The FBI has released age progression photos depicting what a missing Georgia mother and her three-year-old son might look like 21 years after they vanished without a trace.
Paula Wade and her son Brandon, then three years old, were reported missing on October 14, 2002, and there have been no suspects or leads in the case since their disappearance.
Before vanishing with her son, Paula, who was 26 at the time, appeared to be excited about relocating closer to her parents who lived in Orlando, Florida.
The decades-long mystery recently gained renewed attention with the FBI’s release of age progression pictures, intensifying efforts to solve the case.
The pictures show what Brandon might look like aged 23 and his mother at 45.
The FBI has released age progression photos depicting what missing Georgia mother Paula Wade and her three-year-old son would look like today
Brandon Wade went missing along with his mom on October 14, 2002 when she failed to show up for work
At the time of her disappearance, Paula Wade, or Paula Ann McGrath, weighed 150lbs with brown hair. She has brown eyes and stands at 5’7
‘Over the years, the Valdosta Police Department has worked the case but has never been able to find clues as to where the Wade could be or who, if anyone, might have wanted to harm them,’ the FBI said in a statement.
Authorities also noted Paula used an inhaler for asthma and may be wearing corrective lenses or glasses.
Before Paula went missing in 2002, she worked at the Sam’s Club in Valdosta, Georgia, and was a good employee by all accounts.
‘She was always looking to help people. She was always a team player,’ Maria Manning, Paula’s colleague at the time, told Newsnation.
‘She saw something in me and wanted to add me to her team,’ she said, adding that Paula offered her the job that changed her life.
Manning, who also lived in the same apartment complex with Paula and Brandon, said there was a close bond between the mother and the son.
‘She adored him, she would always have him with her,. She was so proud of him. That was her baby, she was proud of him.’ she said.
Paula was last seen leaving work on Saturday, October 12. She missed a weekly call with her family on Sunday, and didn’t show up for work on Monday morning.
‘I knew immediately something was up because she was always at work,’ Manning said. ‘That’s why they immediately reacted. Because Paula didn’t miss work. She was always on time.’
Her supervisor sent an employee to check on Paula, who reported seeing the mom’s 1998 Chevy Blazer in the parking lot but could not find her or her son anywhere.
‘There were no signs of a struggle. However, the car was there, her purse was there, her glasses, the keys, her ID card, everything was still there,’ Paula’s sister Mary Ramsbottom said.
‘Except Paula and Brandon. The car seat was also missing,’ she added.
Before vanishing with her son, Paula, who was 26 at the time, appeared to be excited about relocating closer to her parents who lived in Orlando, Florida
There have been no suspects in the disappearances. The mom’s 1998 Chevy Blazer was located in a parking lot where she lived but the child’s car seat was missing
The FBI released images of what the mom and son would look like at their current ages of 23 and 46
The concerned family reported the findings to the Valdosta police department, who searched Paula’s apartment and the woods nearby.
Authorities described her place as looking ‘lived in’, according to Valdosta Daily Times.
‘They went to other geographical areas based on those tips, searched those areas and did not find anything of evidentiary value,’ said Valdosta Police Department Det. Sgt. Paul Garland.
‘We still have a feeling she might be out there on her own somewhere, but we do have some indications of foul play,’ Sgt. Steve Owens said in 2002. He did not specify what this evidence was.
To this day, there has been no suspects as Paula and Brando are still listed as missing. No human remains were ever located during the searches.
Paula’s father Regis McGrath and her husband Lance Wade were brought in for questioning, but both were ruled out as playing a part in the disappearance.
Rumors once circulated when some sources claimed the couple had separated before Paula went missing.
Lance indeed was stationed at Shaw Air Force Based in South Carolina, and he should have helped Paula with moving.
But authorities confirmed that he passed a polygraph examination and has always cooperated with the investigation
‘They gave us the information that we were asking for and they did cooperate with interviews,’ Garland said.
Wade’s purse, glasses, the keys to her car and her ID card were all located in her car
Wade was employed at Sam’s Club in Valdosta, Georgia at the time o f her disappearance
After more than two decades, the family is still waiting for answers.
‘Somebody somewhere knows something,’ Ramsbottom said. ‘I never thought I’d still be saying that 20 years later but somebody must know something.’
‘I was robbed of 20 years of growing old with my sister. ‘We were robbed of seeing Brandon grow up to become a man. In our minds, he’s still a 3-year-old wanting to play ball,’ she said.
Mary McGrath, Paula’s mother, and Ramsbottom live in Orlando, but still visit the Valdosta area every year chasing the case.
Ramsbottom handed out missing person flyers on the 21-year anniversary of Paula Wade’s disappearance this year at the Sam’s Club where she was last seen.
‘People always ask, How do you go on? How do you keep looking?’ Ramsbottom said. ‘Why would I stop? I’m never going to stop, either to my last breath or until we have answers.’