Missing in Arizona: Police still investigating 1993 disappearance of Phoenix woman
PHOENIX - The Thanksgiving disappearance of a Phoenix woman just passed its 28-year anniversary.
Aussie Antionette Binford's disappearance is a tragedy that one family will always be haunted by. While the investigation into her has become a cold case, it is a case a detective is still trying to solve.
Binford disappeared in 1993
In 1993, Bill Clinton is President of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is appointed to the Supreme Court, and the Phoenix Suns are defeated by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
It was also the year Binford would be last seen in.
Patricia Williams remembers how close she was to her mother, and how she felt looking for her, helplessly.
"She was loved," Williams said. "She was a mom, a sister, a grandmother. Now my son never even got to know her, how wonderful she was. It kills me 'cause I share with him the stories about her and just how wonderful the person she was and he'll never experience her."
In November of 1993, Binford was 36 years old, and living in Phoenix.
"She was my big sister. She was my fan, she was my hero, my idol," said Fernanda Sayles, her sister.
Sayles looked up to Binford, a single mother supporting her only child. "She was so amazing. She was loyal to her family. She was very committed to us. She loved each and everyone of us individually, but as a whole. She was just amazing to be around."
Binford was last seen on Thanksgiving
Like every Thanksgiving, Binford and her loved ones gathered together as a family, but around 6 a.m., she stepped out.
"'Don't y'all eat without me, I'll be right back,' those were her words," her daughter remembered. "'I'll be right back, don't start eating without me.'"
Family members even saved a plate for Binford, but this would be the last time Williams saw her mother again, leaving a relative's home in the area of 21st and Campbell Avenues.
"She got in, like, this little light-colored car with a Caucasian man," said Williams. "She got in the car and she left. Wherever she was going, she thought she was coming right back."
New detective took over case in 2012
Nearly 30 years later, the driver's identity is unknown. At the time, Ring surveillance cameras did not exist, and cell phones were not commonly used. Police did not any leads in Binford's disappearance.
"Aussie is completely off the grid," said Det. Stuart Somershoe with the Phoenix Police Department. "We haven't found anything that indicates she's still alive."
Det. Somershoe took over the case in 2012. By then, Binford's case had turned cold.
"We lack a body. We lack a scene. We lack all the traditional elements of a crime," said Det. Somershoe.
Det. Somershoe says Binford did live a high-risk lifestyle. He suspects foul play, but the challenge is discovering what happened once Binford got into that car, where she went next, and who exactly was last to see her.
Those are questions Williams has wrestled with since Nov. 25, 1993.
"I'm pretty sure she thought about me when whatever happened. I just feel like that because I was so connected to her, I mean, I could feel she was gone," said Williams.
Police officials say Binford wore a pink mini skirt and a black collarless dress shirt with ruffles on the cuff that day. She stood 5'1", weighed 120 pounds, had the name ‘Michael’ tattooed on the back of her right shoulder, and was missing her right index finger.
"If I see a black woman about her height, I look and I slow down so many times to see if it's her," said Sayles.
As investigation continues, a family waits
For now, the long wait for closure continues.
"We've collected DNA from her family. We have a DNA profile for Aussie. It's been uploaded in the CODIS, and so that's regularly compared to unidentified remains that are found," said Det. Somershoe.
Williams is grateful Det. Somershoe has not forgotten her mother.
"He gave us hope that somebody else is fighting with us, and that's what I appreciate about him," said Williams.
"There are cases that I take home with me and I think about at night, keep me awake at night, and Aussie's is one of them," said Det. Somershoe.
"Before I leave this world, I wanna know what happened to her," said Williams.
Anyone with information about the shooting should contact Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS. Spanish speakers can call Testigo Silencioso at 480-TESTIGO.
Si tiene alguna información sobre este caso, llame a la línea de Testigo Silencioso (480-TESTIGO, 480-837-8446).
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