Jennifer Wix was only 21 years old when she and her daughter Adrianna, age 2, were last seen by their family.
Since they were reported missing March 27, 2004, family and friends have worked to keep Jennifer and Adrianna Wix in the forefront of investigators' minds with annual motorcycle rides and even funding a billboard on Interstate 65.
While Jennifer's mother Kathy Nale once wished to find her daughter and granddaughter alive, now she prays for closure.
“I would like to bring someone to justice and to put somebody behind bars,” Nale said in an interview with the Robertson County Times. “If that don’t happen, what means more to me is knowing where they’re at, what happened to them, putting them in my family’s cemetery and having a place to take them roses on their birthday.”
The Missing Persons
Jennifer Wix and her 2-year-old daughter Adrianna were reported missing by Nale on March 27, 2004.
Wix's mother described her daughter as a “determined young lady and never a quitter.”
In an interview with The Vanished podcast, Nale's loss was palpable when she spoke of the efforts of herself and her family to keep the case in the public eye. Those efforts include the annual motorcycle ride and erecting a bench at White House High School in Jennifer Wix's memory on what would have been her 31st birthday.
“She is with me every day wherever I am in my heart but especially when I am on the grounds of her high school where I know and remember her spending some of the best years of her life, that is why I chose there to place the bench,” Nale told SmokeyBarn.com in 2013.
On March 27, 2004, Wix's mother reported her and Adrianna missing.
Wix and her daughter were last heard from on March 25, 2004. They were living at the home of William Joseph “Joey” Benton, who was Wix's boyfriend at the time. The trio lived in an outbuilding on property owned by Benton's parents.
Wix's father, Michael Wix, was the last person known to speak to her. He told deputies he talked with his daughter around 11 a.m. March 25, 2004. Michael Wix said his daughter spoke to him about arguing with Joey Benton’s family and that she looked forward to seeing him in Manchester, where he lived, on the following Sunday.
“Michael Wix has not heard from Jennifer since,” RCSO said in a press release.
Nale said she also spoke with her daughter earlier that day about arguing with Joey Benton.
When no one in the family had heard from Wix in a few days, Nale reported her missing to the Robertson County Sheriff's Office.
Nale said the Sheriff's Office treated the disappearance as a runaway for a few days before investigating it as a missing person case.
In the time following their disappearance, the Benton property in Robertson County was searched on four separate occasions. A pond on the land was even drained and searched, according to news releases from the Sheriff's Office.
In 2013, the Robertson County Sheriff's Office reclassified their disappearance from a missing person case to a murder investigation following new information that indicated foul play, Robertson County Sheriff Bill Holt told the Robertson County Times.
He added no one has been ruled out as a suspect.
The main suspect has been Joey Benton, Nale said in The Vanished interview.
In the interview, she described Wix and Benton's relationship as tumultuous, saying Benton was a violent man and had pulled a gun on Wix.
A few days before Wix and Adrianna disappeared, Nale said she had heard the couple arguing while talking with Wix on the phone.
But Benton's family feels he has been maligned.
His grandmother Carrole Benton said the Sheriff's Office has never had a suspect other than her grandson, but she doesn't believe he is guilty.
“I’m sorry she went missing, don’t get me wrong,” she told the Robertson County Times. “We loved that little girl. She would come up to the house and eat supper with us. So when they asked us, we let them search. We never refused. But, she’s not on our property. We don’t know nothing about it.”
Despite his grandmother's protests, Benton's statements haven't done much to help his cause.
According to RCSO, he has given several different statements. Initially, Benton said Wix left home with someone he didn't know. Then he said Wix asked him for a ride to a store in Cross Plains so she could use the telephone.
Benton told police he reportedly dropped off the mother and daughter around 9:30 p.m. March 25, 2004, at a nearby gas station. He said he parked across the street and watched as Jennifer got in a white four-door car about five to 10 minutes later.
Wix came home March 26, he said, to get some of her things, tell him she wanted to separate for a while and ask for her income tax return check. Benton said he told her his parents weren't home to give her the money. Wix reportedly told him she would come back for the money.
She never did.
Investigators have not been able to confirm Benton's version of events, according to WSMV.
“Despite countless hours of investigation and numerous interviews over the past nine years by Robertson County deputies and other law enforcement agencies, Benton’s assertions of taking Jennifer and Adrianna to the grocery store, the Exxon and then seeing Jennifer on the following day were never independently corroborated,” the Sheriff's Office said in a 2013 press release.
The Sheriff's Office nor Wix's family has given up on finding her.
"I strongly believe there are persons in this community who know what happened to Jennifer and Adrianna, but who have been reluctant to come forward for one reason or another,” Robertson County Sheriff Bill Holt said in 2013. "We strongly encourage our citizens to help us provide answers and closure to the family and, as circumstances warrant, justice to these two young persons.”
The Robertson County Sheriff's Office is offering a reward of $27,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the Wix's disappearance. Individuals can provide information by calling the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office at 615-384-7971 or via the department's Crime Tips page.