20 years later: Niqui McCown’s family plans remembrance as they still search for answers

Miami Valley News

RICHMOND, Ind. (WDTN) — For 20 years, Niqui McCown’s family has made sure her memory doesn’t fade from the spotlight as they still search for answers in her disappearance.

“I miss my sister,” Michelle McCown-Luster tears up.

Niqui was last seen at the Richmond Coin and Laundry on South E. Street on July 22, 2001. At the time, she was 28 and three weeks away from marrying her fiance, Bobby Webster.

This year, her family is planning to mark the anniversary of her disappearance with a “Keep the light alive” remembrance at 5 p.m. at the spot where she was last seen.

While Niqui’s sisters and mother have led the charge to find her, her daughter Payton, now 29, has taken over the reins.

“Sometimes it seems so unreal that she’s not here,” Payton Lackings wipes away tears from her eyes.

Payton has a five-year-old daughter.

“It’s a lot harder now than when I was younger because I have a daughter now,” admits Payton.

“It’s been a hard 20 years. I mean, really hard. Not only are we dealing with not knowing where Niqui is, but we just lost mom last year,” says Michelle. “Finding Niqui was so important to her.”

“I promised her when she passed–before she passed away– that I would not give up. And I won’t,” states Payton. “Bobby passed away in March. With both him and my grandma passing away–I mean I have my aunts and I have my father–but those were the last few people that were the closest thing that I had to really relate to my mom. Losing them was one of the hardest things I had to do. Losing my grandma was very hard. But Bobby and I were very close. And it was very hard.”

While a lot has changed in 20 years, Niqui’s family has never stopped passing out flyers. They still don’t know exactly what happened to her, and all they have to go on is speculation.

Months after she went missing, Niqui’s vehicle was found at the Meadows of Catalpa apartment complex in Harrison Township in November 2001, but there was no sign of Niqui.

Niqui’s fiance, Bobby Webster, and ex-husband Steven Johnston were cleared early on in the case. Niqui’s prison guard coworker Tommy Swint, however, continued to be a major person of interest in her disappearance. He committed suicide in 2010 when police were closing in on him to make an arrest in a 1991 murder. Niqui’s family is hoping any clues he possibly held into Niqui’s disappearance didn’t die with him.

“It’s very frustrating to not know. But what’s even more frustrating is I had to go through my life without my mom,” admits Payton.

Two decades later, they’re still searching and holding onto hope.

“We will fight until we get justice for Niqui,” says Michelle.

“I’m going to do everything I can to bring those answers home,” vows Payton.

If you have any information that could help, call Richmond Police at 765-983-7247.

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