Volunteers search Polk County’s orange grove for clues about Tonya Whipp’s disappearance

AUBURNDALE, Fla. (WFLA) – Tonya Whipp’s loved ones are still desperately searching for answers, more than three months after the 38-year-old Auburndale woman disappeared.

Her family works closely with former Tampa Bay law enforcement officers who specialize in finding missing people.

We Are The Essentials organized a search Sunday afternoon in an orange grove near the cell phone tower where Tonya’s phone was said to have rang before she disappeared.

“This is an area that we can just cover thoroughly and say that we can 100 percent say we have it sorted,” said Amanda Reece, founding member of We Are The Essentials.

Robin Klotzbier came from Sebring to help search for her missing sister. The last time she spoke to Tonya was at the end of May.

“It’s difficult because we want to know where she is, and not knowing is the worst,” Klotzbier said.

Search organizers said Tonya was last seen wearing an olive green spaghetti tank top and khaki shorts before she disappeared.

More than 30 volunteers walked through each row of the orange grove, searching for items of clothing, Tonya’s cell phone and her necklace.

“She always wore a silver anchor necklace that her mother gave her and that was very precious to her,” Reece said.

Sunday’s search coincided with the anniversary of Tonya’s mother’s death.

“I’m asking my mother this morning to give me a sign,” Klotzbier said. “Today she’s been gone for eight years, so she’s looking down and helping us.”

This volunteer search for Tonya Whipp is in addition to the Auburndale Police Department’s investigation.

Towards the end of July, News Channel 8 was present when police executed a search warrant related to this missing person case.

Police said all evidence they found during that search was sent to the FDLE crime lab.

“Whatever (the police) can tell us, they try to tell us,” Klotzbier said, “but for the most part they keep it to themselves.”

As Tonya’s loved ones find it harder to hold on to hope with each passing day, the former police officers in “We Are The Essentials” don’t give up.

“We are determined to bring Tonya home,” Reece said. “As long as it takes, we’ll get Tonya home.”

Anyone with information about missing person Tonya Whipp’s case should contact “We are the essence” or Auburndale Police at (863)965-5555.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-266-TIPS (8477).

Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LauraCoffey@worldtimetodays.com.

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