Search continues for Mississippi woman last seen boating on Tallahatchie River on New Year's Day

It’s been 10 days since 28-year-old Jessica Nicole Stacks disappeared somewhere along the Tallahatchie River in Union County, Mississippi, and her family fears the worst.

“My soul is telling me that something is very, very wrong,” Jessica’s mother, Cathy Story, told Dateline. “I feel it when my kids are hungry. I feel it when they’re sad. Right now, I don’t have a good feeling at all.”

Jessica Nicole Stacks
Jessica Nicole Stacks

Jessica, of New Albany, Mississippi, was last seen on Friday, January 1, 2021. According to Sheriff Jimmy Edwards with the Union County Sheriff’s Office, Jessica’s boyfriend, Jerry Wayne Baggett, told law enforcement officials that he and Jessica had launched a boat into the river near the County Road 46 bridge in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day.

They were on the water for a couple of hours when Jessica reportedly got out of the boat and made her way toward the north river bank in the direction of State Highway 30, Baggett told the sheriff’s office. Her purse and car keys were left behind, he confirmed. Sheriff Edwards told Dateline that Jessica’s cell phone was later turned in by an individual who stated that he had it because Jessica and Baggett had planned to call him on it to be picked up at the end of their boating trip that day.

It wasn’t until 10:15 p.m. that evening that the Union County Sheriff’s Department was informed of her disappearance, Sheriff Edwards told Dateline.

Hours felt like days for Jessica’s mother, Cathy, who said she couldn’t sleep as she waited to hear from authorities. When January 2 came and went without any sign of her daughter, Cathy knew something was wrong.

“January 2 was her brother’s 15th birthday,” Cathy explained tearfully. “They are very close… she would never, never miss his birthday. He’s autistic and doesn’t understand why she’s not here.”

Sheriff Edwards told Dateline that search and rescue teams were deployed, but because the river had flooded from heavy rain that pounded the area at the end of December, divers were not immediately able to go in the water.

Instead, drones with thermal imaging cameras searched the river bottom between the Tallahatchie and Highway 30. A Mississippi Highway Patrol helicopter searched the river and river bottom downstream from County Road 46.

Heavy brush on the river banks were searched and Sheriff Edwards told Dateline that a coat they believe Jessica had been wearing was found. It is not known what else she was wearing that day.

On January 9, after the flooring had subsided, six divers entered the 42-degree waters, but found nothing. Two cadaver dogs from Huntsville, Alabama, and their handlers also searched the river over the weekend.

Other law enforcement agencies, including personnel from Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries, Union County Search and Rescue, Mississippi Highway Patrol have searched the river and river bottom on foot, using ATV vehicles and boats. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has also aided in the search.

“We’re exhausting all options in order to find her,” Sheriff Edwards said. “It’s important to us that we find her - and we aren’t giving up.”

Jessica’s family and friends have also formed search parties and started their own investigations, hoping to find some answers. Jessica’s mother Cathy believes there’s foul play involved in her daughter’s disappearance.

“She didn’t just walk away and if she was hurt, we would’ve found her,” Cathy’s mother told Dateline. “Someone did something to her. I know it.”

Sheriff Edwards told Dateline that they “do not have any evidence that points to foul play at this time.” He added that they are following every lead and encourage anyone with information to call the sheriff’s office.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride and I’m hurting,” Cathy told Dateline. “I just want to know what happened. I feel it in my heart and soul that she’s gone, but now I just need peace.”

Jessica is described as being 5’4” tall, weighs 110-125 lbs and has blond hair and green eyes. She has multiple tattoos, including a puzzle piece with the name Cobie, and the name Brayden.

Anyone with information on Jessica’s whereabouts is asked to call the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 662-534-1943.