The parents of missing Alabama woman Paighton Houston say they're desperately waiting for word on the whereabouts of their 29-year-old daughter.
The woman was last seen leaving a Birmingham bar with two men on Dec. 20. She later sent a troubling text from her phone. "I don't know who I'm with, so if I call, please answer. I feel in trouble," she wrote to a friend.
Her anxious mother says Paighton doesn't exaggerate. "If she said she is trouble, she's in trouble," her mom said. Charlaine Houston also said her daughter must have met the men before. "I just know her and she would not leave with someone she did not know."
Paighton was diligent about telling her mother where and when she was going, Charlaine said. "She called when she got to work. She called when she went on break and then when she was leaving," she said. "Whoever is holding her, I am begging you to let her go."
Reward money for information leading to the location of Paighton has reached $10,000, with Gov. Kay Ivey issuing 50% of that amount. "It is critical that we support Paighton, her family and law enforcement to ensure we do everything possible to bring her home," the governor said in a statement last week.
Paighton had gone for drinks with a few friends to see live music at a bar called the Tin Roof, police said. She left about 10:45 p.m., accompanied by two heavy-set African-American men, authorities said.
She appeared to leave willingly, police said. Investigators are reviewing surveillance video from the club, but have not publicly released it. Paighton sent the worrying text a little after midnight, officers said.
She is the third Alabama female to disappear in a high-profile case in the last two months. In October, 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris, vanished after stopping a convenience store. After nearly a month of searching, her body was found in the woods near Shorter. She had been shot to death.
The suspect in her killing faces a capital murder charge.
That same month, 3-year-old Kamille "Cupcake" McKinney went missing while playing outside a birthday party in Birmingham. Her body was found a week later, stashed in a dumpster. She had been suffocated, authorities said. Two suspects have been charged with capital murder in that case.
Law enforcement expert Steve Kardian, Inside Edition’s go-to consultant on all things security, offers these tips to women out alone:
“Walk assertively — shoulders back, chest forward," he said. "Present yourself as someone that's not easy to mess with."
Kardian tells women in his safety classes to go “back to basics,” adding that: “common sense needs to be employed better.
"Awareness, being situationally aware of your surroundings — listen to your intuition. Believe in that gut feeling. It's not gonna lie to you.”
A prayer vigil for Paighton Houston was scheduled for Monday evening at her family's church.