Year 8 in the disappearance of Tyarra Williams (2024)


GREENSBORO — Another birthday has passed with Tyarra Williams still missing.

Investigator Mike Matthews sat with thick Greensboro police case files bearing the aspiring teacher’s name on the day she would have turned 28.

Williams’ case has captured a large social media following partly because of the eight-year-old unsolved mystery of what happened to the Dudley High School graduate.

Her story has been featured on Investigation Discovery’s “The Vanishing Hour,” the “Black Girl Gone” crime podcast and a special NBC News report on the missing. And others.

But the media attention hasn’t resulted in much. Then or now.


Williams was 19 years old at the time — she had just enrolled in college — when she stepped outside her Stoneybrook Apartments home off Webster Road about 8:30 p.m. on a frigid January night in 2016. She was to meet a friend in the same complex. The 5-foot-5, 120-pound Williams was dressed in blue Levis, a black jacket, a pink shirt and a royal blue toboggan.

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After meeting the friend, she headed back down the sidewalk for home.

She never made it.

And no one has seen her since.

Over the years, theories have abounded about what happened. Sites searched. People interviewed. The list of missing people added and occasionally subtracted.

Matthews was able to remove one of them recently.

“We had to tell the family that they are living in another state and don’t want to have anything to do with their past life in Greensboro,” described Matthews of what ended up being devastating news to relatives. “Whether it’s right or wrong, morally, there’s no law against that.”

But eight years later, Williams is still on the list.

Matthews is one of two retired detectives who have been rehired to revisit old cases and was the lead investigator on such high-profile crimes as the Old Navy killing of an armored truck guard in 2008.

After he was hired, someone did call with information they had been holding in the six years Williams had been missing at the time.

“Sometimes it just eats at people that maybe I should have called,” Matthews explained.

The information was vetted, but police could not make a connection to Williams’ case.

Still, it could have, and Matthews is hopeful that there may be others who know something that may lead to what happened.

“No detail is too small,” he said.

He appreciates the calls that come in when people think they’ve seen her, as they have in other parts of the country where her story and poster have been shared.

Williams’ mother is working with police but has stopped giving interviews after appearing on the front pages of newspapers and on numerous television news shows. In January, on the anniversary date her daughter went missing, she asked people to “continue praying, continue searching, continue hoping” on the Help Find Tyarra Cacique Williams Facebook Page, which has 24,000 followers.

That fateful night, Williams had left everything behind except her cellphone. The charger was still plugged into the wall at her mother’s apartment, which signaled to Danielle Williams her daughter wouldn’t be gone long.


As word spread that a young woman was missing in Greensboro that January, and posters popped up all over the city featuring Williams with a toothy grin, perfectly coiffed hair and soulful eyes, calls began pouring into police. People thought they had seen her at Walmart. Or the bus stop. Or in another part of the country.

Investigators followed up on every tip. But they went nowhere and eventually dried up.

A number of searches have taken place on nearby Webster Road, which connects with busy Randleman Road on one end and South Elm-Eugene Street on the other with large wooded acres of land. If someone saw her somewhere along that stretch of property, they’re not saying. A fact not lost on Danielle Williams.

On social media, she often speaks to people she thinks may be involved in her daughter’s disappearance. One such post read: I want the persons involved to know you have taken so much from her life and such a wonderful light from us. ... I said “persons” because no one can hold such a horrible secret so long by themselves. Somebody knows something.

Year 8 in the disappearance of Tyarra Williams (2)

Her family has taken hope in the missing people who have been found in the years since Williams’ disappearance, including Jaycee Dugard, who resurfaced 18 years after being kidnapped. Another, then-13-year-old Jayme Closs, was found months after her parents were discovered dead in their Wisconsin residence. She was able to escape a home where police said she was being held captive.

“You don’t want to ever give up hope because of those cases where people are found,” Matthews said. “The reality is it’s been eight years without any contact with family or friends or any reliable sightings we can verify. So we have to look at it both ways.”

Williams’ name was added to the database of the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children. She is among other young adults who were between the ages of 18 and 20 when they disappeared. Her ears and left nostril are pierced. She also has a nickel-sized burn scar on her right wrist.

And she had a life.

Recently, Williams wrote on Facebook:

Twenty-eight years ago I brought this beautiful soul into this world. I would have loved to have watched my daughter blossom into the woman she should be now! It has been 8 years and 9 birthdays taken from us. There are no words to describe all the thoughts that are running through my mind as I sit here at 2 in the morning writing this post. I’m just going to leave it at this. Tyarra we love you and we have not given up!



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Year 8 in the disappearance of Tyarra Williams (2024)
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