A Sumter mother is asking the public to look past her daughter's flaws as she and her family continue to search for Stacy Renee Lester, who has been missing for eight years.
Stacy lived a high-risk lifestyle, but she was more than her addiction, …
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Stacy lived a high-risk lifestyle, but she was more than her addiction, Ruby Lester, Stacy's mother, said.
Ruby last saw Stacy - her youngest child - on Ruby's birthday on July 31, 2009.
Ruby's oldest daughter asked her to pick up Stacy from Manning Avenue and bring her to her house.
After locating Stacy in the area, Ruby had a difficult time convincing her daughter to get in the car.
She was with some guy, Ruby said. He was short and had a hat pulled down over his face, and he didn't get close enough to the vehicle to get a good look, she said.
Stacy asked her mother to give her and the unknown man a ride, but Ruby refused. She told Stacy she had to go to work and that she would give Stacy a ride to her sister's house.
After an argument, Stacy got into the car but got out and walked away while they were stopped on Main Street.
Stacy looked pretty scruffy, which was unusual because she always made sure to look presentable, Ruby said. Stacy was also anxious when she got in the car, she said.
Ruby searched the area for her daughter but left and went to work after getting frustrated.
Stacy was reported missing three months later.
Ruby fell ill after July 31 and had a heart attack in September, and she stayed in the hospital in October after having triple bypass surgery.
She asked her five other children about Stacy, and they told her she was fine because they did not want to add any more stress.
"Nobody had heard from her," Ruby said.
Stacy has disappeared for days at a time to Myrtle Beach or Conway, but she always stayed in contact, she said.
Ruby later found out Stacy was last seen at Tuomey Regional Medical Center on Aug. 9, 2009, when she had a CAT scan of her head and foot.
"I think whatever happened to her happened in those first few weeks," Ruby said.
Stacy thought she was "street savvy," and she knew a lot of people, she said.
"It's painful, but I don't want her to be forgotten," Ruby said. "I'm holding out hope that Stacy left to live a better life."
It's easy for the public to write her off and say it's no big loss because Stacy lived a high-risk lifestyle, but she is loved, Ruby said. She belongs to a family that continues to feel her absence every day.
"She's somebody's daughter," Ruby said. "She's my daughter."
Sumter County Sheriff's Office has received a lot of Crime Stoppers tips since Stacy was reported missing, but nothing has been found yet, said Sgt. Wayne DuBose, an investigator for the sheriff's office.
Investigators have followed local leads and have interviewed people who were close to Stacy, he said.
There have also been calls from people who thought they saw Stacy, even in other states, but those women were not her, he said.
DuBose said he can only speculate that Stacy's lifestyle put her in a bad situation. Some drug users do overdose, and sex trafficking can happen anywhere, he said.
Though Stacy may not be in that boat, she is in that circle, he said.
There have been cases where people who were missing for years turn up fine, he said.
It is strange that Stacy has been gone for about eight years without contacting her family, he said.
Stacy Lester, now 31, has blond hair and blue eyes and is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Anyone with information about Stacy's location can give an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (803) 436-2718 or 1-888-274-6372. Tips can also be given by calling Sumter County Sheriff's Office at (803) 436-2000.
Information that leads to Stacy or that leads to an arrest in the investigation can result in a cash reward.
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