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Rachel Cooke's family marks 17 years since her disappearance

Family and friends of Rachel Cooke gathered outside the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown on Thursday to remember the day she went missing 17 years ago. (CBS Austin)

Family and friends of Rachel Cooke gathered outside the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown on Thursday to remember the day she went missing 17 years ago.

“I replay that morning every hour on the hour in my head,” said Janet Cooke.

On January 10, 2002, Rachel Cooke was home from college when she went for a routine four-mile run. She was last seen walking Neches Trail near her family’s home.

She has been missing ever since.

“Panic, blank, what do I do?” said Janet when asked about what went through her mind when she first heard her daughter was missing. “Back then there weren’t’ a lot of (search) organizations that were around today,” she said.

Shortly after Sheriff Robert Chody was elected sheriff for Williamson County, he vowed to reactivate the Cooke case. In his three years in office, he’s recruited retired investigators from the federal, state and local level to comb evidence and chase leads for the county’s unsolved cases.

“Rest assured, (the cold case unit) are doing their best to find answers. We have a list of answers I gave you already that we didn’t’ have three years ago,” said Sheriff Chody.

In April 2018, Chody said the cold case unit helped recover a 1998 white Pontiac Trans Am in the Dallas area believed to be linked to one seen in the area where Cooke disappeared. Then in September that same year, the sheriff’s office said FBI investigators found the possible presence of blood on the passenger floor board.

The most recent development came near Georgetown where digs were conducted after tips came believed to be related to Cooke’s case.

No new information was revealed but each time family hears investigators were chasing new leads, they hold on to hope that Rachel will one day come home.

“I cross my fingers, say lots of prayers and hope maybe this time will be the time,” said Janet.

The FBI matched an established $50,000 reward for information that leads to her discovery. That reward is now $100,000.

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