A CLOSER LOOK: AR 2002 missing child and mom case is re-opened

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"Circumstances surrounding their disappearance is extremely suspicious," said Tiffany Thomas

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — An Arkansas missing person case is re-opened after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) notified the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) about a possible lead.

Four-year-old Thomas Michael “Mikey” Rettew was reported missing on September 1, 2002, from Salem Arkansas, and was last seen with a woman. Two years later, his mom, Angela “Angie” Mack-Cox, 20, was listed as the person with him, according to proponents who are wanting to help solve the case. Mack-Cox left behind a two-year-old son.

FCSO Investigator Dale Weaver said, “They [NCMEC] advised getting a lead on the case … on or about August 18, 2020.”

Weaver has followed up on the lead and has interviewed several people who knew Mack-Cox in an attempt to learn some facts.

“There have been so many rumors as to what happened to them that it has made getting to the truth difficult,” said Weaver.

The group Justice for Angie, led by Tiffany Thomas, is aware of rumors in Salem that Angela was murdered and buried on top of a fresh grave in Salem. That Mikey was sold, traded, or murdered with his mother, is another rumor.

Here is what Weaver knows: The child was reported missing by his father Thomas “Tommy” Michael Rettew and was last seen on September 1, 2002.

Here is what Weaver is unsure about: Why it took two years to report Mack-Cox missing. He was told by others that she was going to California and Iowa. If that was the case, no one knew where she was, or at least the ones who would have wanted that to happen.

Many reports state that Mikey and Angela went missing from Salem, Arkansas (population 1,600+), or Alton, Missouri (population 830+). Alton is about 40 miles northeast of Salem.

“Justice for Angie” is a blog and Facebook page that hopes to find closure for Angela and her son Mikey.

“A list of suspects was given to investigator Weaver, as well as specific messages we were able to obtain stating what happened to Angela,” said Thomas. “September 1 will be 18 years that they have been missing, and it has been extremely frustrating.”

Eighteen years ago, Fulton County Sheriff Al Roork was given information about Angela’s whereabouts and suspected murder. However, a missing person’s case was not opened, but it’s believed that Roork did give a photo to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). “The photo given to NamUs was not Angela, it was a photo of her brother-in-law’s ex-girlfriend,” said Thomas.

They were last seen in a late-model dark gray or blue Chevrolet or GMC extended cab pickup truck with Missouri license plates, according to information gathered by Thomas.

At the time of Angela’s disappearance, there had been a few men in her life.

“We believe all of her exes have, or had, vital information regarding the case. We know Angela had a group of friends at the time, and they were all possibly involved or witnesses to this,” said Thomas.

ANGELA MACK-COX’S TIMELINE, PRIOR TO DISAPPEARANCE

Thomas Michael Rettew is the biological dad of “Mikey.” Angela was 16 years old when Mikey was born on July 7, 1998. On January 17, 2019, Rettew died in Mini-Cassia County Jail in Burley, Idaho. Acute methamphetamine toxicity was listed as the cause of death, according to a Twin Falls Sheriff’s Office investigation. Rettew was 38.

In 2000, Angela was in a relationship with Jeremy Niederbrach, then 22 years old. They have a son named Matthew Niederbrach. This son lives in Salem, Arkansas with his biological father, Jeremy, and Jeremy’s mother, according to the group Justice of Angie. An online search shows Jeremy Niederbrach has at least nine arrests between 2004 to 2019 for felony drugs, theft, and domestic abuse, to name a few of the crimes. Authorities have him listed as a “habitual offender.”

Angela was married to James M. Cox when she vanished. He lives in Salem, Arkansas, according to the group Justice for Angie.

On May 29, 2002, three months before her disappearance she was involved in a head-on two-car fatality crash on State Highway 9 in Fulton County. Her husband, then 22, crossed a center lane while driving a 1991 Dodge truck, and hit a 1982 Chevrolet truck, killing the driver and the passenger’s unborn child, according to the Arkansas State Police report. The deceased was Susan K. Manes, 46, and the passenger was Lacey Lingenfelter, 19, both are from Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.

REMEMBERING ANGELA

Angela Mack

Her circle of school best friends has fond memories of Angie, as she was called. There were four of them — Tiffany Thomas, Tammy R., Steve B., and Jennifer McIntyre.

Angie moved to Arkansas from Escondido, California right before high school. “She was one of the funnest people I have ever met,” recalls Tiffany Thomas. She described her best friend as her opposite. “She was short and spunky, outgoing and dramatic, loud but so much fun. She was always trying to make people laugh, pulling a prank, or playing a joke on someone. “I remember swimming in my parent’s back yard in a tiny kiddie pool after school in 7th or 8th grade and getting locked outside in our underwear. We would camp out in my parent’s back yard and call the radio station all night and just laugh. I remember when her first boyfriend broke her heart and she cried on my shoulder,” said Thomas. “I still have notes she wrote to me and letters in storage.”

“I have a bunch of memories,” said Tammy about one of her first best friends at Hidden Valley Middle School. “There was the time we played with a Ouiji board even though we were told not to … and we got all scared!” Angie was naturally funny, had a way of making people around her comfortable, “she was always trying to get others to laugh and smile,” said Tammy.

Steve has many fond memories with Angie, too. One memory was when they were walking home from middle school and a little dog jumped over a fence. “Angie jumped and ran, down the street, yelling while I, and another friend, watched, laughing at her,” said Steve. “To this day it still makes me smile and laugh.”

Jennifer McIntyre remembers sneaking to Angie’s house because they could watch MTV since it wasn’t allowed at her house. They’d fill the bathtub with water and take turns “swimming.” McIntyre moved to Las Vegas in 1995 and it was the last time she saw Angie. “We traded our school IDs on the last day of school.”

Angie with her sons

“One thing we all agree on is that someone knows, it just amazes us that after 18 years no one has come forward or gotten a guilty conscious or turned on one another … sadly those involved in Angie and Mikey’s disappearance seem to be career criminals.”

“Justice for Angie” founder Tiffany Thomas
Angela Mack as a child. Family photo, used with permission.

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