‘I’m scared to death’ Search for missing Elk County man continues

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ELK COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Police are still investigating the disappearance of a 25-year-old from Elk County who went missing in Pittsburgh on Jan. 23.

The circumstances around the disappearance of Thomas Hughes are leaving his family and investigators searching for answers.

Thomas and his girlfriend, Regan Ruff, traveled from Ridgway to Pittsburgh Jan. 23 to visit his parents. That night, he went to the upstairs bathroom and locked himself inside.

“His dad had gone up multiple times to check on him,” Ruff said. “I myself went up multiple times and he just kept saying that nothing was wrong.”

His father, Tom Hughes, said the next he knew, Thomas was running down the stairs, saying “could you just trust me this one time?” before getting into his minivan and leaving. His father followed shortly after, but could not find him.

“I was driving everywhere and calling all his friends and no one knew anything,” he said.

The police were called and the search began. Surveillance video captured Thomas at a gas station, then driving the minivan through the city. He was last seen heading toward the Monongahela River. The final video was captured at 3:38 a.m. His vehicle was eventually found by his parents on 18th street near Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh.

“Everything was in there. The only thing that was missing was him,” his father said.

His keys were still in the ignition and his belongings were still in the minivan. Police spent days canvassing the area and searching the river. They came up empty-handed.

“It’s just like he literally disappeared,” his mother Jeanene Hughes said. “Every time I close my eyes I see horrible images of possibilities.”

“He walked in a room and he just shined. People gravitated to him,” Jeanene said. “Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. Was he perfect? No. I’m saying it as if he’s not here. Is he perfect? No. But he’s my imperfect son.”

His phone and credit cards haven’t been used either. Ruff has known Thomas for seven years and said she hasn’t noticed any odd behavior.

“In my eyes Tommy is perfect,” Ruff said. “He’s outgoing, he has a heart of gold. When it comes to my kids he’s a great father figure, a great stepdad.”

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When asking Ruff if she believes Tommy is still alive, she responded “In my heart. And maybe it’s me being selfish but yeah. I truly believe that he’s still alive.”

“I don’t know…I don’t know and I’m scared to death,” Jeanene said. “He’s out there somewhere. Whether he’s dead or alive, I still want him home.”

“I pray every day that he just comes walking through that door,” Ruff added. “Just comes walking in here.”

The reward for information on the disappearance of Thomas Hughes was recently doubled to $10,000. If you know anything, you’re asked to call Pittsburgh’s Special Victims Unit.

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