An episode of the Dr. Phil show on Friday has spurred new leads in the missing persons case of Ebby Steppach of Little Rock.
Investigator Tommy Hudson came out of retirement to handle cases like Steppach’s who disappeared in October 2015. An entire wall of his office at the Little Rock Police Department’s 12th Street Station is dedicated to the case. After Friday's Doctor Phil show, more details are getting added to that board.
“I have detectives and investigators that I've contacted this morning that are actually following up for me on some tips as we speak in other states,” Hudson said. His desk phone blinks constantly alerting him to new voice messages as he sits beneath a poster of Steppach and what she might look like today. “There are a few tips that we will need to follow up on.”
Those tips came in after Steppach's mother, Laurie Jurnigan and step-father Michael Jurnigan, sat down with Dr. Phil and spent an hour explaining her mysterious disappearance more than two years ago.
During the broadcast, Hudson’s phone number repeatedly flashed on the screen. The show’s reach quickly became apparent.
“I've had calls from all over the United States,” Hudson said. “I've had calls from Florida to Anchorage, Alaska. From New Jersey to Sacramento, California.”
National attention often brings drawbacks with people with opinions and amateur detectives bogging down investigators with their calls. Hudson said the exposure in this case is nothing he can’t handle after 30 years as a homicide detective and cold case specialist.
“Based on the tips that I've received since last Friday, nothing that I have right now is not manageable at all,” Hudson said. “We prioritize those tips and start on the ones that are most actionable and have the most promise.”
Hudson joined the case more than a year after Steppach's disappearance. Her family had criticized the initial investigation. That topic came up again on Friday's show, but Hudson said whatever happened before, it hasn't affected the case today and both police and family are focused on finding the missing young woman.
“My job is to get beyond if mistakes were made on the front end,” he said. “My job is to come in and make sure we do everything we can to try to find out what happened to Ebby Steppach.”
In addition to the calls to police, the official #findebbyjane Facebook page saw membership jump after the Dr. Phil Show.