MIAMI (CBSMiami) – “This case is highly probable that Paul Rowles is the suspect in the disappearance and likely murder of Tiffany Sessions,” said Alachua Sheriff Sadie Darnell during a news conference Thursday morning.
This Sunday, February 9th, marks the 25th anniversary of Sessions’ disappearance. She was a University of Florida student from Miami who vanished while out for a walk in Gainesville.
It was revealed Wednesday by lead detective Kevin Allen that serial killer Paul Rowles was named as the primary suspect in the case and now investigators and family are asking the public for help in finding out more information about Rowles.
“All we need is one person in the public who remembers seeing Paul Rowles or following or knowing what he did,” said Tiffany’s mom Hillary Sessions. “They may have befriended him or met him someplace. We need your help to try and close this case. We just need that little piece of information that somebody has.”
Sessions, 20, was reported missing on February 9, 1989 after she didn’t return home from a routine power walk on Williston Road in Gainesville. At the time, Rowles worked as a pizza delivery man and delivered scaffolding for a construction company which was working on a student housing project next to the path where Tiffany walked every day.
Watch the WEB VIDEO EXTRA of the entire news conference below:
“When Tiffany disappeared, the area was all woods, except for the one student housing project that was underway. Rowles clearly was there,” said Patrick Sessions, Tiffany’s father. “Tiffany walked that route almost every day although normally she did it with her roommate and I believe that had she been with her roommate that day, she would still be here but unfortunately her roommate had an exam that day.”
Rowles was a serial killer who died in prison in 2013. According to investigators, Rowles murderous past began in 1972 when he killed Linda Fida in Miami. Rowles confessed to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison in 1976.
In 1985, he was paroled and moved to Pinellas County.
“That was the deal they made, life with out parole. Is that clear enough? I don’t know how it gets any clearer,” said Patrick Sessions. “Nine years later he goes through some bull**** sex offender program and he’s out.”
After three years in Pinellas County, Rowles moved to Gainesville.
In 1992, three years after Sessions was reported missing, another woman, Elizabeth Foster, was reported missing in Gainesville. Her body was later found in a wooded area off Williston Road about a mile from where Sessions went missing. That same year Rowles moved to Jacksonville.
“What we do know about him is that he lived here for 5 years from the time Tiffany disappeared to right after Beth was found so he was here and what did he do for a living? He delivered pizza and he also delivered scaffolding for construction jobs,” said Patrick Sessions.
Sessions added, “We know that he drove a red Bronco. I distinctly remember a woman that came in and said that she had seen Tiffany next to a red vehicle. In the last year, another witness came forward and said she saw a blond woman apparently dressed like Tiffany again in the vicinity of a red truck.”
Watch Michele Gillen’s interview with Patrick Sessions below.
In January, 1994 Rowles kidnapped and sexually assaulted a teenage girl from Clearwater. On the way back to Jacksonville, investigators said he stopped in a wooded section of Gainesville and told the teen “this is the kind of place people dump things they don’t want to be found again.”
Rowles was arrested and confessed to the kidnapping and sexual assault. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
In February, 2012 investigators matched DNA at the Foster crime scene to Rowles.
“This guy is the scum of the earth. He destroyed three, four families that we know of and their daughters with no remorse and when we tried to talk to him after he became a serious suspect, both in Beth and Tiffany’s case, he wouldn’t talk to anybody, no remorse,” said Patrick Sessions.
In January, 2013 Rowles was interviewed about Sessions’ disappearance. The following month, Rowles died in prison of natural causes.
Evidence which may link Rowles to Sessions was found after his death.
Investigators said Rowles kept an address book with information on his victims. In the book, Fida was listed as Rowles’ first victim. Investigators say there is a possible reference to Foster in the book. But the most shocking find was a simple notation “#2 2/9/89 #2”. Investigators noted that it is the date Sessions went missing and the #2 possibly stood for his second victim.
“He wrote down the other three victims’ names,” said Patrick Sessions. “What you have to remember is when that was written, he was not a suspect in Tiffany’s case so if he had written her name in there next to the other ones and they had confiscated that book in prison, it would effectively been a confession. I’m not shocked that he didn’t write her name but I would challenge anyone to tell me in 13 years after Tiffany disappeared, he wrote down the date Tiffany disappeared and the date with the #2 written on both sides. It may not be a smoking gun but its close.”
“I think he truly hated women. He had fantasies about abuduction and abuse of women,” said Detective Kevin Allen. “I’m sure he planned his crime out well in advance, he probably practiced it several times. If and when he took Tiffany, he took her to her grave.”
Police have returned to the site where Foster’s body was found and are excavating it in hopes of finding any of Tiffany’s remains.
In the meantime, investigators and family are turning to the public.
“Call in, there’s no risk! He’s dead, thank goodness he’s dead at this point. He’s harmed so many people along the way,” said Sheriff Darnell. “Don’t be afraid to come forward with that piece of information.”
Police are also looking for information about Tiffany’s watch. “Tiffany’s watch is still missing. It has never been recovered,” said Sheriff Darnell. “We want this last piece of conclusive connection so that that family can at least have some peace, after all of this time, and that we can completely say with definity that it was Paul Rowles.”
Tiffany’s mother made an emotional plea as well to anyone who may have information about Paul Rowles to come forward.
“You’re not going to be prosecuted; you’re not going to have to go to trial because Paul Rowles is dead so please come forward. For me, it’s very important to find out because for me, she’s my only baby, she’s my masterpiece and I just want everybody to know that it’s been a 25 year struggle and it would be nice to be able to put her to rest after all of these years.”
Sessions’ father made the same plea.
“I am begging the people that watch this program to take a moment, particularly if you lived in Gainesville, but this guy lived all over Florida, he was in Jacksonville, Clearwater and Miami, anyone that knew him or knew of him please call. This is our chance to close this case and bring some peace to this family and to Tiffany.”
“I’m asking the public to go back in time, 25 years, if you had any involvement with him, if you know anyone who had any involvement with him, come forward and call (352) 955-1818,” said Sheriff Darnell. “That line will be staffed 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. If you even think you even know of someone who had a connection or if you indeed had a connection, bring it forward.”
Again, the number to call is (352) 955-1818.