Cayce Lynn McDaniel, 14, had just completed her first day as a freshman at Milan High School in Tennessee. Cayce’s mom, Cindy McDaniel, describes Cayce as a good student, noting that she made straight A’s in middle school and was good at algebra. Cayce had dreams of becoming a physical therapist, and Cayce’s best friend, Amber Treadwell, said she was excited about starting high school and looking forward to the years ahead.
The same day Cayce started high school was also the same day that she was last seen by a credible source.
The night of August 16, 1996 — following the first day of the school year — there was a back-to-school party at the Double Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Milan, TN. The church also happened to be where Cayce and her family worshiped. When the party was over, Cayce was dropped off back home by a family friend, Pam King. Pam said she waited outside to make sure that Cayce got into the house safely. Once Cayce was inside, Pam drove away.
Sometime between 1:30 am and 2:00 am, Cayce’s mom Cindy arrived back home with her boyfriend after spending the night out at their own party. Cindy noticed that the television set in Cayce's bedroom was still on, but that the clothes Cayce wore to the party were laying out on the bed — indicating that Cayce had made it back home, settled into her bedroom, and changed into pajamas. Cindy also noticed a bowl of cookies and a glass of milk sitting on the floor. Walking further through the house, Cindy discovered that the back door was left ajar — but didn't immediately think anything of this, later sharing with investigators that it would often come open accidentally on its own.
It wasn’t until the next day, August 17, that Cindy couldn’t get a hold of Cayce at friends' homes or by calling that she grew worried, and reported Cayce missing to the police. Investigators went over to the house that night, but since there were no signs of a struggle or foul play, they say Cayce probably ran away. When Cayce still didn’t show up weeks later, they finally began searching.
Initial tips throughout the fall and winter of 1996 didn’t pan out, and the few unconfirmed sightings of Cayce — alive and deceased — all led to dead ends. A few local ponds were drained, but no evidence came of those endeavors. Then, in 2017, a podcast “Searching for Ghosts” dedicated time to bringing Cayce’s case back into the limelight, and this helped investigative momentum.
In 2018, a suspect was named — Finis Ewin “Pete” Hill. Finis’ alibi for the night that Cayce went missing never fully checked out, according to the FBI. Moreover, Cayce knew Finis and even called him “Uncle Pete” because of his close relationship with the family. Finis had a lengthy criminal history that later grew to include crimes against children. It was eventually discovered that Finis was at the same party that Cayce’s mom Cindy attended the night Cayce went missing, but that he left before Cindy.
Today, the case remains unsolved. In October 2019, 23 years after Cayce's disappearance, Finis was charged with Cayce's rape and murder — but he is awaiting trial in that case. Authorities haven't said much about the evidence against him, and they also haven't said anything regarding a possible location of Cayce's remains in connection to the homicide charges.