In Stuttgart, Arkansas— a town of about 9,000— Miranda Owens held a big presence.
She often went by her middle name, Michelle, and her friends and family say she was hard to miss.
Her neighbor Joe Alexander, Jr. shared, "She spoke to everybody and laughed. You know, she was a familiar face around the city of Stuttgart.”
And her sister Katherine Johnson Walker said her voice was just as recognizable, adding, "When you see Michelle, she on that phone. Everybody know Michelle. Michelle talking talking, talking talking."
: The disappearance
That's all until six years ago when Michelle disappeared.
Her sister remembers that fateful day well, "It was a Sunday. And that was like, the last time we see Michelle or heard from Michelle."
On April 19, 2015, after an afternoon call with her sister, Michelle stopped answering her phone.
"You know, she said she was good. I said, 'Okay, I'll talk to you later.' And she said, 'Okay.' And that’s like, the last time I talked to Michelle," Katherine said.
At 40-years-old, Michelle had a mental disability. Her family described her having the mental state of a child, so missing even one phone call was out of her character.
But her sister says when no one could reach her later that night, panic set in.
"Everybody’s calling Michelle's phone. Michelle’s phone’s going straight to voicemail and everything. So we all went to the police station that night and we told them, 'we can’t find Michelle, Michelle’s not answering her phone.'"
: Discrepancies of police investigation
That frustration came when Katherine says the police told them they would have to wait 48 hours before taking any action. An irritation shared by Michelle’s neighbor Joe.
"Michelle has some slight disability, you know what I'm saying? And so, we felt like they should [have] probably immediately, you know, jumped on the situation and not made the family have to wait a couple of days before they could do the official police report," he said.
The delay is something the department press officer Eric Mahfouz said is protocol with any case.
“...they still want to follow the 48-hour procedure and make sure that you check with everybody that's been in their circle, and all that kind of stuff," Mahfouz said.
And while up to the discretion of the officer, any delay technically goes against Arkansas code 12-12-205 (2015) that states, “No law enforcement agency shall delay an investigation or entry of missing persons information based on an agency rule or policy which specifies an automatic waiting period.”
Even still, according to the Stuttgart Daily Leader, SPD said they were still not treating Michelle’s case as a missing persons report but rather a welfare concern. This was five days after the family says they first went to the police station to report her missing.
Three days later— eight days after the family's reported attempt at filing a missing report— a silver alert was issued.
However, Stuttgart police maintain that the alert went out as soon as the case file was opened, a date the department hasn't independently disclosed, along with the timeline of the investigation.
Mahfouz said the reason the discrepancies can't be confirmed is that he was told it would impair the ongoing investigation.
"The reported timelines of her disappearance and who provides them give police a better idea of when she went missing and who is telling the truth," he said in a response to questions surrounding the contradictories of when she was last seen.
“As far as anybody can tell, all of the proper police procedures were followed. Maybe not to the timeline that everybody would want. But, you know, this is reality," Mahfouz said.
"It's not that TV, you know, crime drama or anything. It takes a long time to follow up on even a simple lead, if it leads to a dead end," Mahfouz said.
: Media attention on Cassie Compton
But frustration from family and friends continued even after searches began.
While both tragic, the family said they saw disparities between how Michelle’s case of a missing Black mentally handicapped woman was handled and that of Cassie Compton, a white teenage girl.
"What the family was told is that with her being a child, that there were more resources available for teenagers, then it would be for an adult in a missing case, you know," Joe said.
But as Stuttgart Police's press officer shares, the department felt cases were treated equally.
"These cases were split between the Stuttgart Police Department, the Arkansas County Sheriff's Office and the State Police. So they were given different attention at different times, certainly. But I think all resources possible and available to the police were utilized," Mahfouz added.
But as tips for Cassie’s case continued to come in from across the country, Michelle’s slowed. This also prompted media coverage to focus more heavily on Cassie’s case.
And all of these factors took a toll on Michelle's family and friends. This all caused the family to lose trust in the handling of Michelle’s case.
"It's been kind of hard trying to communicate with the police department. I don't know. It’s just been kind of hard," Joe said.
And police admit they’ve hit a dead end.
: Where the investigation is today
You know, we're going on six years now that this is an ongoing investigation. And the police don't know anything new because nothing's come forward," Mahfouz shared.
But how does someone like Michelle, someone seemingly so connected, just vanish?
Since Michelle’s disappearance is still classified as an open case, police will not release any evidence, including Michelle’s very active phone records.
"But I definitely think those phone records are key," Joe said.
Those phone records prove near impossible for the family to gain access to outside of the police.
Michelle had a Straight Talk wireless plan, and company policy states, "...if the phone number for which you are seeking call detail records is inactive, these may be released, if available, only with a valid subpoena or court order."
And according to Straight Talk, operators said they would no longer have phone records from six years ago.
These disconnections prompted family and friends to start their own search just last year, forming a group called Stuttgart Search and Rescue.
"We all got together and started you know, searching ourselves started looking for answers ourselves," Joe said.
And as the group grew, Katherine's frustrations with law enforcement continued.
"We got more answers from the team than from the police department," Katherine said.
Those answers come from discussions in the community, but nothing is known for sure. Even still, they search on.
"We were able to raise $8,000 as a reward, you know, for information leading to the arrest of anybody involved. As a community, we decided we need to do something. And we did that," Joe said.
And the search for closure continues, more than six years later.
"...what if she’s somewhere just waiting on us? You know what I’m saying? And we just stopped? We just, we can’t do that. It's been six years, that's been long enough," Joe said.
THV11 is still actively working to gain access to evidence files and phone records and other data surrounding Michelle's disappearance from Stuttgart Police.
After initially stating that investigators found nothing fruitful since 2016, the department shared weeks later that a tip eight months ago was followed up on, but SPD said the lead didn't pan out.
As Michelle's family and friends continue to search for answers, sharing stories of Michelle helps keep her happy memory alive.
"Oh lord. She was the funniest sister. You know, we probably had days, but she was a sweet sister," Katherine said.
With memories of his own, Joe added, "She’s gonna make you laugh. You know, I used to mess with her a little bit poking at her, playing. I mean she was just a fun person. And she gonna stay on that phone and she gonna ride that bike... So that’s what we miss."