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20 years since the disappearance of Rachel Cooke, family remains hopeful

"We've learned to live with it," said Elaine Hettenhausen, Rachel Cooke's Aunt. "At the same time, in the back of our minds, we're always wondering where is she."

GEORGETOWN, Texas — Jan. 10, 2002, is the day Rachel Cooke went missing. Twenty years later, her family, friends, detectives and community came together to remember her.

"Rachel was unforgettable," said Elaine Hettenhausen, Cooke's aunt. "If you met her, you would never forget her. She was full of life, loved to be around people. She loved to laugh, loved fashion."

Cooke disappeared after going for a jog near her home in Georgetown. She was 19 years old at the time. According to the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, she was last seen walking toward her home about 200 yards away.

"We've learned to live with it," Hettenhausen said. "At the same time, in the back of our minds, we're always wondering, 'Where is she?'"

After so many years, Hettenhausen still holds onto hope.

Williamson County Sherriff Mike Gleason said they've investigated over 2,000 tips and, to this day, they continue to receive calls about possible suspects.

"We really get phone calls every day from people saying, 'You know, she dated this one guy in high school and he was kind of a creeper,'" Gleason said. "Whether it's true or not, you still have to find him. You still have to discount that person and do the interview and things of that nature. You know everyone wants to help."

Gleason has been involved with the case since day one.

On Monday, Jan. 10, Gleason said he expects the department to be flooded with calls. He said because it's the 20th anniversary of her disappearance, people will remember and be eager to help, which isn't a bad thing. 

"There's something about this case that the community is just so enthralled with that they want closure," Gleason added. 

Hettenhausen has seen that support throughout the years. 

"People in the community who heard Rachel disappeared, they didn't know her, they didn't know us, but they came and helped search day after day," Hettenhausen said.

That support is what's kept her hopeful of finding answers.

One of the last promising leads in the case occurred in 2018, when investigators found a white Pontiac Trans Am that had possibly been seen in the area around the time of Cooke's disappearance. 

On Monday, Williamson County Sheriff's Commander John Foster revealed that car ultimately contained no useful evidence. Foster also acknowledged that investigators are at a disadvantage in this case, without the modern-day tools they have for solving crimes today such as security camera footage and the ability to track people using cell phone technology.

"We know that there are people out there that knows exactly what happened, and there are people who he or she may have even spoken to. And we need those people to come forward and say what they know," said Foster. "I think it will be solved. Quite honestly, I don't care if we solve it, I don't care who solves it. As long as this case gets solved and the community, the family and the department can move on, that is what our hope is."

Ultimately, Foster said that if the case is solved, it probably will be done through a tip. He added that, 20 years later, detectives still have no concrete theories about what happened to Cooke and can't even rule out that she's still alive.

Investigators say the goal in this investigation is two-fold. First, they want to possibly find Rachel Cooke or her remains and give her family a degree of closure. The second is to bring the person or persons responsible for disappearance to justice. 


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