When Cindy Tucker Hipps and Sherri Clouse received the news that 19-year-old Tucker Hipps was missing, they each knew something wasn’t right.
On Sept. 22, 2014, both women discovered that the future they wished for their children was lost after Hipps’ body was found in the waters of Lake Hartwell.
Clouse initially heard the news from her daughter, Tucker Hipps’ girlfriend, Katie, who, like Tucker, was in her first year at Clemson University. Katie told her mother that her boyfriend had been reported missing by his fraternity brothers after an early-morning group run near Lake Hartwell.
“I nearly stopped breathing, because my motherly intuition just told me it was not good,” Clouse said.
Clouse sent her oldest daughter to stay with Katie while she prepared to leave for Clemson as well. After learning that nobody had made an attempt to contact Hipps’ mother, she knew she had to make the call.
“Let me just say that this was a very hard phone call to make,” Clouse said.
Cindy Tucker Hipps said she was busy at work, trying to catch up on things so that her family could enjoy an upcoming trip to Malibu for her niece’s wedding. At 3:30 p.m., her phone rang.
“I went right to work calling all hospitals and law enforcement,” Hipps said. “I had the assistance of my security and administrative assistant where I work. With no (sign) of anyone injured with his description, I called Clemson University police.”
Hipps made the same call several times, entreating Clemson law enforcement for information about her son, each time being promised a call back by the department’s officials. But the call never came.
So Hipps and her husband, Gary, began driving from their home in Piedmont to the university.
“On the way, I told Gary this was not going to be good and to prepare himself,” Hipps said.
At 3:30 p.m., the same time Hipps received the call from Clouse notifying her that her son was missing, a police officer discovered her son’s body in the water, beneath the S.C. 93 bridge that spans Lake Hartwell between Pickens and Oconee counties.
The couple eventually heard from police, and when they arrived at the scene, they pushed to see their son. The Oconee County coroner escorted them to where the body was.
“Every minute of that time was in slow motion and still etched in my mind,” Hipps said. “I see that face every night going to sleep and every morning waking up.”