MINERAL WELLS —
Mineral Wells police are cautiously hopeful they are getting closer to finding Shonda Townsend.
Townsend, 19, of Gibtown,has been missing since the early morning hours of July 5.
The Toyota Camry Townsend was driving was sent Monday to the DPS forensics lab for DNA testing, according to Mineral Wells police.
On Tuesday Mineral Wells Police Chief Mike McAllester confirmed Townsend received a text message shortly after 2 a.m. July 5 when her phone was turned off or went dead. With the assistance of the Texas Rangers, deleted text messages were recovered this week from a phone belonging to a person described as a “possible witness,” according to McAllester. As of Tuesday afternoon he had not been able to read them or know if they hold any value in helping lead law enforcement officials to her.
The individual belonging to that phone has been interviewed, according to police.
Townsend, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, was last reported seen at a house on U.S. Highway 180 West around 11:40 p.m. July 4. She sent her mother a text saying she was on her way home just after midnight.
Her locked car was found hours later in the 800 block of S.E. 3rd Avenue with the stereo missing and the contents of the car displaced inside.
Police took possession of the vehicle July 6 after the family filed a missing persons report around 10 p.m. on July 5.
“We've run down a million rabbit trails,” McAllester said. “We're still plugging.”
He encouraged anybody with information, no matter how small, to call law enforcement.
A Palo Pinto County Crime Stoppers reward is being offered for information leading to the whereabouts of Townsend. Anyone with information is asked to call (940) 325-0000. Provided anonymously, information leading authorities to Townsend will be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Information concerning Townsend's disappearance can also be provided by calling the Jack County Sheriff's Department at (940) 567-2161 or the Mineral Wells Police Department at (940) 328-7770.
Townsend was last seen wearing pink shorts and a black tanktop over a black and white polka-dot bikini and wearing Navy blue or black Old Navy flip-flops. She was carrying an orange and yellow clutch purse.
Meanwhile, around 100 relatives, friends and strangers gathered Tuesday evening at West City Park, not far from where 19-year-old Shonda Townsend was last seen, to pray for her return.
“It's gonna be hard to do because we're on our eighth day,” Townsend's aunt, Lena Rittenbury told the crowd as they prepared to circle up and pray. “Prayer is what we've got to stand on.”
Next to her people assembled blue and gold ribbons, in the colors of Perrin High School, to hand out for people to wear until Townsend is found.
The woman who raised Townsend from a toddler, Carolyn Rittenbury, said her faith in God is providing her strength through this ordeal.
“I still believe that God's got her in his hands and I feel like that God's going to bring her home … safe,” Townsend's mother Carolyn Rittenbury said.
Townsend's 2-year-old son is doing OK, Rittenbury said, but misses his mother and doesn't fully understand what is happening.
“He always wakes up and says, 'Where's mommy?'” Rittenbury said.
After several friend and relatives prayed, the group sang “Amazing Grace” and “In the Name of Jesus.”
“It's kind of a shock,” said Rebecca Singleton, a friend who graduated from Perrin High School with Townsend. “I didn't think it would ever happen to somebody close to me. I guess all you can do is hope for the best.”
“We're just concerned mothers,” Sheila Dexter said about why she and her friend, Kelly Venable, showed up to pray for the Townsend and her family. “I can't imagine what the family's going through.
Dexter said she recently learned Townsend was last seen near where she lives at Cedarview Apartments.
“It's the the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed,” Dexter said.
She said she is following the search for Townsend through Facebook.
One Facebook group, Help Find Missing Woman: Shonda Leann Townsend, has garnered over 2,000 members since its creation to help spread the word.
The family is in the process of setting up a bank account to help fund a reward for the recovering of Townsend and expect to release details today.