Social Media Frenzy Surrounds Two Missing Women – Police Say No Connection

Lora Costner

Lora Costner

Two local women, Inesha Haygood and Lora Costner, are missing and the circumstances surrounding their disappearances have created an atmosphere of fear in the area. Haygood went missing from Morristown on December 28, 2015. A few weeks later, on the afternoon of January 7, 2016, Costner went missing in Newport, Tennessee. Despite correlations that have been drawn between the two cases by some members of the public, the only commonality at this time appears to be that both women remain missing.

Haygood was last seen around 11am near her home on Lakeview Circle in Morristown. Costner has been reported to have sent a text around 4pm on the afternoon of her disappearance regarding a flat tire and her van was reported to have been found in a local church parking lot with a slashed tire. Neither woman has been heard from since they went missing, despite an exhaustive search by both police and their families. Rumors have been abundant surrounding the cases and most have been unfounded. Social media messages alluded to a search in a tomato field in Morristown for Haygood, but on investigation the particulars of the story did not stand up. According to Major Michele Jones of the Morristown Police Department, the search of a local tomato field was initiated by the family of the missing Morristown woman on the basis of information from a third party. Major Jones stated that the department did know that the family planned a search and was present at the time of the search. However, the Morristown Police Department did not initiate the search and found, upon intensive investigation, the lead regarding the tomato field to be false. Jones said that, to date, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has not been called in on the Inesha Haygood case. Typically, according to Jones, the TBI is called in if the department feels that it has exhausted all of its resources or the situation reaches outside the local authority. In the case of Haygood, there has been no evidence to indicate that she is not alive and did not leave on her on accord, which is not an illegal act. Major Jones indicated that the Morristown Police are only interested in the well being of Inesha Haygood and, while the investigation is still ongoing, there is hope that Haygood will contact the Morristown Police or her family to let them know that that she is okay.

Inesha Haygood

Inesha Haygood

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have confirmed that they have been called to assist in the disappearance of Lora Costner. Media Relations Officer for the TBI, Susan Niland, stated that they are assisting Cocke County Sheriff’s Department with the Costner case. However, Niland deferred to the Sheriff’s Department in regard to an assessment on the progress in locating Costner or leads on the case. Niland did provide a picture of Costner for the purpose of this article. No information was available from the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department at the time of press.

Chief Shults, of the Newport City Police,stated that he has been in touch with the Morristown Police Department and both Major Jones, of Morristown Police Department, and Chief Shults, agree that there is no correlation between the Haygood and Costner missing person’s cases. The Newport Police Chief was able to clear up other issues of concern that have been the topic of conversation on social media. According to Shults, an alleged incident at the Newport Walmart has been seriously misreported in social media and on the local rumor mill. Chief Shults stated that a businessman was handing out business cards at the local big box retailer and one woman reported becoming ill after handling the card, which she believed might be laced with drugs. Shults said that after investigating the incident it was found that multiple people had handled cards and there was nothing to indicate that there was anything nefarious regarding the business card. The “drugged business card” scenario is an urban legend that has been traveling through social media sites though there is no foundation to believe that any such incident has ever occurred and the Chief is certain that it was not the case in the recent Walmart situation. Additionally, there have been reports of a red mustang using a red light to stop individuals driving in Newport. Chief Shults stated that the car in question had been located and thoroughly searched but nothing was found. He said that the department made sure that there was nothing in the car to indicate that it was being used to illegally pull drivers over. Other incidents, including a juvenile rape case and a fourteen year old runaway case have also been misreported. Chief Shults said that in the rape case, the juvenile that reported the incident entered a true plea to falsifying a report and the runaway has been located. Both Jones and Shults encouraged citizens to be alert and practice good personal skills to help ensure their safety. It was asked that the public note that in Cocke County and Newport City, red and blue or just blue lights are used by officers. If there is a question regarding the validity of a police vehicle, drivers can call 911 and the dispatch should be able to confirm if it is a legitimate stop, or drivers can turn on their hazard lights to indicate that they see the officer and proceed to a well lit, public area. Chief Shults said that, while social media is a good tool to stay informed and it is more and more often employed by police departments, it is important to get information from official sites and avoid the social media frenzy where information is often inaccurate.

If you have information on Inesha Haygood, please contact Detective Phil Hurst at the Morristown Police Department 423-585-4675. Information on Lora Costner should be directed to the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department 423-623-6023 or the TBI tip line.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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