In many ways, the disappearance of Shelley Jones Mook distills to this: The relationship between a mother and a daughter is one of life's strongest and most primal bonds.
Shelley, 24, cherishes this relationship. At holidays she's known to honor it in photo collages gifted in elaborate frames to her mother and grandmother. An English major and a teacher of reading at Harris Middle School, her scrapbook pages are typically accented with quotations by favorite authors, ones which often celebrate motherhood.
Of the friends who show their support and leave notes of encouragement on a Facebook community page dedicated to her, one thing seems sure: Shelley would have never left her daughter.
So what is a mother to do when she receives a phone call from her former son-in-law, saying that her daughter is missing?
Tyler Mook had left a voice mail for Debra Sikora on Wednesday, March 2, two days after Shelley's car was found burned near Murfreesboro off U.S. 41A.
"I was at work at the time, so I didn't check messages until later in the day," she said. "I had just been here the previous weekend, on Saturday and Sunday helping her move into a brand new apartment."
Sikora left on a Monday, with Shelley dropping her off at the airport at 5 a.m. Sikora returned to her home in Edinboro, Pa., and went back to work. That was 107 days ago.
By the time she got the call from police two days later, she didn't hesitate. Sikora left work early and began driving the 642 miles to Murfreesboro.
In ten hours of driving, she only expected the ordinary, the thinkable: perhaps Shelley had car trouble, or had been in an accident. Arriving at 5 a.m. outside Shelley's new home, all she could do was wait in the driveway.
She called Shelley's cell phone. She texted. She emailed her. Even as the sun came up, Sikora says she never expected the worst.
Sikora went to see law enforcement authorities next -- and learned that Shelley's burned Pontiac Grand Prix had been discovered..
What is a mother to do then but become a resident of Shelbyville?
Sikora has stayed, now 15 weeks, as the investigation into Shelley's disappearance has continued. She is on an extended leave from work, grateful for the understanding of a family-owned company to allow her this time away.
What else is she to do, but seek a custody arrangement for her granddaughter, Shelley's beloved 6-year old daughter Lilliana -- whose name is tattooed on her mother's wrist?
It is the investigation, and the legal matters now at hand which leaves a mother to leave much unsaid, unspoken when interviewed by the media. There have been a lot of reporters.
Like other families, Sikora admits she is always searching. What else is a mother to do when on a drive to Murfreesboro birds are spotted circling high in the air? Unthinkable, perhaps irrational, but a mother has no choice but to stop and investigate.
A smile came when asked if she felt welcomed by the Shelbyville - Bedford County community. "Native southern people down here have been wonderful," Sikora said, laughing. "Everybody is so generous and wonderful down here.
"I've met some fantastic people, however things turn out, we'll be hopefully friends for life. I'll remember always their generosity and support. To have come this far and endure all the trials that have come this way, the good days and the bad. They've been helpful."
Shelley's 25th birthday is coming up on June 29. When asked if she has thoughts about Shelley's whereabouts, she pauses. "Yes. Yes, I do," and declines to comment further. "As a mother, I always hold out a ray of hope. Hope is a good thing, sometimes the only thing."