While it may seem impossible for someone to disappear without a trace in this day and age, people go missing every single day. Authorities have to be very disciplined in the beginning of any missing person case to ensure they don’t develop what many people call “tunnel vision”. Tunnel vision is when authorities early on develop a theory and try to prove that theory instead of keeping the mind open and looking for all possibilities. With any missing person case the rule of thumb is that every hour and day that goes by the chances of finding that person safely gets slimmer and slimmer.
In early February 2018 authorities in Alabama were faced with an extremely difficult case to solve. Lisa Holman went out with a friend on a Friday night and simply vanished. When she never returned home, her family knew something was wrong. The Alabama mom had disappeared, and as hours turned into days, her family feared they’d never find. It was a true race against the clock and the stakes were life or death….
A Night Out
On Friday, February 9, 2018, Lisa Holman had made plan’s with a friend of hers who she had not seen in some time. She told her family she would be out that night visiting and getting dinner with her friend in the area of Helena, Alabama. Helena was usually only about a half an hour drive from her house where she lived in Chelsea, Alabama.
Every mother deserves a night out with a friend and Lisa was no exception. She looked forward to nights out with her friends and was very excited to head to dinner and be able to let loose a little bit. While she loved her family she also loved spending fun times with her friends and enjoyed their company.
Never Came Home
Lisa’s family knew she’d be out all night so it was not alarming as the night grew on and she did not arrive home. When the 45-year-old mother still hadn’t returned home by 11 p.m. it was a bit odd as that was a lot later then Lisa would normally stay out to. The family started to get a bit worried at it wasn’t like Lisa to stay out that late.
As 11 pm passed and it was getting closer to midnight her family began to wonder where Lisa was. They called her phone but did not get any answer. Next they texted her saying to please call as soon as she see’s the text but never heard back. Her Family knew something had to be wrong since she didnt answer their calls or text messages. Staying out later then usual was one thing but not responding to calls or text’s was something entirely different.
She Left Dinner Fine
The family then reached out to Lisa’s friend who she was having dinner that evening with. When they got in contact with her she was surprised Lisa had not come home yet. According to Lisa’s friend, she hadn’t heard anything from the 45-year-old and just assumed she had gotten home safely after she left to drive home a little after 9 that night.
Lisa left in fine spirits and was totally normal. She was not drunk or under the influence of anything so there was no concern for her safety going home that night. What was very concerning to the family though was that she left dinner at 9pm she should have been home by 9:30pm. It was not close midnight and their was no contact with Lisa. As the sun began to rise on the next morning there was still no sign of Lisa.
A Night of Wonder
The family sat up all night wondering what was happening and their biggest fears began to sink in. They thought about calling the police that evening but was optimistic that this was just a mistake and there was nothing afoul. The police typically don’t define a person missing unless their is no contact for 24 hours so all the family could do was sit home and wait.
It was a vey long night where the feared the worse. Trying to go to sleep knowing Lisa was out there somewhere and possibly needed there help was impossible. The family sat up all night pondering if something happened to her? Was she kidnapped? Who would want to her hurt? So many questions that they would eventually get answers to.
Retracing Lisa’s Steps
Early that Saturday morning, Lisa’s sister, Kathy Holman Caufield, and Lisa’s 17-year-old son, Jackson couldn’t sit around waiting any longer and decided to go looking for Lisa. At this point she was not gone for 24 hours so they thought that they couldn’t get the police to help them and did their own search initially for Lisa.
To start their search, the pair decided to retrace the route Lisa would have taken to Helena, Alabama. They felt this was the most practical strategy and would help once they got the authorities involved. They decided to drive along the route that Lisa would have taken to dinner and carefully look for any clues for her along the way.
The Car Crash
At first when they were driving they saw nothing that stood out. They wondered if this was a big waste of time. But then while driving along County Road 36 in Pelham, Jackson spotted what looked like a car. The car looked as if it had crashed off the side of the road and told his aunt to pull over. They were both shocked and astonished to find something they thought could be Lisa on their search.
Jackson was unsure if it was his mom’s car but whoever it was needed help. Jackson and Kathy both pulled over on the side of the road and began calling out Lisa’s name in hopes they would hear a response. After a few minutes when they heard nothing they decided they were going to go in the woods.
The Car is Found
As they entered the woods and their hearts were both racing in anticipation of finding Lisa. As they got closer they realized it was Lisa’s car and immediately thought that they finally found her and things would be ok. The terrain was tough and as they approached they felt a sigh of relief but this would only become the beginning of this terrible ordeal.
According to Lisa’s sisters estimation, the car had slid off the road and down a 20-foot embankment. “I fell down the hill trying to get to her,” said Kathy. Kathy then ordered Jackson to stay back as she did not want him injuring himself due to the rough terrain.
Calling For Help
Kathy then immediately asked Jackson to call 911 since she wasn’t sure what she was going to find in the car. Kathy feared that Jackson would see something that would cause great anguish to him so she wanted to protect him. Jackson ran back and immediately dialed 911…
As Jackson waited in anguish as he saw his aunt searching the car he did not get the reaction from his aunt he was hoping for. He expected her to say “we found her” but those words were never muttered out of his aunts mouth. Now Jackson was hoping the police got there quickly as he realized this situation was much worse then he had thought.
Hoping For The Best
Kathy finally got down to the car in the embankment and began calling her sisters name. She assumed she would hear now that she was closer to the car but she didn’t hear anything. Her anxiety and fears began to rise thinking the worse had happened but it was very odd to her that she found the car but no Lisa!
Kathy finally got to the car and she recounted “I finally ripped the (car) door open and she’s not in there,” Kathy said. Based on the condition of Lisa’s car, it was obvious it was a bad crash, so Kathy started looking around the area for Lisa thinking she may have been thrown out of the car on impact. Looking at the area surrounding the car there was no sign of Lisa at all…
The First Good Sign
While looking around the car, Kathy first noticed there wasn’t much blood. By not seeing any blood she believed that was a good sign that she was alive. This gave her hope that Lisa hadn’t been badly injured in the wreck. Then out of the blue Kathy noticed another good sign….
From a distance Kathy saw an item on the ground. She was not sure what it was initially but it looked to be something of Lisa’s. As she walked closer she discovered Lisa’s purse and said that it had looked like it had been intentionally placed on the ground. At that point in time Kathy later said “I knew then that she made it out…”
No Stone Left Unturned
At this point after discovering what they discovered they felt that she must be in a hospital by now. They assumed Lisa was in a crash and was taken to the hospital and nobody had contacted them just yet about it. Kathy and Jackson started calling all the hospitals nearby to see if Lisa had been admitted, but there were no patients that matched her description. This left them in total shock….
Kathy and Jackson assumed their must be a mistake and the hospitals had the wrong name. Lisa’s sister said “We called them multiple times,” and “I know we drove them crazy.” This was deeply troubling to the both of them and since there was still no sign of Lisa, her family tried to guess what had happened to her.
The Three Theories
The family came up with three theories as to what could have possibly occurred to Lisa in order to solve the mystery and bring home Lisa safely. After speaking with everyone and putting together all the details they though they had it figured out what could have happened to her…
The first theory was that Lisa must have after crashing her car got out and got lost in the woods. This would make sense as she was literally nowhere to be found and they knew the car crashed. The one thing that threw them off about this theory was why she left her bag behind? It didn’t make sense that she would leave the bag especially in a way that made it seem as if she left it on purpose.
Their second theory was that after the crash she got out of the car alive and ok. They felt that she then must’ve walked back to the street to find help. It was late and dark out and the road was poorly lit so finding help would have been a bit difficult.
They thought she must have walked into the street when she saw a car come and got hit by the car. The car probably thought they hit a deer or animal and continued driving. This would explain why they were unable to find her body by her car. Maybe they just searched in the wrong area and had to expand the search area?
Their third theory was that after the crash she was badly hurt and weakened. Somebody driving by must have seen the crash and went down to see what was going on and saw her lying there all alone in the woods by herself.
The person though, was not there to help and had sinister intentions in mind. Instead of helping her, they abducted her and took her away. While this seems far fetched it would explain why their was no body and why her purse was left behind. So which theory was it they pondered?
The Search Begins
After some time to calm down the family called the police. Not long after, Pelham police and firefighters and Shelby County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene of the accident and began their first search. Although Lisa was not missing for 24hours the police had a car crash and can start there investigation early. Finding Lisa’s car and getting the police involved early would be a pivotal key to solving the mystery…
The search initially focused on a 200-foot circumference around Lisa’s car and 20 yards on both sides of the road. The authorities set up a grid of the area and assigned different search groups different area’s of the grid. Each group was to report back their findings.
Gone Without A Trace
The search team combed through their grids inch by inch looking for any clue possible at what had happened. These searches can be very tedious to those involved as you must line up shoulder to shoulder walk. It is very strenuous on the searchers as they must walk through tough terrain with their head down most of the time looking at the ground.
At one point they found what they thought were glasses and the group got very excited. Authorities raced over to determine if it was a piece of evidence but ultimately ruled it out as just garbage in the woods. Lisa did not wear or have glasses so they could not be hers. The searchers continued on none the less determined to find a clue…
Despite their best efforts, there was still no sign of Lisa and any tracks or traces of where she had disappeared. Then to make matters worse it began to rain during the search hampering the search teams efforts. Due to the train the search team was called back and the search was put on hold. Lisa’s family was devastated…
Authorities decided that the needed to keep the search going even if it was raining as time was of the essence and at this point time was also not their friend. They went “high-tech” by bringing in drones to search for her which would use a camera as well as a heat detector. “They flew the drones over there the whole afternoon and night,” Kathy said. “They found several heat sources, but they were transformers and deer…”
24 Hours Later
When the sun started setting, the search was called off and scheduled to restart at 6 a.m. the next morning. The family was not in good spirits as they had to go home empty handed with not much more information then when they had first started. Kathy decided to stay the night at her sister’s home with Jackson and her 15-year-old niece Anna Grace.
The family was very disappointed but remained optimistic. “I’m sitting here. In my sister’s house. The quietness is deafening. My heart is broken. My spirit is broken. My hope is gone,” said Kathy, who couldn’t sleep knowing her sister was hurt and possibly in danger. She had to stay strong though for Lisa’s kids.
As the family sat there in Lisa’s house they could only wonder if any of their three original theories were right. It was a grueling experience to have to sit there all alone and wait and hope and pray for good news. Everyone know’s that every hour someone is missing the chance of finding them goes down significantly.
“The unknown is tearing me apart…Is she cold? Is she hurting,” Kathy asked herself. “Does she know we are desperately trying to find her? Is she alive? Did someone take her? How can you vanish after being in such a horrible car accident? So. Many. Questions…”
The Search Resumes
Early the next morning the family and friends from the first search gathered at the site to resume searching for clues or some sign of Lisa. What they didn’t know at that time was that on this day they were finally going to get answers to all their questions and it would shock them to their core.
Pelham police and firefighters, Shelby County sheriff’s deputies, Shelby County EMA, the Chelsea Fire Department, the Childersburg Rescue Squad, the Alexander City Rescue Squad, Regional Paramedic Service, SAR K9’s of Alabama, the American Red Cross, the Red Mountain Search Dog Association, Lisa’s friends and family members, and strangers from the community came together to form a search party of nearly 500 people this time around.
The Search Heads Out
At 7:15 that Sunday morning the first search team went out with directions from the authorities and were each given their specific grids again. Along with drone’s they also sent out tracking dogs this time in hopes of the dogs picking up a scent on Lisa.
The teams were sent further into the woods this time as the grid expanded as the initial grid had already been cleared. The authorities were cautiously optimistic with how far they expanded. What they didn’t know at the time was what they were going to find so deep in those woods….
The 35th Hour
The team had been walking throughout the woods calling out Lisa’s name for about an hour. The dogs were barking and overheard the sound of buzzing was coming from the drones above. As they called her name again they heard a voice scream back. At first they thought it was another search party but then…
They heard Lisa calling back screaming “help me, help me, I’m over here”. At this point the search team knew it was not another search team yelling back and that it was in fact Lisa. They had found her! But what was her condition and was she safe?
Under a Rock
700 feet from where her car was located they had finally found Lisa. When the search team approached they approached with caution as they did not know the condition she was in just that she was alert enough to scream for help.
At 8:14 in the morning the team ended up locating her huddled underneath a rock for shelter. “I’m basically jumping up and down in the car,” said Kathy, who was already on her way to the scene when she received the call that her sister had been found.
Immediately authorities and paramedics came racing to the scene. It was chaotic as they needed to get all the people who were out searching away from Lisa so they can get in and do their job in finishing rescuing her.
Authorities knew how long Lisa was out there for and knew she would be in dire condition. She had gotten into a bad accident and then was out in the woods all alone for almost two days. She lived this long so they wanted to move fast to save her.
Rescue workers were able to get Lisa out of the woods and then rushed to the hospital to be treated for her injuries. They were able to tell right away that Lisa was in bad shape and believed her injuries were life threatening.
Once she arrived at ER she went through a ton of tests and x-rays and body scans. They concluded her injuries were which a broken clavicle, 6 cracked ribs, a fractured C7 vertebrae, and a lacerated spleen. Now authorities wanted to know what had happened…
After a few days authorities were finally able to speak with Lisa and find out what exactly had happened. Lisa explained that she passed out after her car slid off the road in the rain about a mile away from her home.
Lisa explained “She doesn’t know for how long but when she came to, she thought the car might explode and she knew she had to get out,” her sister Kathy explained. This explains why she was found so far away from the car and how they missed finding her during the initial search.
Lost In The Woods
Even with all her injuries, Lisa managed to climb into the backseat and was able to get out of the car. “She stumbled out of the car and went 10 or so feet, put her purse down and decided she needed to try to find help,” her sister Kathy said.
While walking, Lisa lost her bearings and was unable to figure out the direction she was walking in. She got lost and ended up walking deeper into the woods instead of to the road. “She said just wandered that whole first night,” Kathy added…
When the sun started to rise, Lisa was exhausted and in pain, so she found a rock overhang and crouched underneath for shelter as it started raining again. “She said she prayed the entire time,” Kathy said.
All alone, injured and cold lost int he woods by herself was List. “She just knew she had to get out and get help.” 35 hours after the crash, help finally arrived when the search team finally found her.
The Power Of Prayer
Throughout this entire ordeal the one constant for Lisa was the power of prayer. Every minute she prayed that someone would find her. As scared as she was she turned to her faith in hopes of living to see her son again.
“We’ll never be able to express our gratitude to everyone who has called, texted and prayed. Thank you seems so inadequate,” said Kathy. “Believe in the power of prayer,” she added. “I believe angels were watching over her and protecting her every step of the way. I don’t have any shadow of doubt about that.”
A few days into her recovery Lisa met with a few of the nearly 500 volunteers who had serached to find her. Still in her hospital bed she laughed and smiled with the rescuers and released a statement thanking everyone.
For someone who felt that she might not make it out of the situation alive Lisa was with extreme gratitude to every single person who spend any time searching for her and looking to rescue her. Her Statement read…
The Family Statement
“Needless to say, the last two days have been very emotional for our family. Lisa’s rescue Sunday morning was definitely an answered prayer,” the family released on the facebook page of the police department.
“Amazingly, she has suffered only a few broken bones and other minor injuries as a result of the accident. Her ability to withstand these injuries, the weather conditions, and the length of time in the woods is a testament to her resiliency.”