(NewsNation) — There has been a surprising twist in the investigation of a young mother from Mississippi who has been missing for more than two years.
Jessica Stacks, a 28-year-old mother, reportedly disappeared after taking a boat out with her boyfriend on New Year’s Day 2021.
Her boyfriend, 45-year-old Jerry Baggett, told police Stacks got out of the boat and he never saw her again.
But when NewsNation spoke with Baggett for this story, he gave a very different account, which contradicted everything reported about Stacks disappearance.
The Stacks family marked the second anniversary of her disappearance with a vigil.
Stacks’ mother, Cathy Paden, helped friends and family release sky lanterns on New Year’s Day to honor her daughter’s memory. Balloons reading “Let this light represent our love and compassion. We will never forget you” launched into the sky and candles floated on the Tallahatchie river where Stacks was reportedly seen last.
After Stacks disappeared, Baggett allegedly told police the couple borrowed a friend’s boat. Baggett and a passenger were seen on a surveillance video getting gas at 5:30 a.m.
The boat didn’t have a motor or oars. The pair planned to float down the river using a shovel to steer as they hunted for wild game stranded by the overflowing river.
Stacks reportedly left her phone with a friend so they could call to be picked up later.
The police report said the boat began taking on water, so they pulled onto a sandbar to empty the water out. When Baggett got back in, the boat started to move and Stacks got left behind. Later, he couldn’t find her.
Police searched the river and the area where Stacks allegedly left the boat, finding a coat, part of a boot, a pair of gloves and some footprints, but no sign of Stacks.
“It just doesn’t make any kind of sense at all,” Paden said.
Stacks’ family said they don’t believe the story and think something else happened.
“The whole story is just made up, there’s no way she would have been in a raging river. No paddle is in the boat, no motor in the boat,” said Sarah Hudson, Stacks’ step-sister. “He did something to her and then they fabricated the whole story of the boat.”
The family believes the surveillance video of Baggett at the gas station, including the door opening to show a passenger in the truck, was part of an effort to make it look like Stacks was there that morning.
“I just think it’s a hoax. I don’t think it was her in that truck, I don’t think she was ever in the boat,” Paden said.
When NewsNation reached Baggett by phone for this story, he told a very different story than what he told police.
He denied ever being on a boat with Stacks saying they never rented a boat because neither of them could swim. He claimed he was at work on Jan. 1, 2021.
“The last time I saw Jessica was a few days before then,” Baggett said.
NewsNation reported this information to the sheriff, who said he would take it to the district attorney. But he said since the interview wasn’t with police, he’s not sure if it will impact the investigation.
Paden said police have ignored evidence she has tried to share, and she wants an outside agency to look at her daughter’s case.
“I can’t hire no investigator, I can’t hire nobody because I haven’t got money to hire nobody. But somebody could see the stuff that I’ve got, they would know something happened,” Paden said.
Stacks’ family is upset the investigation hasn’t led to any answers or an arrest.
“I want to bring us closure. We deserve some kind of closure. Because Jessica didn’t just fall off the face of the earth. She didn’t just run away. And she damn sure wouldn’t run away from her kids,” Paden said.
The sheriff told NewsNation he took everything to the district attorney last summer and he determined there wasn’t enough evidence to call a grand jury or to convince a jury of a crime.
Whether the new information makes a difference remains to be seen.