NANTICOKE — Still without closure on Phylicia Thomas’ disappearance 10 years ago today, loved ones are to gather again this year to keep her memory alive.
Thomas went missing on Feb. 11, 2004, and, though her family presumes she has died, their grief continues because investigators have not found any remains.
A candlelight vigil is to take place at 6 p.m. today in the Nanticoke Town Square along East Broad Street.
Thomas was last seen at her Lake Township home. She would have been 32 years old this year.
“It’s 10 years, and it feels like it was yesterday,” Thomas’ mother, Pauline Bailey, said. “It just affects everybody so bad.”
Bailey, of Nanticoke, has not let her daughter’s memory fade and still believes her remains will be found. She tucked a thick binder — cover worn off from age and use and filled with newspaper clippings, photographs and other documents — beneath her arm and said some of her friends and family stand with her in hope.
“They won’t stop looking. We’ll never stop looking,” Bailey said.
She wears a knotted rope necklace around her neck, one similar to the kind seen on Thomas in the old photographs.
Shortly after Thomas was reported missing, state police looked at one man, Steven Martin of Ross Township, as a person of interest in the investigation and in the investigation of another missing woman, Jennifer Barziloski, 18, who disappeared in 2001.
Barziloski’s skull was found near Martin’s former residence. Martin, who is now deceased, was known to both Thomas and Barziloski. He told police during an interview that he had spoken with Thomas the night she disappeared when he called her home to speak to her boyfriend, Ed Rudaski.
Though police searched Martin’s home, he was never charged in the women’s disappearances. However, Martin pleaded guilty the following spring to involuntary manslaughter after killing a woman in with his vehicle in Wilkes-Barre, according to arrest papers.
Martin died at a Hershey hospital after trying to hang himself in his jail cell.
Another skull found in 2012 near Alden Mountain Road, which is south of Nanticoke, was tested and did not to belong to Thomas.
The annual vigil is to help memorialize Thomas, but Bailey said she wants the community to be mindful.
“Let’s never forget Phylicia. Let’s never forget Jenn. And we can’t let this happen to other people,” Bailey said.
Bailey has told The Times Leader she believes investigators have given up the search after Martin committed suicide.
Calls made to the district attorney and state police headquarters were not returned Monday.
In the last 10 years, Bailey has presented new information to investigators but feels frustrated as it appears her leads are often dismissed. She would like to see the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office pick up the trail, but state police are handling the investigation, which remains open.