Apr 3, 2017
began working on Searching For Ghosts in the fall of last
year. I started by scouring the internet, trying to find anything I
could on this case. As far as official reports, the information on
the web was pretty much that initial story of how Cindy , , Cayce’s
mother, found the house that night. There were a few stories done
by WMCTV Channel 5 out of Memphis covering vigils that were held on
the anniversary of Cayce’s disappearance, but that was pretty much
it. Some of the sites that I found looked like they hadn’t been
updated since 1996. Remember how the internet used to look? With
the awful graphics and cheesy font? Yeah, this was my main source
in the beginning in which to make a podcast.
Then I decided to reach out to The Milan-Mirror Exchange,
Milan’s local newspaper. Back in 2005, I was a reporter for one of
the papers owned by the same guy who owns the Mirror Exchange . So
I had an in.
The editor of the paper, Victor Parkins, was very helpful. He
gave me two names of people to contact that he felt sure would talk
to me. He even let me use audio from a video interview done a few
years back of Cayce’s best friend, Amber, who has been the main
person to keep Cayce’s memory alive over the years. It’s her voice
that you hear in the Searching For Ghosts teaser. She was one of
the two names that he gave me.
I knew that I had a hard row to hoe ahead of me. I’m not from
Milan. Strike One. I’m not an investigative journalist. Strike Two.
I’m a musician. Strike Three.
So I tried reaching out to Amber through social media.
And I waited. I think she even deleted my friend request. So
I contacted a friend of mine who had gone to high school with her.
I asked him to reach out to Amber and grease the skids for me. And
that’s what he did. He vouched for me and explained that the past
two years of my life had been documented in Left Of Nashville, so
if she wanted to know what I was about, there was basically an
audio diary of mine online. I got Nothing.
This among other things caused me to shelve the project. I
felt that if I couldn’t get Cayce’s best friend to talk, a friend
who was with her the night she disappeared, then I had no shot of
getting anyone in the family to talk. And with hardly any
information about the case available to the public, I knew I didn’t
have a podcast without friends and family.
But this case kept gnawing at me. I couldn’t let it go
entirely. Especially after stumbling on a podcast by Payne Lindsey
called ‘Up And Vanished.’ Lindsey is a filmmaker in Atlanta and his
podcast is about the eleven year-old missing persons case of Tara
Grinstead in Ocilla, Ga.
Like me, Lindsey wasn’t an investigative reporter. He wasn’t
even a podcaster. And Ocilla, Ga is about half the size of Milan,
Tn, so he was having even more trouble getting people to talk. But
he went ahead with the podcast anyway. And just a few weeks ago,
the GBI made two arrests in the cold case, no doubt, in large part
due to Up and Vanished. I had no excuse at this point.
So i decided to go ahead and launch this thing. I put together
the introductory episode and wrote a press release. I sent it out.
And within two hours, the daily paper in Jackson Tn,
The Jackson Sun, had it up on their website and the following day,
it was on the front page of the paper, above the fold.
And THAT’S when Amber contacted me. She apologized for not
responding earlier and explained to me why she had reservations.
She then followed up with an offer to help in any way
So this is Cayce Lynn McDaniel’s best friend and her first
hand recollections of August 16th and 17th of 1996.
I’m Brandon Barnett. And this is Searching For Ghosts.
According to Amber, she remembers that it was initially
handled as a runaway case, which is understandable, especially
since it involved a teenager. But Amber never believed that Cayce
was a runaway.
The story of how Cayce’s mother found the house that night is
attached to every news report that can be found about this case. It
is THE STORY.
And the thing that jumps out to almost everyone who hears it
and the question that I have been asked the most since airing the
teaser last fall is “Who waits ten hours to call someone?
I thought that there might be an explanation after Amber
described the dynamics of their friendship. We’ll discuss this in
more detail at the end of this episode.
So if Cayce did tell her mother she was spending the night at
Amber’s, wouldn’t this more in line with a runaway situation than
an abduction? Amber still doesn’t buy it.
I asked Amber if she could remember Cindy’s demeanor as they
were riding around looking for Cayce.
Which leads us back to the story. You know, THE STORY.
While Cayce spending the night at Amber’s might explain
Cindy’s calm demeanor the following day and possibly why she waited
ten hours to call anyone, it still doesn’t mesh with the story of
how the scene looked at the house.
There is even one news report where a relative states that
Cayce’s favorite brand new pair of shoes were found in her room.
There is no evidence that she left that house dressed to go