In 2007, Tanya Rider was a 33-year-old living in greater Seattle. She and her 39-year-old husband were both extremely busy working multiple jobs at all hours of the day in order to save money to build a home.
On September 20 that year, Rider finished her night shift at a grocery store and planned to drive home to rest before her second shift at a clothing store. She never showed up. Because of the couple’s busy work schedules, her husband did not realize she was missing until September 22 when her coworker called him to ask why she hadn’t shown up for work. When he called police, they told him Tanya was an adult, not a missing person. He asked them to trace her cellphone, they refused. Rider’s husband remembers exactly what the police told him when he begged for help, “She’s an adult, she can go where she wants and she does not have to tell you a thing.”
Police say they did not investigate the case at the beginning because when they looked at Tanya Rider’s bank account, they saw activity. For some reason, they didn’t think to ask whether her husband had access to the account. He did. What police saw was her husband using the account as normal.
Desperate to be believed, Tanya’s husband approached police a week after her disappearance and volunteered to take a polygraph test and have his home searched. They finally got the ball rolling. An often repeated idea about missing people is that if you don’t find them in the first 24 hours, you never will. 8 days after Tanya Rider disappeared, she was found alive. There was no foul play.
When police tracked her cellphone, Rider was found trapped upside-down inside her vehicle, twenty feet away from a busy road, but hidden in a bushy ravine. She had a dislocated shoulder, two broken bones and was so dehydrated her kidneys were failing. One of her legs was close to needing amputation. Tanya says she does not remember the car accident that landed her car in the ravine but that she woke up horrified and spent 8 days trying to reach her cellphone to call for help and praying that someone would find her. She recalls seeing the phone light up as people called her, but being unable to unbuckle her seatbelt to reach it. She could hear the cars and voices on the highway, only twenty feet away. She had no food or water.
Her husband believes the police not taking him seriously delayed the investigation to the point that it took 8 days to find her car when it was so close to the road.
Police have defended their slow response to Rider’s disappearance. Deputy Rodney Chinnick of the King’s County sheriff said, “We don’t take every missing person report on adults. … If we did, we’d be doing nothing but going after missing person reports.”
Tanya Rider’s story was told on the “No Exit” episode of Disappeared in the show’s second season:
She has since written a book about her experience, Missing Without a Trace: 8 Days of Horror.