KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Scott County Sheriff's Office reported William Cross as a missing person around 4 years ago. According to the missing person report, he was last seen on Williamsburg Street in McCreary County, Kentucky. State police joined the case on May 23, 2018, the report says.
However, despite two departments on the case, it's been a seemingly impossible one to crack. With every passing year, the family's frustration grows. They say the lack of information and new leads is devastating.
"We never went 3 days without talking to one another," Ashley Cross said.
Ashley and William were born only a year and a half apart. Their closeness in age led to a close bond in their teenage and adult years.
"We always kept in touch with each other even as adults, even when he'd be out in that world doing whatever, he still let me know he was OK," Ashley said. "I messaged him every single day. 'Bub, I love you. I hope you're OK.' And he always would say love you back."
William also had a close relationship with his mom, Robin.
"He grabbed me up and hugged me, like a bear hug," Robin said. "He'd pick me up off the ground. Hug me and tell me he loved me."
But, the older William got, the more distant he became. William got involved with drugs and struggled with addiction.
"When he got on drugs his personality changed," Robin said. "He wanted the drug. And he wanted the money. So he stole from me. He stole from [his sister]. He said things to us to hurt us."
Robin said her son weaved in and out of jail in Scott County for drug-related charges. He got out of jail just three days before he disappeared. Robin and Ashley said it wasn't out of the ordinary for William to wander back to McCreary County. They said that's where a lot of people in Scott County go to use, sell and buy drugs.
However, something was different about this time. William made no contact with anyone. He didn't answer Ashley's daily text messages, pick up any phone calls or post on social media.
"Even if he was strung out on drugs, he would always at least send me a thumbs up," Ashley said.
The family held out with no contact for 48 hours. That's the amount of time the family felt they had to wait before reporting him as a missing person.
Since then, police said there have been no tangible or concrete leads. The family endured all sorts of 'fake leads' from people who acted like they knew where William may be.
"In the beginning, I had hope," Robin said. "But, as you go through this process, the stories that people tell just torment you."
Robin and Ashley followed every single lead.
"We've heard that he was chopped up, burned, put down a well, laying in the ditch, and we checked all those places," Robin said.
They were all fake leads. One disturbing prank led by an unknown person particularly bothers the pair years later.
"One person went so far as to message me and tell me that I would find William wrapped in a blue tarp under the second bridge on Williamsburg street," Ashley remembered. "So, we went to the second bridge. And there was a blue tarp. And it was shaped like a body was underneath it. I had never been so scared in my life."
It wasn't William. It wasn't even a body. Just a blue tarp.
According to the family, it took the Scott County Sheriff's Office and Kentucky State Police around 10 weeks to enter William into the national dashboard for missing people, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).
However, by law, investigators must enter the missing person's information into NamUs after 30 days. This must include, if available: medical and dental records, and DNA information.
Robin is still very disappointed about the lack of urgency.
"Why would they care? He was nothing to them," she said. "But me? He was my baby, who I gave birth to. I taught him to walk to talk and to be a man.”
The family has conducted dozens of their searches. Oftentimes covering vast parts of the forested area of McCreary County. Ashley said she even walked the side of the road on multiple occasions simply smelling for a hint of a dead body, in hopes it would be her brother.
The family feels that spending 4 years with no answers caused them to take these drastic measures.
"I want the cops to look for him. I want them to search like he was their son," Robin said. "Nobody understands until it is their family. You know, it's one thing to sit out here on the street and gossip and tell these stories. But one day you could be in the same shoes as me."
William's family said they no longer think he's alive. They believe he is dead somewhere in McCreary County.
"When you lose your child, you know your child’s gone," Robin said.
But, that doesn't change the fact that they want to have a proper burial for their loved one.
Anyone with any tips, leads, or knowledge of William Cross' whereabouts report them to the Scott County Sheriff's Office at 423-663-3111.