SPRING, Texas -- This year marks the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of Michelle Prasek in Spring. All these years later, her family is still desperate to know what happened to their 12-year-old girl.
It's a time of year families are supposed to be happy, but a week before Christmas in 1997, Michelle vanished.
"I really do, I really do believe she is still alive,” said Beth Prasek, her mother. "I didn't believe anything bad had happened because those things don't happen...not to real people.”
Her mom left the family's home on Valerie Lane to take her younger daughter to daycare. She expected Michelle to catch the bus to school, but it's unclear if she ever made it.
"She was mad at me because I hadn't let her go shopping and I hadn't let her go stay with a friend,” Beth Prasek said.
It wasn't until the next day Michelle's mom called the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.
"They were looking at this initially as a potential runaway because things seem to add up to that,” said Captain Bryan Carlisle with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
A backpack, blanket and Michelle's 6-month-old kitten "Froggy" were also missing. When detectives visited Knox Junior High, a student told them Michelle was on campus and talked about running away. However, attendance records show she was never in class.
Over the years, volunteers passed out flyers, and Michelle's mom made public pleas. The parents are divorced. Michelle's dad lives out of town, and her mom admits her daughter was seeing a counselor, but never before ran away.
"It's our prayer that she is still alive, but we have to treat this in the manner that she's not,” Carlisle said.
When we asked Carlisle if the disappearance could have been staged, he said, “We don't rule anything out."
One person never ruled out Marc Seguin, who dated Michelle's mom at the time and lived with the family.
"We're still considering him a person of interest at this point,” Carlisle said.
Seguin left the house first that morning, but neighbors say he came back. Investigators told us he failed a polygraph.
"There were some subsequent tests that were administered where he didn't do well when it comes to, could her body be located somewhere, but beyond that, beyond having any other physical evidence our hands were tied," Carlisle said.
However, then came a twist. In a separate case, a jury convicted Seguin in 2005 for indecency with a child. Now, a registered sex offender he lives in west Texas.
"Detectives have met with him, they met with him immediately after him getting off probation and I'm going to tell you, at some point we are going to be talking to him again," Carlisle said.
Investigators have chased other leads. There were several attempted abductions reported near school bus stops in the month's following Michelle's disappearance, but there was no connection. All these years later, they're still looking for witnesses to come forward.
"It's still our contention there are people out there that know, that saw something, maybe had a conversation with her, it may not sound important to them but any detail helps," Carlisle said.
If Michelle is alive, she would be 32 years old with a birthmark on the palm of her hand. A daughter this mother hopes her voice can reach.
"We're still trying to find you, we still love you, and we still want to bring you home,” Beth Prasek said.
We talked to that person of interest, Marc Seguin, on the phone. He told us he had nothing to do with Michelle's disappearance and helped search for her. He says he still prays Michelle will come home. If you have any information about the case, please call Montgomery County Crime Stoppers.
Thursday is National Missing Children’s Day. KHOU 11 is raising awareness about missing children in Texas with the help of the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children. Michelle Prasek is one of a hundred missing kids we are featuring on our website.