Details of Disappearance
Cayce returned to her family's home on U.S. 45 in Milan, Tennessee at approximately 12:30 a.m. on August 16, 1996 after a back-to-school party at Double Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the church she and her family attended. A chaperone dropped her off there and watched her go into the house.
Her mother, Cindy McDaniel, arrived at the residence between approximately 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. Cindy noticed the television set in Cayce's bedroom was turned on and the clothes she'd worn to the party were lying out. There was a bowl of cookies and some milk sitting on the floor, and the back door was ajar, but it would often come often accidentally.
There were no indications of a struggle. It appeared as if Cayce had changed into her nightclothes, then left the house for some reason. She has never been heard from again.
Her mother didn't report her disappearance immediately, because Cayce would often spend the night at a friend's house. They didn't have a phone at home, so the next morning Cayce used the phone at a family friend's house to call Cayce's friend. When Cindy found out she wasn't there, she had the family friend drive her around to look for her. She contacted police after ten hours after Cayce was last seen.
A sketch of a possible suspect in Cayce's disappearance is posted with this case summary. He was in his early twenties, with a dark complexion, dark hair, dark eyes and a scar below his right eye. He was approximately 6'0 and 170 pounds and wore an earring in his right ear. He has never been identified.
There were two unconfirmed sightings of Cayce in her hometown after her disappearance. Witnesses said the girl was accompanied by an unidentified man in his twenties. Authorities do not know if the girl was actually Cayce or just another young female who looked like her.
A suspect was named in Cayce's disappearance in July 2018: Finis Ewin "Pete" Hill. A photo of Hill is posted with this case summary. Cayce knew him and called him "Uncle Pete", and he had been a suspect from early on in the investigation, but his identity was not publicly released until 2018.
Hill has an extensive criminal record, including aggravated rape and aggravated burglary charges. He was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault after he attempted to abduct a woman in 2003. Only a few months after his release from prison in 2018, he was later charged with crossing state lines to have sex with a fifteen-year-old girl.
He thought he was corresponding with the girl's mother online; in fact, he was speaking to police. In the online messages, Hill stated he loved to rape and beat women, and that he'd had sex with a fourteen-year-old girl before. He traveled to a Southaven, Mississippi hotel to have sex with the woman and her daughter, and FBI agents were waiting for him there. They found marijuana, alcohol, condoms and sex toys in his car.
Cindy said she and her boyfriend were at a party on the night of Cayce's disappearance, and that Hill left just as they were arriving. She said Hill had made repeated sexual advances towards her, and she had turned him down every time and threatened to tell her boyfriend he was bothering her, and Hill was angry about this.
Hill's wife had given him an alibi for that night, but her story turned out to be untrue. Cindy theorizes that Hill thought she was home alone and went to her residence to get revenge for the rejection, only to find Cayce there instead. She said Cayce would have trusted him enough to let him inside the house.
In October 2019, 23 years after Cayce's disappearance, Hill was charged with her rape and murder. He is awaiting trial in that case; authorities haven't said much about the evidence against him.
Cayce was a freshman in high school in 1996. Her loved ones describe her as a good student and well-behaved teenager; they do not believe she would have run away and not contacted her family for this long. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.