Details of Disappearance
Tiffany was a junior at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1989; she majored in finance. She resided in the 2600 block of southwest 35th Place in Casablanca East Condominiums. Tiffany told her roommate she was going to take a walk along Williston Road at approximately 6:00 p.m. on February 9, 1989.
Witnesses saw a woman matching Tiffany's description speaking to several unidentified individuals in a vehicle shortly afterwards. The woman may have entered the car, but the witnesses were uncertain. Authorities have never confirmed if the person was Tiffany. She has never been heard from again. She left her wallet, keys and identification inside her residence.
Michael Christopher Knickbocker was considered a possible suspect in Tiffany's case for many years. He was sentenced to five terms of life in prison in 1990 for the 1989 rape of a 20-year-old Gainesville college student. He had a prior record for sex offenses and other crimes
In 2005, he pleaded no contest to first-degree murder in the 1989 shooting death of a twelve-year-old Starke, Florida girl. He was given an additional life sentence for the crime and will be 74 years old by the time he becomes eligible for parole.
A photo of Knickerbocker is posted with this case summary. He allegedly told other inmates that he chained Tiffany to a tree near Gainesville on the night of her disappearance. Knickbocker claimed that he murdered her shortly afterwards and disposed of her remains in the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, Florida.
Investigators searched the area after receiving the information from an informant, but no evidence was found at the scene. Authorities stated that materials connected to Tiffany's disappearance may have been lost in the surf as a result of the time lapse. But it may be worth noting that Knickerbocker lived near the victim he killed and near the scene of his prior rape, but he wasn't living in Gainesville when Tiffany disappeared.
Knickbocker also mentioned that Tiffany's sweatshirt was buried outside of Gainesville. Investigators searched the specified location in August 2002 and recovered a piece of blood-soaked material. Authorities tested the material to determine if Tiffany's DNA was on the item. The results have not been publicly announced. Several media outlets reported that the material did not appear to originate from a sweatshirt.
In February 2014, nearly 25 years after Tiffany's disappearance, a suspect was named in her kidnapping and presumed murder: Paul Rowles. A photo of Rowles is posted with this case summary. He had been sentenced to life in prison for a 1976 murder in Miami-Dade County, Florida, but was released from prison in 1985.
In 1994, he was sentenced on multiple nineteen counts including sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, kidnapping and lewd and lascivious molestation. (His victim in that case, a nineteen-year-old Clearwater, Florida woman, managed to escape.) He died of natural causes in 2013 at the age of 64, still in prison.
Investigators believe Rowles was a serial killer and Tiffany was his second victim. They're searching for her body near the site where his other known murder victim was buried. Shortly after his death, DNA linked him to the unsolved murder of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found in a shallow grave only about a mile from where Tiffany disappeared.
He is known to have delivered scaffolding to a construction project along Tiffany's jogging path. Authorities also found a day planner Rowles kept in prison which, while it did not mention Tiffany's name, did have the number 2 written next to the date of her disappearance.
The Rolex company has "flagged" Tiffany's watch, so they will be notified if anyone tries to sell or pawn it. The watch can be identified by its unique serial number. Tiffany's case remains unsolved. There have not been any arrests in connection to her disappearance.