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Missing for 18 years: In search of Rachel Cooke

The young college student vanished while jogging near her home.

GEORGETOWN, Texas — On the morning of Jan. 10, 2002, 19-year-old Rachel Cooke took her morning jog along Neches Trail near her home northwest of Georgetown.

Jogging came naturally to Cooke, an accomplished cross-country runner who was home for the holidays from her college classes in California.

But she never returned from her run.

Almost immediately, family members and volunteers began looking for her, searching the area near where she was last seen. Despite a massive search effort, no clues were found that would lead investigators to her whereabouts.

On the second anniversary of her disappearance, neighbors placed yellow ribbons on their homes and passed out flyers. Students and teachers joined Cooke’s family at Georgetown High School, where she had been a student, to plant a tree in her honor.

RELATED: New sketches of persons of interest released on 18th anniversary of Rachel Cooke's disappearance

Five years passed, then 10, then 15 – no sign of Cooke.

But last year, 17 years after she vanished, there was a sign of hope. A tarp-covered car on the back of a flatbed truck arrived in Georgetown and was delivered to Williamson County detectives. The car, it is believed, could hold DNA clues about Cooke’s disappearance.

According to investigators, a white Trans Am that was recovered in Dallas may have been connected to several persons of interest, all part of a larger investigation that is still underway.

RELATED: 'I just want closure': On 18th anniversary of disappearance, Rachel Cooke's family holds remembrance ceremony

“We still get tips on the Cooke case,” Williamson County Sherriff’s Office Detective Jason Cox said. “I’m the case agent on the case and I have six dedicated reserves that do nothing but Rachel Cooke every single day.”

On Friday – 18 years after her disappearance – there was another remembrance at Georgetown High School as family and friends gathered to reminisce about the young woman who had disappeared in 2002.

“I think about her every day, at least 100 times a day,” her mother, Janet Cooke, said. “She’s a part of me and I’m not going to give up. There’s no way I’m going to give up.”


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