43 years have passed since Tina Faye Kemp was last seen in Delaware
It’s been just over 43 years since 14-year-old Tina Faye Kemp was last seen in Felton, Delaware. Her older sister, Brenda King, has been searching for answers since February 3, 1979.
“Well, she loved horses,” Brenda told Dateline. “So she took care of the horses a lot with my father at the stables.” The siblings often spent time together watching Brady Bunch and Partridge Family, Brenda recalled. “She had a few friends at school but, you know, not a lot of friends.”
Brenda, who was 17 at the time, was at work that day. She told Dateline what their mother, Ruth, told her. “She thought Tina was outside hanging clothes and she checked her room,” Brenda said, “because I think I remember something about Tina saying she wasn’t feeling well.” But Tina wasn’t in her room, wasn’t outside, and no one knew where she was going.
“It was tough because, you know, she – she had been gone and eloped twice before, in just, say, a few months, to a boyfriend,” Brenda said. “So, you know, when it happened this time, it’s kind of what we thought – the same thing – that she had gone, you know, to the boyfriend’s.”
But she hadn’t. Tina’s boyfriend at the time, Eric, said he hadn’t seen her.
Brenda told Dateline that after coming home from work that day, she joined her mother in looking for Tina. “We went around looking at, you know, roads up and down,” Brenda said. “I don’t know what we thought we were going to find, but we felt we had to do something.”
They didn’t find her. “It wasn’t the same as today, you know, with all the alerts they send out,” Brenda said. “Now, you know, the whole town is going to get together and go looking for people. None of this happened.
Brenda remembered one of the times Tina had run away before. “I was going to work and she was walking down the road to – past Frederick, and me and my other sister stopped and picked her up and took her home,” Brenda said.
The Kemp family wasn’t so lucky this time around.
“The next day, we had a kind of blizzard. I think we had – I mean two feet of snow,” Brenda said. “It really shut down the area.”
According to Delaware State Police Public Information Officer Master Corporal Heather Pepper, Tina Kemp was officially reported missing on February 5 by her mother, Ruth Kemp.
Pepper told Dateline in an email that Tina was last seen wearing a white sweater, complete with a red and white flannel shirt, blue jeans, and red and white tennis shoes. She wore a gold band with white rhinestones and a leather bracelet with “Eric” on her left arm. None of these objects have ever been located.
Tina has blue eyes, a mole on her shoulder, and would be 57 today.
Dateline also spoke with Brenda’s daughter, Tina’s niece, Amber Barnes. “I know when I became a mom, I started asking my mom questions,” Amber said. “I just couldn’t figure out where she had gone or why we weren’t looking for her.”
Amber told Dateline that she started digging herself. “I started asking a lot of questions and joined, like, a bunch of web sleuths and things like that,” Amber said.
She also contacted Dateline to ask us to present her aunt’s case.
“I’m always like, ‘Where’s Aunt Tina?’ She just – there’s nothing,” Amber said.
“That’s what I think we both want – is to know what happened,” Brenda said. “It’s just – like she disappeared that day.”
Master Corporal Pepper said state police suspect foul play in the case. “Tina was very young when she disappeared,” she wrote in her email to Dateline. “And couldn’t afford to start a new life with a new identity.” There are no suspects or persons of interest at this time.
Tina Kemp has been listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Delaware Criminal Justice Information System (DELJIS), and NamUs databases. According to PIO Pepper, authorities have compared Tinas’ DNA to Jane Does’s DNA in their books in the past, but no one has been compatible.
Ruth Kemp died in 2011 without ever getting answers about her daughter. Tina’s four siblings, along with her father, submitted their DNA to one of the ancestry and family tree websites. “We thought between all of that maybe we would find some sort of match,” Brenda said. “But nothing. Nothing came.
After more than 43 years without an answer, Brenda hopes that more exposure to her sister’s story will help the police solve Tina’s case. “We were just talking the other night that we were going to go to the train station ourselves and sit there until someone brought us what we needed,” Brenda said.
Both Brenda and Amber agree that they need anyone who has met Tina, or remembers something from 1979, to come forward. Advice, observations, information – they hope someone knows something about Tina’s disappearance.
Delaware State Police have no new leads as to Tina Kemp’s whereabouts.
If you have any information on what happened to Tina Kemp, please contact Det. Mark Ryde of the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit at 302-739-5901. Information can also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333 or Delaware Crime Stoppers website.