GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) - In the nearly 10 years since a Georgetown teenager vanished after going on a routine jog around the neighborhood, clues to her whereabouts are few and any hope that the mystery of her disappearance will be solved grows dimmer.
Rachel Cooke was home from college on Christmas break when she set out on what was supposed to be a three- or four-mile run on the morning of Jan. 10, 2002.
Her parents, Janet and Robert Cooke, were at work. At 11 a.m., a neighbor reported seeing Rachel cooling off from her run. She was about 200 yards from her home in the Northlake subdivision.
And that was the last time she was ever seen.
"The odds are that she (was) fairly close," Robert Cooke said said in a recent interview. "But we searched and we searched and tried for months. And after a while we couldn't go out any further. The circle kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger."
Reward offers bring no answers
The Cookes would soon offer a $10,000 reward for information that might bring Rachel home. It would grow to $15,000, and then to $50,000. Searches by foot, horseback and helicopter turned up nothing .
One of the nation's leading missing-persons organizations, Equusearch , was brought in to assist state and local law-enforcement agencies.
Now, Equusearch founder Tim Miller is laying the blame at the feet of then-Williamson County Sheriff John Maspero, who he said botched the most notorious missing person's case out of Williamson county.
"I think Maspero from the very beginning dropped the ball," Miller said, suggesting that the sheriff was too quick to dismiss Rachel as a runaway or a college girl who was looking to party.
"I think some mistakes were made early on with law enforcement without taking a missing person's report as early as they did" Miller said. "The sheriff made a huge, huge mistake.
"When the real search started, it was almost a cold case. Unfortunately it was almost a cold case."
Maspero, who is no longer in office and has left Williamson County, said in a telephone interview that Miller's assertions are unfounded.
"I brought in the finest people I could think of -- the Rangers, FBI, APD," Maspero said. "We went beyond the scope of what was called for, and I'm disappointed Rachel's case is still unsolved."
The closest anyone has come to solving the case was when a man convicted of murdering another Williamson County woman confessed to killing Rachel. He later recanted, saying he made up the story to curry favor with authorities.
Through the years, investigators have questioned hundreds of people including Robert Cooke.
KXAN News recently learned that Robert Cooke was interrogated by investigators for five to six hours and failed a polygraph test.
He said an investigator asked the question: "Do you know where Rachel is?"
Cooke answered no, and failed the polygraph.
He blamed his religious beliefs, saying he believed Rachel was in heaven.
Cooke said he was frustrated with law enforcement from the beginning, claiming some investigators thought Rachel wasn't really missing but perhaps just a college student partying on her Christmas break.
As the years pass, solving the case appears more difficult than ever. There's a new sheriff on the job and investigators continue to follow up on tips. But there are no suspects, no hard leads, and the case remains as cold as the winter day Rachel disappeared.
"Do I think they'll ever solve it? I don't know. Older ones have been solved," said Miller, whose organization was called in on such high-profile searches like missing Alabama student Natalie Holloway and, most recently, Florida toddler Caylee Anthony.
"Do I think her body will ever be found? It's going to be a tough one, it's going to be a tough one."
Tough, too, for Rachel's father, who also wonders if his daughter's disappearance will ever be solved.
"They found some place they were doing some digging but they don't think they found anything," Robert Cooke said, adding that "Holidays are especially difficult. Christmas is probably the worst. ...
"No parent wants to outlive their child."
The case remains open. Anyone with information should call 512-943-1300.
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