LITTLE ROCK, Ark.( Crime Watch Daily) – Ebby Steppach, 18, was planning to go to the Little Rock Police Department to report an alleged sexual assault. But before she could make talk to cops — she vanished.
She’s a young woman who has become famous in Little Rock, Arkansas for all the wrong reasons.
“Everyone knows Ebby,” said KARK-TV reporter Mitch McCoy. “Ebby is the ‘Little Rock Girl.’ You can say the name Ebby Steppach and most people will know who you’re talking about.”
She went to a house party to kick off the weekend. But that was the end of the good times for 18-year-old Ebby.
“Ebby went to a party on a Friday night and had been assaulted, and there was a videotape,” said Ebby’s mother Laurie Jernigan.
The videotape had her wanting to report it to the police, however before she made it there, she vanished.
And it’s the beginning of a nightmare for her and her family.
“She got extremely upset about it and was threatening to go to the police about it. And then two days later she disappears? Yes.”
And now only Crime Watch Daily tracks down a key witness who sheds light on the frightening possibilities.
Laurie Jernigan says her daughter Ebby is a joy to have around. But Ebby has an independent streak too.
“When she started pushing the boundaries, it was ‘I have a car of my own, I should be able to come home when I want,'” said Laurie.
When Ebby go that first car, a whole new world opened up, and she’s taking the ride all the way.
“She didn’t realize the danger,” said Laurie.
One night Ebby heads to a party in Little Rock.
“She did have bad influences on her life, some that I didn’t know,” said Laurie.
The next morning Ebby sends a frightening text message to her friend Gage Fulton. Gage read the text out loud on a phone call to private investigator Monty Vickers, who recorded the conversation.
“I was hanging with some dudes last night and we smoked and I had sex with one of them and he [—-]ing recorded me dude, like when I wasn’t looking.”
Videotaped during a sexual encounter — Ebby doesn’t tell Gage who did it. But he tells Vickers that she is horrified and confused.
Vickers: “Did she tell you that she was raped?”
Fulton: “She said she felt forced into it. Her last text message to me is ‘I am going to go kill myself.'”
But Ebby doesn’t kill herself. She is enraged, and plans to do something about it.
That same night, she again sends a text, this time to her stepfather Michael Jernigan while he is at dinner with the family.
“An incident had occurred at that party that she wanted to discuss, and discuss with the police,” said Michael Jernigan. “There had been an encounter with a particular individual at that party that he had videotaped.”
Michael leaves a message with Ebby that he’s heading to her grandparents’ house where she is staying. But he gets no response.
“I called over to her grandparents to ask if she was over there. They stated that she left, said that she was going to meet me,” said Michael.
But Michael says there hadn’t been an arrangement to meet anywhere. And it is the last contact he ever has with his stepdaughter.
But suddenly the family hears from Ebby the next day when she answers a phone call from her brother Trevor. Like everyone else he has been trying desperately to reach her.
“She answered and he said ‘Where are you?’ And she said ‘I’m out in front of your house,'” said Laurie Jernigan. “So he hung up and says cool and he goes out there and she’s not there. So he calls her back. She answers and she says she’s messed up and he said ‘Where are you?’ And she said ‘I’m in my car,’ and he said ‘Where is your car?’ And she said ‘I don’t know,’ and hung up. And that’s the last time anyone’s talked to her.”
And now the family is truly alarmed and terrified for the fate of their Ebby.
“He called the police immediately, and he said ‘You’ve got to look for her car. I know something is wrong. Something’s happened,'” said Laurie. “They listed her as a runaway and they weren’t going to look for her.”
No possibility that she just decided to leave town on her own for whatever reason?
“She would move out and hang out, which was really unusual, but she would never run away and not talk to her family,” said Laurie.
And Ebby’s family is searching for her everywhere. Until days after her disappearance, they suddenly get news that leaves them thunderstruck once more. Ebby’s abandoned car is reported at a nearby city park by security guard Guy Hooper.
A surveillance image shows her car on the road shortly after she went missing. But police are not saying exactly where or if anyone was in the car with her.
“I called Little Rock and notified them that the car had been sitting there for three days, and they had gotten the car and taken it in,” said Guy Hooper.
“It was devastating. I can’t describe to you how bad that was that night. Finding her car and not her, you might as well tell me she was dead. It was unimaginable,” said Laurie.
And what police find in her car only deepens the family’s fear that something terrible has happened to Ebby.
“What 18-year-old leaves her cellphone or their clothes? Her makeup? She spent all of her money on makeup. Her contact lenses, she can’t see without contacts,” said Laurie.
But Laurie says she still cannot convince police that Ebby is a victim of foul play and not a runaway.
“No matter how hard I tried I could not get detectives to do anything about it,” said Laurie.
Not only that, Ebby’s family says they still don’t know if some of the people who were with her at that party have even been questioned by police.
Stepdad Michael Jernigan says Ebby gave him some names in that last text conversation, but he will not reveal them for fear of jeopardizing the ongoing investigation.
“I know two of the individuals,” said Michael.
Do the police know who they are?
Ebby Steppach, 18, has been missing for weeks after disappearing on Oct. 25, 2015. And the alarming possibility that she has been sex-trafficked haunts everyone who knows this case.
How does the sex-trafficking work?
“They pick up this girl, lock her up in a room, feed her with heroin, keep her doped up,” said private investigator Monty Vickers. “They charge guys to have sex with her, to the point where she is just a zombie slave.”
The best-case scenario is Ebby is still alive, but being sex-trafficked.
“That’s the worst-case scenario to me,” said Ebby’s mother Laurie. “If she’s not with us anymore, she’s in peace.”
The search for any sign of her goes on, with no results.
Ebby’s family hires private investigator and former Little Rock Police detective Monty Vickers. He says he tries to help the department work better with the family.
“The last thing that we need to do is to run out here and start our own investigation and interfere with the police investigation in some way, so we basically did nothing other than try to communicate with the police department and stay in communication with the family,” said Vickers.
But he still does a lot of digging himself. About five months after Ebby goes missing, he visits security guard Guy Hooper, the man who reported Ebby’s abandoned car at a city park.
We tracked down Guy Hooper ourselves, and he gave us the shocking details about seeing Ebby with two young black men in the park only days before she disappeared.
“It was late evening, I advised them all, everybody to leave the park, which they did,” said Hooper. “Then a few days later I run into her again with another young black gentleman. This time they were in the back seat of the car. And the third time she was back with another couple gentlemen.”
He’s sure it was Ebby?
“Yes sir,” said Hooper. “After I saw the pictures of her later on, of course — I didn’t have a name at the time.”
And Hooper says he notices one guy in particular, who he says is there all three times.
“They were hugging, kissing back and forth,” said Hooper.
Does he remember what these guys looked like, especially the one she was close to?
“He was about five-foot-six, five-seven, had long dreads,” said
And his eyewitness account is about to go ballistic when we show him what we’ve brought along with us.
There was a bust involving sex-trafficking that took place in Louisiana but the individuals that were arrested many of them have connection to Little Rock. We showed Hooper their mug shots to see if he recognized any of them.
“It’s this middle one on the top and the gentleman on the left,” said Hooper.
Which individual was the one kissing and hugging Ebby?
“This gentleman right here, the guy with the dreads,” said Hooper.
How positive is Hooper?
“About 70 percent. I’m pretty sure this was the gentleman that was directly with her,” said Hooper.
It is a stunning development that could have a major impact on the search for Ebby.
The man with the dreadlocks is Keith Pruiett, 21, of Little Rock. Police in Arkansas have not connected him with Ebby’s disappearance. But Pruiett was recently charged with human-trafficking and promoting prostitution near Shreveport, Louisiana.
Also charged in that case in Louisiana is 23-year-old Gary Jackson of Little Rock. Gus Hooper also pointed out Jackson as the second man he believes he saw in the park with Ebby.
Both men are currently in jail in Louisiana awaiting trial, and we have been not been able to contact them or anyone representing them.
Little Rock Police have not named either man, or any suspects, in Ebby Steppach’s disappearance.
We don’t know if the Little Rock Police Department has ever seen the potential bombshell evidence that Crime Watch Daily has brought to the table.
So Crime Watch Daily went right over to the station and hand it to them personally. We couldn’t get the lieutenant or a detective on camera, but we ran into Public Information Officer Steve Moore out front.
“I’m trying to find him and I’m going to call the assigned detective and give him this also,” Moore said.
Police say they are actively pursuing the information we provided them.
“I think there’s a lot more to the story,” said KARK-TV’s Mitch McCoy.
McCoy from has been on the story since Ebby first went missing.
“I think that there are a lot of unknowns with this case that sooner or later will come out. The question is when,” said McCoy.
McCoy interviewed retired detective Tommy Hudson, who recently worked on the case. Today Hudson says the investigation is back on track. He won’t discuss sex-trafficking, but he does lean toward foul play.
“My opinion is is somebody has her and somebody’s done something to her,” McCoy tells Crime Watch Daily.
And Ebby’s family says that they are now satisfied that police are doing everything possible to find their daughter.
“I have full confidence in who has her case now,” said Ebby’s mother Laurie Jernigan. “I can actually sleep at night knowing that there are those looking for her. Thank God we have someone now, we have people now that understand that and check on that as soon as they can.”
Ebby Steppach stands 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighs about 110 pounds. She also may have dyed her blond hair black after her disappearance.
If you have information on Ebby Steppach’s whereabouts, contact the Little Rock Police Department at (501) 371-4829,
or submit an anonymous tip to Crime Watch Daily.
Ebby’s family has set up a fund-raising page to help find her.