Episode 048: Cieha Taylor

July 11, 2022

Cieha Taylor’s car was found on the railroad tracks, its engine running and the driver’s side door wide open. But Cieha was nowhere to be found. Two years later, her family is desperate for answers. Where is Cieha?

Episode Media
Cieha Annette Taylor (Facebook)
Last known photo of Cieha on February 6, 2020, wearing the clothes she was last seen in (WFTS)
Map of Cieha’s last known whereabouts (Google Maps)
A recreation of the scene where Cieha’s car was found (Facebook)
Cieha’s sandals found on top of the drainage pipe (Facebook)
Location of the drainage pipe at the entrance to Foxy Produce, where Cieha’s sandals were found (Google Maps)
Missing poster (MPSC)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a case that I came across while researching last week’s episode. It’s the case of a woman who went missing just three weeks after Veronica Reyes-Diaz and just ten miles away. And the circumstances are just as mysterious. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

In February of 2020, 28-year-old Cieha Taylor was living and working in Plant City, Florida, located between Lakeland and Tampa. According to her mother Canitha, Cieha was finally getting her life together after years of partying and drug use. As a teenager, Cieha had fallen in with the wrong crowd, and experimentation had led to full-on drug abuse. She had recently gotten arrested for possession, but she was determined to turn things around for herself, and she had the support of her loving family.

Throughout it all, Cieha never lost her cheerful, upbeat personality. According to Canitha, “She loved life and nature. She never met a stranger and she was just a wonderful person to be around.” Videos shared by Cieha’s family show a happy young woman who clearly loved to make others smile with her goofy sense of humor.

Now, Cieha was taking positive steps forward in her life. Her mom had bought her a car, and she had a job as a telemarketer at a local call center. She and her boyfriend Jason had recently moved in with his friend Kevin, and Cieha spent time between that place in Plant City and her family home in Dade City, about an hour north. According to Cieha’s family, things were starting to look up.

So when Cieha mysteriously vanished, no one could make any sense of it.

Around 7pm on February 6, 2020, a passerby noticed an abandoned vehicle sitting on the train tracks on East Trapnell Road in Plant City. Aside from the unsafe location of the vehicle, the driver’s side door was wide open. Thinking this was rather unusual, the passerby called the police to report the vehicle.

After receiving several calls about the same vehicle, officers from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Plant City Police responded to the scene. They noticed that not only was the car door open, the keys were in the ignition and the engine was running. A wallet sat in the passenger seat, and there was a cell phone lying on the ground. However, this bizarre scene apparently didn’t worry the officers; they merely moved the car off the tracks, turned it off, and locked the doors. They didn’t run the license plate or attempt to figure out who the car belonged to or where the driver had gone.

The car sat there for three days.

On the evening of February 9th, the mother of Cieha’s boyfriend Jason was driving down East Trapnell Road. She noticed a car sitting on the side of the road and immediately recognized it as Cieha’s Toyota Solara. When she asked Jason about it, he thought it was odd. He said he hadn’t seen Cieha since Thursday afternoon. She had dropped him off at Kevin’s house on Cowart Road and headed to Lakeland to spend the night with her friend Tiffany.

Jason called Tiffany to confirm that Cieha was with her. But according to Tiffany, Cieha had never made it to her house on Thursday, and now she wasn’t answering her phone. Realizing that something was very wrong, Tiffany contacted Cieha’s family in Dade City and let them know that Cieha’s car had been found abandoned.

Tiffany then drove to Plant City from Lakeland to meet up with Jason and his mom. They called AAA to unlock the car, then Tiffany drove it up north to Dade City so that Cieha’s family could decide what to do next.

In the early morning hours of February 10th, Cieha’s family reported her missing with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and the investigation began. But Cieha had already been gone for over 72 hours, which would only make finding her that much more difficult.

An immediate search of the area where Cieha’s car was found didn’t yield any results. Search dogs were brought in to trace Cieha’s scent, but didn’t find anything conclusive. Over the next few days, police helicopters flew overhead, searching the rural landscape. Officers even conducted a traffic search, stopping drivers along East Trapnell Road and handing out missing persons flyers, asking if anyone had seen Cieha or her vehicle on February 6th. But no one seemed to know anything.

However, there was one small lead that had potential. On February 10th, the day Cieha was officially reported missing, her friend Allison was hanging up flyers in the area and decided to ask around at Foxy Produce, a strawberry farm located at the intersection where Cieha’s car was abandoned. Allison spoke with the front office staff and several workers and asked if they had seen Cieha or her car on February 6th. They remembered seeing a white pickup truck next to the car, then later the police coming to move the car. But because the office was about 200 yards away from the intersection, and the sun had already gone down that evening, they weren’t able to provide any other information. It’s possible that the white pickup truck belonged to someone who may have taken Cieha, but it’s also possible that it belonged to one of the several drivers who called the police about the abandoned vehicle. There’s really no way to be sure.

As the investigation continued, detectives obtained Cieha’s cell phone and began to work with her family and friends to put together a timeline of her last known movements.

On the morning of February 6th, Cieha took Jason to work and waited outside in her car until his shift was over. While she waited, she took selfies on her phone and sent him several texts. At one point, she drove to a nearby McDonald’s to use the bathroom, and there she took a picture of herself wearing a striped dress with a pink cardigan. She left the McDonald’s and went back to Jason’s workplace to pick him up.

At 4pm, Cieha dropped Jason off at the house on Cowart Road, about a mile from where her car was later found. Cieha supposedly entered the house and spoke with their friend Kevin and his father for a time. The men said that Cieha’s behavior was erratic; she was not her usual upbeat self. Cieha and Jason had apparently gotten into a fight just before they arrived, and Cieha was agitated. This was confirmed by Cieha’s friend Tiffany, who told investigators that Cieha had called her on her way to Lakeland, around 4:30pm, crying and clearly upset. The friend said that this type of behavior was unusual for Cieha, that she just seemed “off”.

Whatever Cieha was going through at that moment, we’ll probably never know. What we do know is that something happened between that phone call and the time her car was discovered two and a half hours later.

Investigators combed through Cieha’s phone data, looking for any indication of what may have occurred. One thing stuck out to them: Cieha’s last text, a message to Jason that said, “So you’re going to send your white supremacy buddies after me? You think you’re smart, I’m smarter.”

This cryptic message prompted a deeper look into Jason and his relationship with Cieha.

According to friends and family, Cieha and Jason had an on-again-off-again relationship that has been described as volatile. Like Cieha’s text message indicated, Jason often hung out with people who had ties to local white supremacist groups, and the fact that Cieha was biracial would likely have been an issue. There is also evidence that Jason was involved in drugs – as was Cieha – and that there may have been some illegal activity taking place.

Throughout the investigation, detectives questioned Jason multiple times, and they searched the house on Cowart Road, although according to the family, no forensic examinations were done on the property. Detectives also interviewed Kevin and his father, as well as several other persons of interest, but there was no evidence to connect any of them to Cieha’s disappearance.

Then, three weeks into the search, there was an unsettling discovery.

On February 26th, Allison received a Facebook message from the office worker at the strawberry farm. She said that she had spotted a pair of women’s sandals on top of a drainage pipe at the entrance to the farm. She sent a picture of the sandals, which Allison immediately forwarded to Cieha’s mom. Canitha knew right away that the sandals belonged to Cieha; they had been a gift from her.

This discovery led to more questions than answers. The area had been searched multiple times, and the drainage pipe was not hidden – it was right next to the road, clearly visible to anyone who passed by, especially to the dozens of workers who came to the farm every day. It was also just a few yards away from where Cieha’s car had been. There’s no way that search teams would have missed it. You can see pictures of the sandals and the drainage pipe on the podcast website for a better visual of the location.

Cieha’s family believes that the sandals were placed there by whoever took Cieha, perhaps as a sign of remorse for what they did. Canitha told Dateline, “We searched in that area for weeks and never found anything. Those shoes were ones I gave her and I definitely would have noticed them.”

Unfortunately, the sandals didn’t yield any further clues, and a few weeks later, the search for Cieha was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From there, Cieha’s case seemed to languish. Investigators continued to follow leads as they appeared, but nothing panned out.

Forensic analysis of Cieha’s vehicle didn’t provide any clues either – all of the fingerprints and DNA samples in the car belonged to people who would have had legitimate reasons to have been inside. Surveillance video from homes and businesses in the area didn’t show Cieha or her vehicle, and there weren’t any reliable eyewitnesses who could give useful accounts of Cieha’s movements.

There are a few theories surrounding Cieha’s disappearance. One theory centers around her history of drug use. At the time of her disappearance, Cieha was out on bond and awaiting her arraignment for the possession charges from her arrest in January of 2020. Some have speculated that Cieha may have disappeared on purpose to avoid the consequences, but as a first-time offender, it’s unlikely that Cieha would have faced any jail time. And this theory doesn’t really align with Cieha’s character according to those who knew her.

Cieha’s family doesn’t believe that she disappeared of her own free will. Her sister-in-law Porshia told a local news outlet, “Her keys, her phone, her license, her debit card, everything was in her vehicle. If anyone knows Cieha, Cieha never leaves her cell phone.” And Cieha’s mom knows that Cieha would never leave without telling her. “She was doing responsible, adult things that would not give me the impression that she was ready to book somewhere… when this was her safe haven here, this house, me, her family. She leaned on us for everything.”

It does seem very unlikely that Cieha took off on her own. However, it might not be that far-fetched that drugs had something to do with her disappearance. Jason has been arrested on multiple drug-related charges since 2018, and Cieha and Jason’s group of friends often did drugs when they were together. Is it possible that Cieha got tangled up in something that ended badly?

The theory that Cieha’s family seems to subscribe to is that Jason had something to do with Cieha’s disappearance. He was the last person to see her on February 6th, and he and Cieha had an unstable relationship. Cieha’s last text was to him, and it certainly seemed to indicate that she thought he would do something to hurt her. Plus, it seems odd that he hadn’t talked to his girlfriend in three days, but didn’t seem to notice or worry about her. But Jason has been interviewed many times, and police have never named him a suspect. Detectives have said that there is no concrete evidence tying him to a crime.

The abandoned car seems to be the biggest mystery, and also the biggest potential key to the whole case. East Trapnell is a well-traveled road in Plant City, even if it is a more rural spot. Cieha supposedly left the house on Cowart Road around 4:30pm, and police say the calls about the car came in between 6 and 7. Could the car really have sat there for over two hours before someone noticed? Remember, this wasn’t just any car on the side of the road. It was left running with the door open on the railroad tracks blocking traffic. I can’t imagine that many people would have driven right past it without noticing something was wrong.

If we assume that Cieha did not run off on her own, especially leaving her cell phone and wallet behind, there are a couple of scenarios to consider. Scenario number one: Cieha was surprised by someone as she drove down East Trapnell Road. Did she get scared and jump out of the car? Did someone drag her out? Maybe she didn’t have time to turn off the engine. Maybe she dropped her phone on the ground as she tried to get away. But if this is true, how did no one see what happened?

Scenario number two: Cieha wasn’t driving the car at all. Maybe someone else was driving and intentionally dumped the car on the railroad tracks. There are thick wooded areas on both sides of the intersection. Someone could have parked the car, jumped out, and run into the woods in a matter of seconds. Did they do something to Cieha in a different location, then stage this scene to make it look like she had abandoned the car on purpose? If so, they really lucked out that the car wasn’t found for three whole days. This scenario seems to be supported by the fact that Cieha’s car was west of Cowart Road; if she had intended to drive to Lakeland that day, she would have been heading east.

Whatever the truth is, Cieha’s family has clung to the hope that someone knows something, and that they will come forward with information. It’s very possible that someone could have seen what happened to Cieha, maybe without even realizing what was going on.

Cieha’s mom Canitha has issued many heartfelt pleas to the public, desperate for answers. “Just please call. I don’t care. We can worry about the who, what and when later. Let’s just get her found so I can have closure. This is the worst thing that a mother can go through.”

As of this recording, Cieha’s case is open and active. She is considered a missing person and there is a $15,000 reward for information leading to her recovery.

Cieha Taylor was 28 years old at the time of her disappearance on February 6, 2020. She is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 170 pounds. She has brown eyes and reddish brown hair. She was last seen wearing a striped dress and pink cardigan. She has multiple tattoos, including an infinity symbol on her chest, two X’s on her shoulder, a rose on her forearm, a sun on her upper thigh, and a ladybug on her calf. She may have been driving a black 2000 Toyota Solara with faded paint.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Cieha Taylor, please contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at (813) 247-8200. And please share her story on social media using the hashtag #FindingCieha. Someone out there knows something.