GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Twenty-five years after Tiffany Sessions disappeared near the University of Florida, law enforcement officials named a "highly probable" suspect in the case.
Sheriff Sadie Darnell said it is "highly probable" that convicted killer and rapist Paul Rowles is a suspect in the disappearance of 20-year-old Sessions.
Rowles was a serial killer who died in prison last year. He had been in and out of prison and was sentenced to life in 1976 for a murder in Miami, though he was paroled in 1985.
Rowles went back to prison in 1994 for rape and was later linked to the 1992 murder of another Gainesville college student.
"Thank goodness he's dead. He has harmed so many people along the way," Darnell said.
The 20-year-old Sessions was last seen going out for a walk about 6 p.m. on Feb. 9, 1989, in Gainesville.
Despite a number of law enforcement agencies working on the case and a lot of media interest, a suspect was never named and Sessions was never found and is presumed dead.
“She's my only baby. It's been a 25-year struggle. It would be nice to put her to rest after all these years," said Tifaany's mother, Hillary Sessions, at Thursday's press conference.
Alachua detective Kevin Allen did not give up on a hunch he had, so he tracked down Rowles' only friend, a priest who had Rowles' prison belongings.
In Rowles' possessions, he found a note that read, "#2 2/9/89 #2," the date Sessions disappeared.
"If there was any one date that was etched in my mind, it was 2-9-89 and I opened the address book and there it is," said Allen. "My feet started to give out and I had to hold onto the person next to me."
Investigators believe the "#2" meant Sessions was Rowles' second murder victim.
Sessions' family members are still asking possible witnesses and anyone who might know something to come forward.
“Pieces of this puzzle are still being put together. We're looking for a very small needle in a very big haystack. It's just going to take one tip coming in. What we need is one person in the public who remembers seeing Paul Rowles, or following him or knowing what he did. They may have befriended him, met him someplace. We know it can be closed,” Hillary Sessions said.
Sessions' father is Patrick Sessions, a prominent South Florida real estate developer. He used his connections with former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and other NFL players to gain attention to the case.
("Rowles) is the scum of the earth. He destroyed three, four families that we know of and their daughters, with no remorse," Patrick Sessions said at the press conference.
He said when investigators and the family tried to talk to Rowles about the case "he wouldn't talk to anybody -- no remorse, no anything."
The press conference was held at the scene where officials are digging, hoping to find Tiffany Sessions' body.