Mother of TSU student missing for 36 years pleads for answers

Posted at 9:35 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 23:19:37-04

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee State University student and young mother mysteriously disappeared, and 36 years later, her family is still waiting for answers.

Alice Sullivan grew up in Gallatin and attended Gallatin High School. She enrolled in classes at TSU, pursuing a major in business. Her mother said she had a bright future ahead of her.

"She said, 'when I get me a good job, I am going to take care of you,'" recalled Lilly Sullivan, Alice's mother. "She was all about going to school."

The 20-year-old also had a 3-year-old son and was very close with her family.

"Me and her were best friends and daughter and mother all round up in one," said Lilly Sullivan.

In August of 1986, Alice was living with her boyfriend at the Town Terrace apartments not far from the TSU campus. She was just starting her sophomore year. On August 28, 1986, Metro Police said Alice dropped her son off with a neighbor in the morning and left for school. She attended her 8 a.m. class and visited with friends at the Hankal Hall dormitory, but did not attend her 1 p.m. class. She was last seen walking on campus near the Gentry Center.

Lilly Sullivan said she knew something was wrong when she didn't receive her normal nightly phone call from Alice.

"It's strange when she don’t call me," said Lilly Sullivan. "She would call me at night, sometimes twice. I said, 'you are going to have my telephone bill sky high.'"

Lilly said she called Alice's apartment and her boyfriend answered and said Alice hadn't come home the night before, and he was watching her son. Lilly said this was odd because Alice had said in the past she didn't want to leave her son with her boyfriend.

The Sullivans ended up staying in Alice's apartment for several weeks as they waited for her to return, but she never did.

"The pain don’t go away," said Lilly Sullivan. "It still hurts. It hurts like it happened yesterday."

Metro Police Detective Matthew Filter with the Cold Case Unit said foul play was likely involved in Alice's disappearance. There are still two persons of interest in the case, but detectives need more evidence to make an arrest.

"For her to up and disappear, it has to be something on a personal level," said Detective Filter. "Someone close to her is likely involved in it."

Lilly said just weeks before Alice disappeared she said she wanted to move back home and commute to school, but never offered an explanation as to why. She said Alice vanished before she could find out more information.

Detective Filter said even though 36 years have passed, a tip with new information could still provide the break they have been waiting for. He said as years pass, sometimes people with knowledge of what happened feel more comfortable talking to police.

"A lot of times, just being able to tell the family this is what we know happened is something that really helps give them some relief," said Detective Filter.

Lilly Sulllivan said Alice's son remembers his mom disappearing, but doesn't like to talk about it. He is now 39 years old and lives in Gallatin.

Lilly Sullivan said she believes her daughter is deceased, but she still hoped someone would come forward with information that would give her closure on what happened.

"Someone out there knows something, but I don’t know why they don’t want to come forward. I don’t know why," said Sullivan.

Alice was 5'2", 90 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing black jeans, a black and white shirt, and a black silk jacket.

If you have any information on what happened to Alice, please call the Metro Police Cold Case Unit at 615-862-7329, or Nashville Crime Stoppers at 615-74-CRIME.