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Selma family pushes to uncover clues in woman’s 2010 disappearance

Updated: Sep. 1, 2017 at 5:46 PM CDT
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Tarasha Benjamin has been missing more than 7 years. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Tarasha Benjamin has been missing more than 7 years. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The car Tarasha was driving was abandoned on the bypass. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The car Tarasha was driving was abandoned on the bypass. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

SELMA, AL (WSFA) - A Selma woman's disappearance remains a mystery more than seven years later and her loved ones are trying harder than ever to unearth some new leads by getting the case back in the public eye.

Regina Benjamin still has no idea what happened to her daughter, Tarasha, who was 17 when she went missing. Tarasha, who also went by her nickname "Pooh," is well-known and well-liked in Selma.

"Tarasha left my house at about 9 to 9:30 a.m. on June 26, 2010 going to the Selma Flea Market. She left with a friend of mine in her truck. They were going to the Flea Market. She goes every Saturday. For some reason, I just felt something, a feeling in my body that something was wrong," Regina said.

Around 11 a.m., Regina picked up the phone and started calling friends and relatives to ask if they had seen her daughter that morning.

She called one of her cousins and told them what truck Tarasha was in, and they told her they had spotted it on Cecil Jackson Bypass.

"It was just sitting on the side of the road. No one was in it. Now I'm thinking something happened," Regina said.

Around 1 p.m., the owner of the truck came back to Regina's house with another friend asking where Tarasha was, sparking more worry and alarm for her mother.

"We have a thing with me and my kids where we call each other every day, especially Tarasha. I know there was something strange when I didn't hear from her," Regina said.

She contacted the police. The friend Tarasha had left her mother's house with to head to the flea market had allowed Tarasha to drive her truck, but it's unclear what happened once they parted ways.

"And that was the last time she was seen. The vehicle was up the bypass. My family and I went out searching everywhere. We haven't seen her since that morning," Regina said.

It looked like someone had been rummaging through the truck.

"Stuff was thrown out on the side by it and we searched and searched. We never found her and still to this day, we don't know anything. She just vanished and Selma is a small town. I know there's somebody out there that knows something about my daughter being missing. If it was me and I knew something, I would tell it because I wouldn't want a mother to go through the pain that I go through every day," Regina said.

Through the years, her mother has tried to keep the case in the spotlight as much as possible. She even went on national television to be a guest on the Maury Show to talk about it. Repeats of the episode still air sometimes.

Last year, Selma police received information that had them searching for human remains behind an abandoned building on the bypass, not far from where the truck Tarasha was driving the morning she went missing was found abandoned on the side of the road.

After days of combing over the area, officials revealed that the massive effort did not result in the discovery of new evidence or concealed graves.

The police department received a tip from an informant for the Dallas County Sheriff's Department that one or two bodies were buried behind the old Top Class Lounge.

It was related to several ongoing missing person cases, including Tarasha Benjamin.

Selma police requested assistance from the State Bureau of Investigation and their ground penetrating radar uncovered several suspicious places at the location. Cadaver dogs were also brought in to go over the same area and touched on a number of spots around the building.

A team of specialists from the University of Alabama conducted digging at the site to no avail.

"The case is as cold as it can get," Regina said.

Tarasha's family has done everything they can to keep her name and face out there, circulating information and her photo on social media.

"I'm going to flood Facebook with her. I'm going to share pictures and anything else I have to do until Pooh returns. It could be 10, 15, 20 years from now, but sooner or later, whoever did something or whoever had something to do with it, it shall come to light," Regina said.

In her heart, she believes her daughter is still alive.

"I never felt death with her. I can feel things with my kids. I tell people that all the time," she said. "I will never give up, but I would like to know something."

Regina does not think her daughter is in the Selma area.

"I don't think they would keep her here that long because I have a big family and we have plenty of friends. They wouldn't have kept her here that long," she said.

Relatives have been to Florida several times to look for Tarasha and her mother says several people there recognized her from pictures and indicated they had seen her, but she still hasn't been located.  Her mother has considered the possibility that Tarasha could have gotten caught up in human trafficking and is being held against her will. She also explained another angle, indicating that Tarasha's boyfriend was a person of interest in her disappearance.

The search for Tarasha was a big operation in the beginning, with dive teams out in local bodies of water and authorities going door to door passing out flyers. Her mother and family members combed the area and Regina even had a psychic come to her home before she went on the Maury Show. The psychic went into Tarasha's room and said she was not dead.

But years have passed since then and her mother says there have been no updates.

Selma police officials say the department is still searching for Tarasha, but they need information from the public to help move the investigation forward.

Investigators have worked with the Alabama Fusion Center, the state's law enforcement cyber center, and sent DNA off to the Department of Forensics Sciences, but those results were not released to the media. Officials say it's not clear if foul play was involved.

Tarasha's family keeps sharing information n the hopes it will get someone to step forward with important details.

"She's well-known here. That's why it Selma so deep like it did," Regina said. "I just want some help to try to find some type of clue or something. Maybe someday someone will break."

Tarasha is Regina Benjamin's youngest child. Her other daughters passed away in a house fire in 1996 when they were three and four years old.

Her husband, Tarasha's father, 46-year-old Clyde Chandler, went missing a year or two before she did. The family and police searched for him for several weeks and eventually, his body was found behind the Steak Pit in Selma.

Regina says it's not clear what happened to Chandler. All of the worry and frustration has taken a toll on her health, but it hasn't stopped her from working to find her daughter.

"Somebody is going to tell me something. I just feel it that's why every day I post pictures. I miss her and I'm going to keep looking until she gets here. I don't care how long it takes but she will be coming home," she said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-44Crime (1-866-442-7463), 334-874-2125 (Criminal Investigations Division) or 334-874-2190 (Secret Witness Line).

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.