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Friday, July 1, 2016

Families of missing persons endure emotions and uncertainties

Sunday, June 12, 2011

First of four parts

Antonio Taylor hugs grandmother Lillie Buchanan on his birthday in 1999, above. The Polaroid is one of the last photos the family has of him.
(Submitted photo)
It was a Monday morning, and Antonio Taylor, 21, had a job interview just after lunchtime. He ironed his shirt and laid his clothes on the bed. His mother, Rochelle Adams, was going to pick him up later and take him to the appointment.

He had big plans, and today was the first step in making it all happen. He was going to get his GED, go back to school and train to be a professional barber.

What was most important to him were his boys. They needed him, and he wanted them to be proud of him someday.

He got a phone call from his friend Barry Rippy and waved to his uncle as he left the house. His pager, cell phone and wallet were still on the dresser.

It was September 20, 1999.

It would be the last time anyone in the family saw him.

Unfulfilled hopes

"Everything was left here, like he'd be right back," said Adams.

In the next days, they waited for a phone call, hoped the back door of his grandmother's house would open and Antonio would walk in with that big smile, larger than life and full of mischief.

When she laid down at night, and for months afterward, Lillie Buchanan would worry.

"Is he cold? Is he hungry?"

And then she would pray.

The police searched for him in those early days, and called Antonio's friends in for interviews.

A group of his friends met at the old Harris football fields to organize a search. Friends and family got together and held a fish fry to raise money to fund a reward.

"We [are] a family that doesn't have any money. We had a benefit to raise reward money," said Adams. The result: $2,000 raised and $1,000 added by the Crime Stoppers tip line.

"We kept hearing all these off-the-wall stories," said Adams. "This is a small town, somebody saw something. Somebody knows something. Tony was well known. I mean, we're known people. We're not big people or nothing like that, but everybody knows somebody in one of the families."

Friends step in

Left behind were two boys, just toddlers. Damion was 2 and Anthony was 1. That Christmas his friends got together and filled the living room of Buchanan's home with presents for the boys. It took hours to open them all.

Lillie Buchanan prays for revelations in Antonio Taylor's disappearance. "I just put it in prayer. I just ask the Lord to reveal the truth. My love, all my love is still there for Antonio."
(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
"That was just showing us how much Antonio was liked," said grandmother Lillie Buchanan. "It meant a lot to us."

"Tony, he was an outgoing person. He was free-hearted and he would try to do anything for anybody," said Adams.

"He always carried that smile with him," remembers Buchanan, who Taylor was living with at the time of his disappearance. "He was known in the community, and people liked him.

They speak of him in the past tense now. It took a few months to come to the knowledge in their hearts, they each say, and a year before the reality of his disappearance settled in.

"The reason we don't feel like he's alive -- knowing Antonio the way we did, he would have gotten in touch some kind of way," said Buchanan.

Adams agrees, "That's another reason why we knew something was wrong. He was trying to raise his boys. He would not have just gone off and left them like that."

Not forgotten

Each year on May 12 -- Antonio's birthday -- the family places a paid ad in the Times-Gazette, in remembrance of him, always asking that someone come forward with information about his disappearance. Most of all, they don't want the community to forget.

His close friends remember.

"They treat me like Tony is still here," said Adams. They shout out, "Hey! There's Bag's Momma!" and they explain to those younger who Antonio is.


Adams' friends remember as well. Her only child was born when she was still a child herself, just short of her 14th birthday. Antonio became a part of her classmates' high school experience. Those kids she had gone to school with from kindergarten to senior year saw Antonio in the audience, old enough to be proud of his mother's graduation.

Sons without a father

His own boys, Damion and Anthony have grown into young men now, ages 14 and 13, respectively. They play sports, are popular, active and handsome.

When the family gets together they hear, "Lord! That's something your daddy would do." or "You're acting just like your daddy!" and it quietly pleases them.

When he was 10 years old, Anthony Taylor began carrying a wallet. There wasn't any money in it to speak of, but that wasn't the point. He just wanted to keep a picture of his father with him.

While browsing Facebook one evening, Damion came across a profile page with his father's name and photo. A family member had created the page dedicated to finding Antonio, but it caught Damion unaware and left him unsettled for days.

"I think they know he's not coming back," said Buchanan. "They want him around and they know he's not coming back. Their mother has to talk to them a lot sometimes.

"They know they both look like him. The things they are doing, the grades they are making, he would be so proud."

On May 12, the family released balloons for Antonio's birthday. He would be 33 this year.

Faithful wait

Lacking answers, they hold tightly to their faith and their memories. "I just put it in prayer. I just ask the Lord to reveal the truth," said Buchanan.

Tears mist in her eyes when asked if she's ever been angry at God, "I haven't been mad. Maybe it's not for me to understand all the time. Maybe there are things that God needs to do. When He gets ready, we've always had faith that it's going to be revealed."

"When he does, we'd like to have justice, closure. I hope we get to see it here on earth. I've always prayed we get to see it here."

The family hopes one day for Antonio to be found. For a prayer to be said over him. For a grave his sons can go to sit and talk to him if they wish.

"I have faith it's going to come out. Eventually, it's going to come to the light," said Adams.


Families of three missing persons from Shelbyville endure emotions and uncertainties.

Tuesday: Bobby Smelcer's family.

Wednesday: Shelley Mook's family.

Thursday: Impact on the community.