Search for woman turns to Sumter

The family of Sandra Hamby Prince is offering a $50,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.

Published January 10, 2006

The hunt for a missing Temple Terrace woman has expanded to Sumter County, where search dogs scoured property that Sandra Hamby Prince owns on Lake Panasoffkee.

Lt. Bobby Caruthers of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said deputies brought out cadaver-sniffing dogs late last week to search 4746 County Road 300, one of several properties the 59-year-old social worker owns in that area.

Prince was last seen Dec. 30 at the Agency for Community Treatment Services Inc., where she has worked for almost 30 years. She was reported missing from her home on Moffat Place in Temple Terrace a week ago, when a neighbor called police, concerned that Prince wasn't following her regular routine.

Prince's family on Monday announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to her location.

"This behavior is so out of character for Sandra," family members said in a statement, describing her as a "responsible person, devoted to her family and her career. ... We do not understand this at all."

Sumter County sheriff's investigators also dug for evidence related to Prince's disappearance in a site currently being excavated at the Lake Panasoffkee County Road 300 address, Caruthers said. Nothing was found, he said.

Prince, twice divorced, lives alone in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood and has no children. Her mother, Dovie Hamby, resides in Boone, N.C., near where Prince was raised. She owns several rental properties in the Tampa area.

Longtime friend Jerry Horton, 53, said Prince told him and his wife that she was seeing someone with whom she owned property at Lake Panasoffkee. Property records show Prince co-owns a residence with Earl C. Pippin, a Tampa general contractor, at 887 County Road 482A at Lake Panasoffkee.

Contacted Saturday, Pippin first said he didn't own land with Prince. He then said he owns several properties around Lake Panasoffkee. Pippin also said he is not dating Prince, but has done work for her. He said he is trying to help police. He last saw her before Christmas, he said.

Pippin was at the lake "chopping wood because of anxiety," he said. "It's not like her to do that."

Temple Terrace police last week put out an alert for information from anyone who may have seen Prince driving her white 1994 Buick Park Avenue along Interstate 75 over the New Year's weekend. Police spokeswoman Paula MacDonald said the agency received information suggesting Prince had gone to north Florida, but gave no other details.

The car is sitting in the two-car enclosed garage, now sealed with red tape. Prince's home at 11057 Moffat Place was in impeccable condition when police arrived last week. The back door of the cream stucco home was unlocked. Her purse was not at the residence, MacDonald said. Neighbors said her cell phone was.

Neighbor Teree Miller, 38, said every time she turns onto the street, she hopes to see some sign of Prince. This Christmas, as in those past, Prince gave out poinsettias to neighbors and friends. "I hope if anyone knows anything, the Lord will just lay on them a heavy heart to come forward," Miller said.

MacDonald said Monday there were no new developments. She said she did not know if Prince was seeing anyone and declined, due to the investigation, to answer specific inquiries about who had been questioned.

Friends and colleagues have described Prince as caring and friendly, but also intensely private.

"She would hate, hate the idea of us talking about her," Horton said.

--Times news researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or 813 226-3383.