Tonya Whipp's family remains hopeful after search of fiancé's property comes up empty

Investigators with the Auburndale Police Department did not find Tonya Whipp's remains after four days of conducting a search warrant on the home she shared with her fiancé.

It's devastating news for her family, who has been hoping for answers and closure for nearly a year since her disappearance.

On Friday, police secured the home on Caroline Avenue and dug up the backyard with a backhoe, but on their fourth and final day, the search resulted in disappointment.

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"We just want to find Tonya. Bring her home. Put her to rest, so we can have closure," said Jenny Shelton, Tonya's older sister. "We're stuck. We can't move forward. She's our baby." 

It's a waiting game once again for her family, not knowing where Whipp might be.

"You have so many emotions. Anger, sadness, sickness," Shelton said. "You feel like you're in the movie 'Groundhog's Day.' Same day over and over again. It has been the same day. The last 365 days."

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Whipp's fiancé, Russell Carroll, was arrested last week for stealing her money after her disappearance on May 26. Police now believe he's the sole suspect in her homicide, though he hasn't been charged. Police received new tips that led them back to his home. 

"I have faith in APD, so I know they'll get to the bottom of what happened to my sister," said Shelton. "Tonya was hurt, and we want the person or people who did this to be caught and prosecuted."

The family doesn't know what's next, but they know they can't give up hope for justice one day, and can't stop sharing what a special person Whipp was.

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"If we could all be like Tonya, this world would be a great place," said Shelton. "She would give the shirt off her back to anyone. She'd give her last dollar to you. She would go without eating, so you could eat. That's just who she was."

A candlelight vigil for Whipp will be held Friday, May 24, at Auburndale Park from 6-8 p.m.

If you know anything about this case, contact the Auburndale Police Department or Crime Stoppers. You can be eligible for a $4,000 reward.


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