More than 40 years later the search for a missing Live Oak woman restarts.

Published: Aug. 17, 2018 at 6:42 PM EDT
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It's a story you'll hear first on TV20, a mystery more than 40 years in the making. What happened to 20-year-old Debora Howard from Live Oak? Here's why sheriff's investigators have re-opened the case after all these years.

"She was born and raised here in Live Oak and went to Live Oak high school and graduated in 1974."

Debora Howard known to her family and friends as "Debbie" went missing two years later.

Jake Brooks is the investigating deputy with the Suwannee County Sherif's office, he told us what they know so far about Debbie's disappearance. "On September 24th 1976 she went to Lake City to a bar with her boyfriend and some friends of theirs."

Tv20's Landon Harrar reported from where Debbie was last seen and near where she lived. "Behind me is the bar Debbie went with her friends and boyfriend. It's not the same bar now as it was in 1976 but it still is the last place that she was seen alive. Then Debbie would have come home here in this little community right outside Live Oak where she lived with her boyfriend who the next morning in 1976 said she had just packed up and left."

Investigator Brooks confirmed that chain of events. "The next morning the boyfriend told her momma she had packed up all her stuff and left town he didn't know where she went, which is totally unlike her because she was very close with her mother, called her every day."

Recently Debbie's niece contacted a retired Polk County investigator who specializes in missings person cases and when she reached out to Suwannee County investigators for details they realized they had a case and a possible suspect.

Investigator Brooks said, "we looked into it and found out we actually have a case here with a missing person and we believe her boyfriend did something to her."

Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John explained why they're putting resources into a 40-year-old case. "It's leaning towards a possible homicide for the young lady and naturally if it was my family member or anybody's family member that may have been killed intentionally and we don't know anything about it I'd like to go forward with it no matter how long it has been."

Debbie's boyfriend is currently in prison for life on charges of armed robbery, attempted homicide and attempted rape all unconnected to this case. We reached out to the family, who at this time wishes not to speak on the case but did say they are seeking justice and hoping for answers.

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