MILAN, Tenn. — Cozied up in West Tennessee, it’s hard to think anyone in Milan could just vanish, but a 14-year-old’s disappearance from more than 20 years ago is still a mystery.
“I know Milan well enough to know that that just doesn’t happen,” said Brandon Barnett. “People don’t just randomly walk into somebody’s house and do that.”
Milan police say back in 1996, a chaperone dropped teenager Cayce McDaniel off at home around midnight after a church party.
Police say hours later, her mom came to the house and found a door open and cookies and milk on the floor, with the clothes Cayce wore to the party laying out.
Cayce was gone.
“She loved her grandparents, her cousins, loved spending time with them – what seemed off is her not telling anybody about anything,” said Cayce’s cousin Lindsey McDaniel.
Cayce’s mom reported her missing later that day after her friends’ said they hadn’t seen her.
“Our parents came home and they sat us down, they told us what happened and they said that’s really all they know,” said Lindsey.
Suddenly, Lindsey’s bubbly, exuberant cousin she used to tag along with was now gone.
“It was just sad all the time,” she said.
“[Cayce] was just very outgoing and always had a smile on her face,” said Cayce’s cousin Lucas Smith. “She would always put everyone else first and be kind of like the light in the room.”
As the years went by, the leads dried up and vigils stopped.
That is, until Brandon Barnett came along.
A musician turned podcaster from Jackson, Tennessee, Barnett took interest in the case.
“There was so much on it, but it was all rumor and there was nothing documented hardly,” said Barnett.
He started reaching out to Cayce’s family members.
“I was confused,” said Lindsey. “I knew it’d been 20 years at that point and I was leery but hopeful.”
Barnett addressed rumors, old evidence and more in his 17 episodes of ‘Searching for Ghosts.’
The newfound attention led to one of the biggest vigils yet for Cayce.
Milan Police Chief Bobby Sellers assigned two new detectives to the case.
“This whole thing is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle; if we had all the pieces we could see it and know all the answers, but there are a lot of pieces missing,” said Chief Sellers.
The Chief says they’ve used new technology to search areas Cayce might’ve once been spotted and are reviewing former suspects.
But more than anything, authorities need people with information to come forward because the many rumors swirling around town are just rumors at the end of the day.
“People not willing to talk feeds those rumors,” said Barnett. “The truth will cut through all that and if people know something and they`re not talking, it makes it into this wild conspiracy thing and people`s` minds run wild and it hampers it.”
Barnett hopes his podcast will help lead to the justice Cayce deserves.
“She never really got a chance at life,” said Lindsey.
Cayce’s family says they find it unlikely she`s still alive, but the podcast fueled their fire to find out what happened to the social, funny and outgoing teenager.
“Speak up for Cayce is a slogan we kind of use to be her voice,” said Lindsey.
The Milan Police Department says there is a reward in the case but couldn’t say how much.
You can find Brandon Barnett’s podcast on the case, Searching for Ghosts, here.