Apr 17, 2017
I’m headed to Milan and it’s a perfect day for a road trip.
It’s sunny and warm, and everything is starting to turn green. As I
get older, the winters get harder to take. Everything is just so
drab. But if it weren’t for the winter that I have come to
despise, I probably wouldn’t appreciate the spring and
In doing my research on this case, I’m amazed at the amount of
criminal activity that seems to permeate West Tennessee. And it’s
not just here. This is everywhere. I begin to realize that maybe I
was somewhat sheltered growing up. And I start to appreciate even
more, my childhood years. Not everyone had it so good.
My destination is a house in the somewhere between Milan and
Jackson, Tn, the town where I grew up. As I travel the winding back
roads of West Tennessee, I can’t help but think about all the
secrets held in this area for over twenty years. And just by
looking at it, with rolling pastures and well kept homes, you’d
never know that there are some really bad people in this world. And
some of them are our neighbors.
A couple of days after Episode One came out, I received a
message from a woman named Dawn who wanted to meet with me. She
said she knew Cayce and the family, and was very involved in the
search efforts when Cayce went missing.
She also wanted Cathy, a long-time friend of the family, to
join us to help fill in any blanks. Dawn told me to carve out two
days for interviews because there was just so much information. We
didn’t need two days, but we did talk for over six hours.
I’m Brandon Barnett. And this is Searching For Ghosts.
Cayce was at an age when a lot of kids start to rebel. It
happens. For many, it’s a rite of passage. Everything that has been
made public about Cayce from friends and family over the years,
might lead one to believe that she was immune to any teenage
rebellion. As far as I’m concerned, there are three possible
explanations for this:
1) People might be concerned about soiling her reputation,
which might affect people’s opinion of her and their interest in
the case. Don’t think for one moment that the image of the innocent
beauty queen that was Jon Benet Ramsey didn’t fuel the public’s
fascination with that case.
2) Cayce showed a certain side of herself around some, and
then a totally different side to others. That’s what teenagers are
3) She wasn’t going through a rebellious stage. It has
happened. My parents were my best friends throughout my teenage
years. I never really went through that phase. I was either
fishing, playing basketball or holed up in my room with a guitar in
my hands. I was pretty much a straight arrow.
But the summer Cayce disappeared, both Dawn and Cathy noticed
a drastic change.
And while in 2017, the Goth look seems pretty tame, in 1996 in
rural West Tennessee, this was a pretty big deal. If nothing else,
it was a definite departure from the Cayce of just a few months
It’s been about two months since I stopped by the Milan Police
Department to ask for any reports about Cayce that are open to the
public. I was told that the initial report should be available for
me to read. I’ve had friends and family of Cayce ask for those
reports as well. But it appears that we’re being stonewalled.
And the daily paper out of Jackson, Tn, The Jackson Sun, is
going through their archives to find articles about the case. But
this will take some time.
So the Milan Mirror Exchange has been my main source at this
point to try to piece this thing together. It is a weekly paper, so
I have to do a little estimating on the exact timing of certain
While looking through these reports, it appears that by
September 2, 1996, police had a sketch of a possible suspect. After
a little digging around, I discovered that the sketch came from a
witness who alleges that Cayce was seen with this man at The Gibson
County Fairgrounds in Trenton, Tn, a town about fourteen miles away
This sketch is floating around the internet, but like so many
things about this case, it is never mentioned again. So I started
asking around, and the word is that the source was deemed not
credible. Not one person that I talked to said that they believed
she was ever at the fair in Trenton. And given that all the
descriptions of Cayce by law enforcement had her in her bed clothes
with no shoes, I felt that it wouldn’t make sense for her to be
walking around the fair a couple of days later. So I made note of
this, but pretty much dismissed the sketch myself.
But then I found an article just one month later in the
October 1st edition of The Mirror-Exchange about a world-famous
search and rescue dog named Valorie who came to Milan to search for
Cayce. The headline read: “Cayce Left On Her Own Free Will, Smart
Her own free will? Again, why would Cayce leave on her own
free will in boxers, a tee shirt and no shoes. The no shoes story
is one of the few things in this case that keeps being repeated
year after year.
I needed to know more about this smart dog and her
It just so happened that I was sitting at the kitchen table of
one of the people responsible for bringing Valorie to town. Dawn
and her husband had even video taped the search.
Valorie had found ten people in the Oklahoma City bombing the
year before. At the time, she had flown 40 times to find missing
persons, had been involved in 600 cases
So I desperately wanted to read the official report of
Valorie’s findings. That would definitely be something that
would’ve been given to law enforcement at the time, seeing how
there was at least one report in the media about it.
But I wasn’t going to get it from the Milan Police Department.
I finally received word from Milan PD that they were not going to
release any reports whatsoever pertaining to the Cayce McDaniel
So I decided to look up Valorie’s handler at the time, Harry
Oakes. Valorie has passed on, but Oakes is still doing search and
rescue with his organization International K-9 Search and Rescue
Services. In 1996, he was working under the name Mountain
Wilderness Search-Rescue-Recovery-International Response
In 1996, Oakes and Valorie were brought in to Milan by Dawn
and others with private funds. So I hoped that Oakes would be able
to help me seeing as how this mission was not sanctioned by local
According to a 1998 article in The Tennessean, Billy Hale was
with The National Missing Children’s Locate Center. At this time, I
am having trouble finding any footprint on the internet of Billy
and his organization. I only pray that the organization didn’t die
with Mr. Hale. If you have any information on this please contact
me on our website, sfgpodcast.com
When Dawn first reached out to me, she told me a story that I
had never heard before. And to be honest, it blew my hair back. And
this story, in my mind, might piece together the things we’ve
discussed in this episode.
There are rumors that Cayce made a phone call from the church
rec center pay phone the night she went missing. Who would she have
called? Her mother didn’t have a phone at the house. The
grandmother reportedly never received a phone call. Her best friend
was at the church social with Cayce.
Did Cayce call someone to arrange for them to pick her up
after the church party?
Was Cayce going through the teenage rebellion stage that so
many have denied?
Did the police investigate this alleged phone call?
Is there any way to get the phone records today from a pay
phone in 1996?