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Ohio 'missing women' case gives new hope to Tampa Bay area mother

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Hilary Sessions has had to cope, not knowing what happened to her daughter for 8,853 days. But she still hasn't given up hope she'll see her again.

"It's an instinct that we have," said Hilary Sessions. "We need to make sure that our babies are okay. Until I have a definitive answer - I'm going to be out here."

Tiffany was 20 years old when she went missing on February 9, 1989. She was in the second semester of her junior year at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Tiffany told her roommate she was going out for a power walk and promised her she'd be back before the roommate had to leave for an exam. She never came back.

"She was past the age of being abducted," her mom remembers thinking. "Who takes a 20-year-old? Well I found out that there are lots of us - families around the country - that have a missing child in that age group."

Tiffany left her wallet, keys, and car at the apartment. She was wearing a Rolex watch with a unique anniversary edition blue face on it. Hilary said as her family searched, they ran into legal obstacles.

"One of the biggest issues that we had was the fact she was over 18," she said. "At that time - you have the right to be wherever you want to be when you're over 18."

What's happened in Ohio this week strengthen this mother's resolve.

"Every time there's a recovery of a live person - it keeps my hopes alive that we'll be able to find her," she said. "It brings back and rekindles the hope that something like this could happen in Tiffany's case."

Hilary says not knowing what happened to her only child is the worst part. But this mother has turned grief into action. She's worked with several missing children organizations and has been an instrumental part in getting key legislation passed from a luring and enticing bill in 2006, which makes it easier for police to apprehend suspects who could be attempting a kidnapping; to pushing for all accused criminals to give DNA samples upon felony arrests.

One piece of Florida Legislature that passed in 2008 was named for her daughter: The "Jennifer Kesse and Tiffany Sessions Missing Persons Act." Governor Charlie Crist signed the bill, which broadened the authority of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse to provide assistance on investigations involving missing adults younger than 26 and missing adults age 26 and older who officers suspect could be in danger.

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