Tamika Huston’s family knew something terrible had happened to her when she seemingly abandoned her beloved, and pregnant, dog.
The 24-year-old nursing student and waitress vanished in May of 2004 from the house she owned in Spartanburg, South Carolina. But as her aunt, Rebekah Howard, says in “Black and Missing,” a four-part docuseries streaming on HBO Max, Huston’s disappearance received little attention in a media cycle dominated at that time by stories about Natalee Holloway, and “Runaway Bride” Jennifer Wilbanks.
“I was sending (press) releases, I was calling producers, I was calling news desks, every network, every website I could think of, and I hit a brick wall,” Howard told the producers of the new HBO series. “In my mind I’m thinking, ‘Well, here’s my niece. She’s young, she’s beautiful, she’s missing. Her story is just as compelling.’ The only difference is that Tamika’s Black; Natalee Holloway is white.”
“Black and Missing” focuses on the consistent devaluation of Black victims and missing persons. As the series points out, most people can’t even name three missing Black people. The show follows the Black and Missing Foundation founders Derrica and Natalie Wilson, who are sisters-in-law, as they bring attention to how missing Black people are treated in the media and by law enforcement.
Huston’s family knew that something must have happened to her because her beloved dog was left alone in her house when she vanished, something she would never do. Because she lived alone, she wasn’t reported missing right away and when a welfare check was done on her house, her pregnant pet pit bull Macy was found inside. The distressed dog had given birth and eaten most of her puppies. Huston’s loved ones said she had treated the dog like a child, ABC News reports. They further reiterated in “Black and Missing” that she would never, ever abandon Macy.
Her family was right. But public attention was focused elsewhere.
Huston’s acquaintance Christopher L. Hampton was charged in 2006 with her murder and later pleaded guilty while admitting to killing her with a hot iron during an argument at his apartment. He led officials to her remains, which he buried in a wooded area of Spartanburg County. He received a life sentence as a result.
Howard told National Public Radio that if Huston’s case had gotten attention earlier, maybe it could have been solved quicker. The outlet pointed out that both “runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks, who ran away from home in 2005 to dodge marrying her fiancé, as well as the 2005 trial for the Laci Peterson case largely overshadowed Huston’s. Both of those women were white.
“We can name the Natalee Holloways, the Chandra Levys, the Gabby Petitos. This is no disrespect to their families, but our missing matter, too,” Natalie says in “Black and Missing.”
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