When Tricia Todd first disappeared in April, family and friends were worried about the hospice nurse but not necessarily surprised. Todd occasionally would go on long walks without telling anyone, people who knew the 30-year-old mother told Martin County sheriff’s deputies. But there was one difference this time, family pointed out: Faith.
Her family said once Todd had her daughter, the little girl became her world.
“We both know Tricia would never abandon her own daughter. We know she’s like an overbearing nurturer,” Todd’s sister-in-law, Chasity, remembered telling Todd’s ex-husband, Steven Williams, according to recorded interviews. “We know she does stupid stuff and does little walks, and she’ll go out and have her time. … But this doesn’t look good. We know it’s not normal.”
After Todd, the Air Force veteran who was killed by Williams in April, went missing, her family and friends tried to put together what happened for themselves and investigators. They all agreed this time was different from past instances when she’d left without telling them, interviews and documents released by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office reveal.
When Todd’s white Dodge Neon was found near her home in Hobe Sound with the keys in the ignition and her purse still inside, her family knew she did not leave her life and her toddler behind willingly.
On April 27, Todd’s brother Jonathan reported his sister missing after her daughter’s babysitter called, saying Todd never picked her up. That morning, Todd was supposed to pick up Faith from Williams, who was in town visiting their 2-year-old daughter before he headed back to North Carolina. But Williams told the babysitter she wasn’t answering her phone and never showed up.
Jonathan Todd and Todd’s father, David, tried calling her, but her phone was turned off.
While detectives gathered information from family, Todd’s sister-in-law Chasity was on the phone with Williams. A detective spoke with him for a minute, and he told him “it was normal for her to disappear without saying anything,” and that was one of the reasons they divorced, according to the report. Williams explained, over the phone because he was already back in North Carolina, that Todd would leave in the middle of the night for 12 to 24 hours at a time.
Todd’s father asked detectives what they were doing about his daughter’s disappearance, and they said “it’s not illegal for an adult to disappear for a while if they choose to do so on their own.”
David Todd said his daughter — who divorced Williams in February — may have gone to the beach to read her Bible, like she did often, or was there talking with a man, like she had done in the past, but they’d find out once she came home.
For days the search spread dozens of miles across Martin County with the help of hundreds of volunteers. People reported suspicious things: A white van in and out of the neighborhood where Todd lived, discarded women’s clothes in wooded areas, a suitcase with women’s items, abandoned shoes and dried blood up a staircase at the beach.
A psychic even told deputies to let them know she had a vision about Todd: She was dead and a man “known to her family” took her body to the Hungryland Wildlife and Environmental Area. Weeks later, Todd’s body was found in a plastic storage bin filled with acid buried in Hungryland, along the border of Palm Beach and Martin counties.
A cryptic online journal Todd kept spoke of a man she was had a crush on and dreamed of being with.
Investigators spoke both with a man she had spent time with and a ventriloquist who performed at her church whom friends and family said Todd was “obsessed” with. The man said they only read the Bible together a few times on the beach and that he hadn’t spoken to her in a while. The ventriloquist said he had never met Todd, but had heard of her and “her crush” on him, so he tried to avoid her.
As investigators ruled out leads, one person kept popping up: Todd’s ex-husband.
Even Williams’s mother, who lives in West Palm Beach, told investigators her son had something to do with Todd’s disappearance. She said her son had a “hatred” for Todd and she believed the trip to visit Faith was an alibi so he could come and hurt Todd. But when she confronted Williams over the phone, he denied it, she told detectives.
Once detectives found a short, grainy piece of surveillance video that showed Williams walking from Todd’s home back to his Airbnb the last night Todd was seen alive, detectives knew they had him.
After nearly a month of searching for Todd, as investigators kept looking for connections to Williams, the 30-year-old North Carolina resident admitted to killing his ex-wife. Though he first told investigators that it was an accident, he and his lawyer presented a 35-year, second-degree murder plea deal in exchange for bringing the family to her remains.
When they pulled what remained of her dismembered body — her pelvis and a small portion of her upper thighs— detectives theories about her death being premeditated became a reality.
Read The Post’s complete coverage of the Tricia Todd murder at PalmBeachPost.com/triciatodd