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Where is Sabrina Long? Her family searches for answers 26 years later

Sabrina Long disappeared 26 years ago / Long family

Old photos and a faded note, all that's left of the 19-year-old neice Janice Hatchock remembers.

"Every chance she got she would come out to my house and we'd sit down and talk and laugh and cut up, that's the way our family is," Hatchcock said.

Nineteen-year-old Sabrina Long was like any other Macon teen.

"She was trying to figure out who she was, where she wanted to go in life," Hatchcock said.

She said that some memories have faded in 26 years.

"Sometimes it's hard to remember the voice after all these years but the laughter, when she laughed, that's something that stays with you," she said.

In her mind, her niece hasn't grown up.

"She's been missing more years than we had her, so just as she's starting to blossom and come out and be herself and find who she is and what she wanted to be, that came to a screeching halt," she said.

Sabrina worked the evening shift at Bibb Manufacturing Company. After work on August 13, 1991, she headed to her stepdad's home on Ashland Drive, driven by her boyfriend because her car wasn't working. Sometime between midnight and 1 a.m., she called her mom. A neighbor had asked Sabrina to come take a look at a birthday present for his mom. She told her mom if she didn't call back in 30 minutes, call the house.

"My sister said 'Well Sabrina I was asleep when you called me, I'll probably be asleep in 30 minutes,' and Sabrina said 'Okay mama, I love you,' and that's the last time anybody heard from her," Hatchcock said.

Retired investigator Mike Smallwood worked on Sabrina Long's missing person case for the majority of his career with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office.

"You worry about the ones you didn't solve," Smallwood said.

Smallwood retired in 2014, but he says his team used every tool available

"It was all out. We treated it like it might have been a homicide case," he said. "Interview people, run polygraphs."

But technology wasn't what it is today.

"Everything was done on a landline," said Shermaine Jones, captain of investigations at the Bibb Sheriff's Office. "Cell phones were out but they weren't that prevalent to everybody, so trying to backtrack all that kind of stuff was kind of difficult for those investigators."

Jones is one of the people on the case now. He says it wasn't necessarily strange for Sabrina to head to a neighbor's house late at night.

"She was just doing the neighborly thing; you know you're a female, do you think my mom would like this," he said.

Hatchcock that to her, it seemed strange Sabrina called her mom and asked for a call back. Jones said that there is another strange situation tied to a job application at Geico.

"She received a phone call from a guy about a job at Geico. Well, in the investigation they found there was no such person," he said.

Another detail Jones said raises a red flag, Sabrina's purse was still at home.

"That was very suspicious. I look at my daughter, my wife, my mother, if they move from room to room sometimes, it goes with them, so again, small things like that throw up red flags for investigators," he said.

Hatchcock said that the book Sabrina was reading was still on her bed, left halfway open.

Not knowing what happened has taken a toll on the family.

"It's like a cloud over the whole family, the cousins, all the aunts, our sister in particular," Hatchcock said. "She's just not the same person anymore since Sabrina went missing."

She said that every time they hear that human remains have been found, an awful hope springs up.

"First thing you think is 'Oh my gosh could this be it.' That's a terrible way to live your life, to almost wish that it would be. At least there would be some kind of closure," she said.

GBI agent Madison Holland said that in the past year, they've collected new DNA samples to send to a national database.

"So if remains were found, we could compare them with the DNA to see if they do belong to Sabrina," he said.

Hatchcock said that as awful as that would be, it would be enough.

"I think as time has gone by we've realized that we won't have her back physically, our Sabrina, but we want to find her. We want to find out what happened, and we want closure. More than anything we want closure," she said.

If Sabrina is still out there somewhere, her family is still waiting.

"Our love for her has just grown more and more and more over the years," Hatchcock said. "We miss her so, so much, and we want [her] home. It's been too long. We've missed the possibility of her being married, having children, so much, just way too much. Our love will never stop."

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