Details of Disappearance
Paula was last seen at approximately 6:00 a.m. in her hometown of Harrison, Tennessee on September 17, 1996. She was estranged from her husband, Donald Ray "Donnie" Burnette, at the time. The couple have two children together. There is a history of violence within the marriage as well.
The day before she disappeared, Paula had called the police to have Donald removed from the house. She asked her father to stay overnight with her because she was afraid Donald would return and harm her.
Donald called Paula's father on September 17 and asked him to pick up their children, saying Paula needed a vacation. Paula's father reported her as a missing person when she failed to make contact with loved ones by September 21, four days after she was last seen.
Paula has never been heard from again. Her driver's license was discovered in the 9500 block of Harrison Bay Road in Harrison sometime during October 1996, approximately one month after she disappeared.
Donald and an accomplice, James Travis White, took an AmSouth Bank branch manager and her family hostage in November 1996. The men forced the manager to rob her own bank after driving around with her family overnight. Both suspects were arrested one month after in the incident in December 1996. Donald was ultimately sentenced to 39 years in prison for his role in the crime.
Paula's purse and her address book washed into the backyard of a Chattanooga, Tennessee residence in April 1997 after a flood. Her case remains open and unsolved. Foul play is suspected in Paula's disappearance due to the circumstances involved.