LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - On October 24, it will mark two years since 18-year-old Little Rock Central High student Ebby Steppach was last seen or heard from.
Her case has drawn attention across the state and around the country. Ebby’s story was most recently featured on Crime Stories with Nancy Grace.
Her mother, Laurie Jernigan, has been very vocal about the case by encouraging others on social media to share her story. She also shared her frustrations about working with the Little Rock Police Department. But despite all the challenges, she said she a new tool in her arsenal to bring Ebby home.
“I had felt like I had been alone in this fight in looking for my daughter and that's a big load to carry,” said Laurie Jernigan.
As the two year anniversary of her daughters disappearance approaches, Jernigan said that her load is getting lighter.
“I have a bigger voice that is with me,” said Jernigan.
That voice is famed private investigator, T.J. Ward. He is best known for his work on the Natalee Holloway case, where he spent the last 12 years as the family's lead private investigator. After receiving a call from Jernigan two weeks ago, he flew to Little Rock to look into Ebby's case.
“There are a lot of players and a lot of pieces of the puzzle and I think I can be an asset to law enforcement,” said Ward.
With 40 years of experience as a police officer, Ward said he knows working with local law enforcement is key in these types of cases.
“I know the rules and I know the rules of engagement and I know what the parameters are and a lot of private investigators that don't have prior experience and don't understand why law enforcement won’t share with them and give them information,” said Ward. “I know how to get information without ruining any credibility of their case and I will turn it over to them.”
While Ward said it's still too early to guess what happened to Ebby, he has agreed to take on the case 100 percent.
“I have enough to get started by myself and to go on and if I can build a rapport with law enforcement, then whatever I find will be taken seriously and we are moving forward with this,” he said.
We spoke with Detective Tommy Hudson with the Little Rock police who said he had a good meeting with Ward on Monday. He said any new eyes on the case is a “good thing.”
Currently there is a $50,000 reward for information leading to Ebby’s whereabouts.