By David Lohr
February 19, 2007
LONGVIEW, Texas (Crime Library) — For the past six months, the friends and family of Brandi Ellen Wells have scoured the streets and wooded areas of Gregg County in hopes of finding a clue to their loved one's mysterious disappearance. It has been a long and exhausting search, but they refuse to give up.
Yesterday, Brandi's mother, Ellen Tant, and her godmother, Michelle Cole, both spoke with Crime Library about Brandi's last known activities on August 2, 2006, when the 23-year-old vanished without a trace.
"Brandi left her mother's house that night and told her she was going to a nightclub," Michelle said. "Her mother thought she meant the nightclub just around the corner here in Tyler, but as it turns out, she went to Graham Central Station, a nightclub in Longview. She didn't have any money on her. She went over there for a ladies night. As far as we know, she did not know anyone there."
According to employees of the nightclub, Brandi had to call for directions several times on her way there. By the time she finally arrived, her car was running on empty, so she asked some of the patrons for help. Whether or not any one obliged is unknown. Surveillance footage from the establishment shows Brandi leaving shortly after midnight.
"I think maybe someone may have taken advantage of that situation. The video shows her leave and she left. She hasn't been seen since."
When she failed to check in with her family, Brandi's parents reported her missing to the Brownsboro Police Department on August 4, 2006. Two days later, the Longview Police Department was notified, and two days after that, Brandi's vehicle, a black 4-door 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix, was found on I-20 near Highway 31. The location was approximately 15 miles from the nightclub where she was last seen. As it turns out, the Longview Police Department had tagged the car as abandoned on the morning of her disappearance, but they did not immediately connect the vehicle to Brandi.
"There was no trace of her at all. The interstate is very well traveled, but there is a farm market road that's also right there, so we don't know if she came down that road or if someone else was driving her car and came down through there and then ditched her car on the interstate. They had dogs there on the scene, but they were unable to pick up on a scent."
Interestingly enough, Brandi's purse was found inside the car, but her cell phone was missing. However, with Michelle's help, investigators were able to trace it back to a person living in a neighborhood between Graham Central Station and the spot where Brandi's car was found.
"Her cell phone was being used, so I tracked the numbers to see where they were going to. I found out some of the calls were to the Dallas area and some were to other homes in Longview. I gave that info to the police, and they contacted those people and found out who was placing the calls. The police ended up questioning three people, a man, a woman and for some reason the woman's uncle."
The Longview Police Department thoroughly checked Brandi's car for hair, fibers and blood, but were unable to find any evidence suggesting foul play. However, according to Ellen, there was one clue that stood out.
"I am 5' 1" and my daughter is 4' 11"; she's shorter than I am," Ellen said in a telephone interview with Crime Library last night. "When I got behind the wheel, I could barely reach the pedals. My husband, her stepfather, is 6' 1," and when he climbed behind the wheel, he sat there very comfortably. Other than that, there was no evidence that they told me about."
Following her disappearance, Brandi's family members asked the Laura Recovery Center for assistance. Based in Friendswood, Texas, the non-profit organization for missing children was formed in honor of Laura Kate Smither, a twelve-year-old girl who was abducted near her home on April 3, 1997. Her body was found 17 days later. According to the mission statement on their website, the organization works to "address the immediate response necessary in the event of child abduction."
"When we first started searching for her, we went through the Laura Recovery Center. During our first two searches, we covered from the point where they found her car to the club where she was last seen. The club was north, and her car was found south, so we did a sweep through major roads and areas between those two points."
Brandi's mother said the three people questioned in regards to Brandi's cell phone were all given polygraph tests. While the girl and her uncle both passed, Ellen said the young man's results were not so clear.
"All the police will tell us is that he failed his polygraph, and they have been after him and after him and they cannot make him change his story. There is something about his story that is not true, but they won't tell me what it is. They won't tell me where he found it (the cell phone) or how he found it. I don't even know his name. The polygraphs were voluntary, and they (the police) can't disclose anything. All they could tell me was that he was being less than honest."
This past weekend, a group of volunteers conducted a third search of the area between the nightclub and the location where Brandi's car was found. The area consists of not only rough wooded terrain, but also several large residential and industrial areas. A thorough search of the entire area could take some time to complete.
"We have not found anything yet, but we continue to broaden our search areas," Ellen said. "We were hoping that a local motorcycle club or some other organization would help us, but hardly anyone showed up for this last search. It was mostly family and friends. It is hard for somebody in my position to know what to do and where to go for help. I don't know. I just want my daughter back."
Despite the combined efforts of the FBI and the Longview Police Department, the investigation into Brandi's disappearance is at a standstill. With no new leads and few clues to follow, they are now hoping the public will come forward with tips and information. Meanwhile, Ellen and her family are planning to organize another search this spring.
Brandi's entire family is having a difficult time dealing with her disappearance. According to Michelle, Brandi meant the world to her, and she loved her like she was her own daughter.
"I have been in this young lady's life every day of her life," Michelle said. "I am so close to this young lady that when I pick up the phone and Brandi is on the other end, the first thing out of her mouth is mom. She calls me her mom; she calls her mother her mom. I have as much vested interest in this as her parents. I honestly feel like she is my daughter. I am not your normal godmother, I guess, because I know people who are godparents who don't even know their godchildren. I love Brandi, and I want her to come home."
Brandi is described as a Caucasian female, 4' 11' tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. At the time of her disappearance, she was wearing high heel sandals, rust colored Gaucho pants, and a dark floral print tube top with a v cut over the hip.
America's Most Wanted has been notified of Brandi's disappearance, and Crime Library has put her family in contact with the search and rescue organization Texas EquuSearch.
Anyone with information the whereabouts of Brandi Ellen Wells should call the Longview Police Department at (903) 237-1110 or Crime Stoppers at (903) 236-7867.