WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – A Washington County mother went missing from her sister’s home near Tennille, Georgia in the early morning hours of Monday, May 10, 2004. Now, there’s a Joint Task Force to help locate Sonya Tukes.
“Sleep with your window up. Sleep with your door open. But now, you better sleep with everything bolted down,” said Sonya Rogers, Tukes’ mother.
Washington County, Georgia, the first in the nation named for General George Washington, America’s first president. With a little over an hour drive to Augusta, this rural community was home to Sonya Tukes and her family when she was born in 1981. And in that quiet town, Susan Rogers still remembers what her baby’s cries meant.
Rogers told us, “Milk. Ready to eat.”
Rogers raised four children in the 80s and 90s in what she believed was a safe community. Barbara Tukes, Sonya’s older sister, remembers that time too, enjoying the simple life.
“Playing outside in the mud, playing Hide and Go Seek, jump rope,” she remembered.
Back then, the family said children played all day. By the time Sonya hit 9th grade, it was off to Washington County High School.
“You tell her to do something, she do it. She was a good, sweethearted person,” her mother said.
As soon as her high school career began, it abruptly ended.
“She probably would have finished school, but she got pregnant at a young age,” Tukes said of her sister.
Sonya became a mother at 15 years old.
“She was a good babysitter, so that’s how we knew she was going to be a great mom,” said Tukes, who is also a mother. “She used to always keep my nephew when he come from Atlanta. Bring him to me, I’ll keep him.”
The Tukes family described Sonya as a homebody. Mostly spending time with family and she attended church at Georgia Grove Baptist. She was protective of her son, Quantavious. Even giving her child’s father custody when he was taken away from her by the state. But her sister said there was one thing Sonya could not protect herself from, domestic violence.
“She met him at a young age and she couldn’t be apart from him. Then when the violence got started we used to always try to tell her you’re better than that. You don’t need that,” Tukes said.
Sheriff Joel Cochran, with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office sat down with Cold Case Project after alerting us of the Joint Task Force. He said there was violence involved prior to Sonya Tukes’ disappearance.
“It’s my understanding that she had had some interaction with law enforcement dealing with some domestic issues,” he said.
About a week before her disappearance, Sonya and her boyfriend got into a fight. Both of them were arrested. Tukes told us when she bailed her sister out of jail, she took her to her home, a trailer on Wimberly Circle in Tennille. She worked that week at a construction company contracted to lay down State Road 88. And that Sunday the family celebrated Mother’s Day with the matriarch of the family preparing the meal.
“I don’t know, I cooked too much. I cooked too much,” Rogers said unsure of the exact food they ate.
The kids came and ate as well.
“We left from down there,” Tukes remembered of her time with her sister after leaving their mother’s home. “We went to a bootleg and you know just out because it was Mother’s Day. She was like, I’m not going to be out late, let’s go on home. I can’t go to work drunk.”
Sonya took her 7-year-old son to his grandmother’s home on his dad’s side, so that she could work that week. Tukes said they went home, took a bath and went to bed.
“How I knew she was gone the next morning, her boss man called me and said hey, Tukes hasn’t showed up for work. I’m like that aint her,” Barbara Tukes said.
Tukes told us a friend her sister worked with called the home looking for Sonya as well, but she didn’t answer not wanting to get in between her sister’s two male companions.
Later, Cold Case Project learned what happened on Wimberly Circle in the early morning hours of Monday, May 10, 2004. Police said Sonya took a phone call around 1:15 in the morning. She stepped outside, leaving the back door slightly open. The 22-year-old was wearing her bedclothes; green shorts, a black t-shirt and black, flip-flop sandals when she disappeared.
Rogers said, “I was thinking, she’s probably with bread somewhere.” (“Who’s that?”) “Her boyfriend.”
But she never returned. The family filed a missing person report.
“I told the GBI that is not her. That is not her just to run off and leave that child.”
Alvin Cato was the initial investigator who went to the Tukes family home to take Sonya’s missing person report. And the family agreed, she would not have left her son Quan. Cato, who now works as Head Security at the Washington County Courthouse, helped with some of the searches, which took place behind the home she disappeared from, in the woods and along State Road 88 to the county line.
Captain Trey Burgamy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office met Cold Case Project in town where he believes it all started.
“This is where the phone call was received at the Tukes residence. There was actually a pay phone here back in 2004. Of course you see now today, it’s just an old metal box. But back then, it was actually two pay phones,” Captain Burgamy told Cold Case Project.
He said he started looking at the case one year after the disappearance. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and GBI found the number that called Barbara Tukes’ home and traced it back to the pay phone at the Citgo on Highway 15 in Tennille during the investigation. Tukes said she had Caller ID back then and her sister would have more than likely known that it was that pay phone and who the caller might be at that time of night.
“She knew it probably was him,” Tukes said. “He had called before off that number.”
“Only this person would know that Sonya was at Barbara’s house. This person knew Barbara’s phone number. And this person knew exactly what time to make that phone call and what to say and what to do to get Sonya Tukes to come out of that house,” Capt. Burgamy said.
While there is a person of interest in the case. There are no suspects.
In April, Washington County Sheriff Joel Cochran announced a joint task force has been created with agents from the GBI, the sheriff’s office and Sandersville Police Department to locate Sonya Tukes. He said law enforcement will re-examine any and all information along with look into new information and evidence.
In May, the task force held a candle light vigil at the court house for family and friends of Sonya.
“It would be good to get a total new set of eyes looking into what transpired back then,” the sheriff said.
For now, loved ones remember a young mother who loved Thanksgiving, music and had a large compact disc collection. They remember her love for her son too and her strength.
“Before she went missing, I guess she was trying to gain herself to leaven him,” Tukes said.
And while they remain hopeful, sometimes that can be too hard.
“Her head been resting,” her mother said tearfully.
Sonya Tukes, who would be 41 today, was last seen wearing green shorts, a black t-shirt and black flip-flops at her sister’s home on Wimberly Circle in Tennille, Georgia. Anyone with information about the her disappearance should contact the GBI at 478-374-6988, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 478-232-1366 or the Sandersville Police Department at 478-232-6138. You can call anonymously as well.
Next time on Cold Case Project we take you to Richmond County where Carl Collins Junior was murdered on Old Barton Chapel Road in September 2020. What family and law enforcement need to get justice and close the case.