them find out what happened to the 14-year-old.
Police said a lot of the home, including the floorboards and wall panels, are the same as when the little girl disappeared back in 1996.
Cindy McDaniel, Cayce's mother, was also on the scene Wednesday.
“We’re committed to finding Cayce and bringing her home wherever she’s at and then putting the person responsible for that in jail,” Chief Bobby Sellers with the Milan Police Department said. "We've just been kind of brainstorming and came up with the idea of getting, from a forensics standpoint, a team to go through the house in case there may have been something missed when the investigation began."
Milan police reignited their investigation two years ago, around the 20-year anniversary of her disappearance.
That’s also when podcaster Brandon Barnett highlighted the case. People close to the investigation told Barnett what they saw in the house.
“There were scratches going down the hall and I don’t know if they were there before Cayce went missing,” Barnett said.
The new owner took him inside and told him the carpet nor wall panels have been replaced since McDaniel lived there.
“I think about it all the time, you know, I know residents of Milan, it’s constantly on their minds because it’s just tragic, this shouldn’t happen to our kids,” Barnett said.
A suspect is named
Cayce McDaniel was reported missing in Milan in 1996. Her body was never found and no arrests were ever made. Then in July, a suspect was finally named in the 14-year-old's disappearance: Finis Ewin Hill.
It's a name that podcaster Brandon Barnett told WREG's Bridget Chapman kept popping up.
"Cayce had called him Uncle Pete, so he was kind of around," said Barnett.
Cayce's mother reported to police that she disappeared after a chaperone dropped her off after a church party. Barnett said he's heard from many that on the night of her disappearance, Cayce's mother, mother's boyfriend and Hill were at a different party in Humboldt.
"It had too many varying stories about who was there and when they were there, and I knew I was being lied to," said Barnett.
He said he knew the party was significant and from what he was told of Hill, so was his presence.
"Just an aggressive tendency towards women in general," said Barnett.
He said while putting together his podcast "Searching For Ghosts," even Cayce's mother called him one night, seemingly intoxicated, and told him Hill was responsible for Cayce's disappearance.
It's a suspicion Milan Police are now revealing they've also had.
"From day one, he was a suspect," said Milan Police Chief Bobby Sellers. "His name had come up about being in certain places where Cayce was and her family, so he's kind of been on the radar of law enforcement for a long time."
Hill's arrest in Southaven
Hill was released from prison at the beginning of this year after serving 15 years for trying to kidnap Brocknie Bray back in 2003. At the same time, Milan police got permission to start a task force and work with the FBI to see if they could get information from him now that he was out.
A city employee created a fake social media account and added Hill.
"He was communicating with what he thought was a young, single mother coming out of an abusive relationship, but he was actually communicating with one of our police officers," said Chief Sellers.
An affidavit details some of his disturbing messages.
One said he loves to rape, chase his women down and beat them until they no longer move. Another admitted to having sex twice with a 14-year-old. And later, he said he wanted to have sex with this made-up woman's 15-year-old daughter.
Several months later, he was arrested in Southaven after he tried to meet the person he'd been messaging and her 15-year-old daughter for sex.
When the 66-year-old arrived, the FBI was waiting for him.
They reported finding marijuana, alcohol, sex toys and condoms in his car.
As authorities prosecute Hill for these recent charges, they hope to figure out more about Cayce McDaniel's disappearance.