RICHMOND, Ind. (WDTN) – There are still no signs of a Richmond mother who disappeared in 2001, and nearly 17 years later, Niqui McCown’s family is still looking for closure.
“I still – I can just go back there and just remember how I felt – the pain, and the concern and worry,” says Niqui’s sister, Michelle McCown-Luster.
The 28-year-old went to a Richmond laundromat in July 2001 just three weeks before her wedding and not been seen since. Niqui’s daughter Payton was only nine years old at the time.
“I wish more than anything that she could be here with us” says Payton Lackings as she remembers her mother. “But this is my reality now. And I’ve got to push forward and do what I can to keep my mom’s memory alive.”
In this WDTN.com Web Extra, hear Niqui’s daughter Payton Lackings talk about what she remembers of her mother.
In November 2001, Niqui’s vehicle was found at the Meadows of Catalpa apartment complex in Harrison Township.
Police initially interviewed her fiance, Bobby Webster, and ex-husband Steven Johnston and named them as persons of interest. They were both cleared, but her prison guard coworker Tommy Swint remained a major person of interest.
“He was a womanizer. He was very controlling,” says McCown-Luster of Swint.
Hear more of what Niqui’s sister had to say about Swint and how she thinks police handled the case in the WDTN.com Web Extra.
Detective Michelle Miller is a fresh set of eyes on Niqui’s disappearance. She inherited the case about a year ago after longtime Richmond Detective Roger Redmond retired.
“With time, recovery and things like that diminish, but I don’t think it’s impossible,” says Detective Miller. “I still have hopes of finding her.”
Niqui’s family held vigil for years as her case went dark until another cold case came to light.
“When you’re dealing with cold cases, it’s a slow process. Everything about it is slow. There is nothing quick about any of it,” says Dayton Police Detective Patty Tackett who works in the Miami Valley cold case unit.
In 2010, new technology had investigators revisiting the 1991 strangulation death of Tina Ivery (pictured right). New DNA evidence and fingerprints pointed to Swint.
“We knew that beyond a reasonable doubt. We knew for sure we had our right person,” says Detective Tackett. “Were other states looking at him on possible missing cases and possible similar type cases with women? Yes they were. Yes they were.”
When detectives closed in to make an arrest, Swint shot and killed himself bringing any possibility of a lead in Niqui’s case to a halt.
“That was the worst feeling. The worst,” describes McCown-Luster. “My heart fell to the floor.”
While investigators were able to somewhat shut the book on Tina Ivery’s case, Swint’s suicide was a major roadblock in Niqui’s.
“I’m 99% that he is involved in her disappearance,” admits Detective Miller. “Not having him here does make it hard to find physical evidence, and without physical evidence, it’s hard to prove a crime happened.”
But even in Swint’s death, investigators and family keep Niqui’s case alive. They grip memories of Niqui just as tightly as they hold onto hope that someday she will be found.
“I don’t plan to give up. I will see this through,” vows McCown-Luster. “Niqui will have justice.”
“Closure is what I’m looking for,” says Niqui’s daughter. “I talk about her all the time, and I won’t stop talking about her case until we find the answers that we’re looking for.”
Richmond and Dayton police are actively working the case and investigating any new tips that come in. If you have any information, call police.