Mollie Tibbetts put on shorts and a black sports bra, laced up her running shoes and headed out for a jog last Thursday, just as she did almost every evening, a neighbor told authorities.
Then she disappeared.
The University of Iowa student’s last known communication was a Snapchat message she sent to her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, for whom she was house sitting, the Des Moines Register reported. Jack, who was out of town, looked at it Thursday night but didn’t immediately reply.
His “good morning” text the next day received no answer. And Tibbetts didn’t pick up when someone at the day care center where she worked called to figure out why she didn’t show up. Every call went straight to voicemail.
For nearly a week, dozens of volunteers in the small Iowa town of Brooklyn, population nearly 1,500, have been combing ditches, cornfields and empty buildings for any sign of the 20-year-old.
“Please ask anyone and everyone if they have seen Mollie and show her photo,” a post on the Finding Mollie Tibbetts Facebook page said. “Canvass the state and outside of Iowa if possible. Go to gas stations, rest areas, truck stops, restaurants, and other high traffic areas.”
Despite the effort, searchers have found no trace of the woman or clues about what may have happened to her.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported, the FBI and state investigators had taken over the search.
“It’s frustrating. It’s powerless. We’re racking our brains, thinking what can we think of to tell the investigators,” Kim Calderwood, Tibbetts’ aunt, told the Des Moines Register. “It’s the worst thing — to want to fix something you can’t fix.”
Mollie’s brother, Jake Tibbetts, told the newspaper that the family went “through stages of scared and sad. And now we’re anxious and confused.”
“Mollie has the biggest heart of anyone we ever knew,” he said. “She was never shy. … She had room in her heart for everyone.”
Federal investigators hope digital clues provide some insight. The FBI is studying Tibbetts’ online history and combing through her cellphone apps to determine what might have happened to her. She ran with her Fitbit on her wrist and with her cellphone connected to wireless headphones.
Jack told the Register that he can’t remember details from the last Snapchat he received from Tibbetts. From the photo, he said, it looked like she was inside a house, but he doesn’t remember what the caption said.
Tibbetts was born in San Francisco but moved to Brooklyn in second grade with her mother. She won state speech competitions, was involved in theater and ran cross-country. She was studying psychology, as her mother did.
As they searched, those closest to Tibbetts asked everyone to hold on to hope — and keep sharing information about her.
“We remain in awe and indebted to the help, creativity, outreach and love that you have shown Mollie and all of us,” Sandi Tibbetts Murphy wrote on the wall of the Finding Mollie Tibbetts Facebook page. “Please keep sharing Mollie’s information so we can bring our girl safely home.”