Hope is still alive for Kellie Brownlee’s family, who despite searching for over 36 years, believe she could still be alive. The investigation is still ongoing, and the search for Brownlee is still on.
Mark Graves, Brownlee’s boyfriend, asked countless people if they saw or heard from the 17-year-old when she went missing in 1982. According to reports, she had been staying at his place with his family. But on the morning of May 20, 1982 (after they’d taken the bus to school together), Brownlee was never seen again.
|About Kellie Marie Brownlee|
|Height||5'7" (at time of disappearance)|
|Weight||125-135 lbs (at time of disappearance)|
|Parents||Loretta Brownlee, Paul Brownlee|
|Date of Birth||November 5, 1964|
|Date of Disappearance||May 20, 1982|
|Missing from||Novi, Michigan|
Brownlee has been missing for more than three decades. Though her mother knows that her daughter could be dead, she would still like to believe otherwise.
Who Is Kellie Brownlee?
Kellie Marie Brownlee was born on November 5, 1964. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’7” and weighed 135 pounds. She would be 53 years old today.
Brownlee was raised in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and lived in a two-story, green clapboard house on Springridge Road. She lived there with her mother, Loretta, stepfather Paul Brownlee, sister Kim, and her two brothers. However, six weeks before her disappearance, she moved out to live with her boyfriend Mark Graves and his family.
Kim alleged that Paul sexually abused her when she was 13. He was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, for which he did not plead guilty to, and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, for which he did. He was in jail for two weeks, paid fines, and was on probation following his release. Kim went to California to live with her father in 1977, but Kellie stayed behind. However, her relationship with Paul worsened.
Kellie Brownlee revealed to her sister and some friends that her stepfather abused her. Though he denied the claim, the friends once counted 32 bruises on her body. About the living conditions and environment in her mother’s house, Kim said, “They fought a lot in that home,” adding, “It was a way of life.”
When things were really bad at home, Kellie Brownlee left for days at a time, but would always inform her mother about her whereabouts, often at her boyfriend’s place. She wanted Paul to move out of the house. However, Loretta was not working and couldn’t financially support her kids on her own.
A nursing student, Loretta was sure that she would get a good job after graduation and be able to support her children.
Meanwhile, Kellie Brownlee was an average teen in the ’80s. She wore blue jeans, high heels, and army jackets. Brownlee was a fan of rock music and is said to have experimented with drugs. She also smoked Marlboro Reds. She never cared about what people thought about her; her motto in life was: “Live, love and laugh.”
When Was She Last Seen?
Brownlee was last seen on May 20, 1982, in Novi, Oakland County, Michigan. According to reports, she and her boyfriend hopped on a bus to school in the morning, but she never planned on going to class.
Dressed up, she decided to skip school and head to Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, where she applied for work at different stores. On the applications, she used her mother’s address. To Loretta, that was a sign her daughter wanted to return home.
At around 11:00 a.m., Judy Mehay, a friend’s mother, saw Brownlee at the mall and offered her a ride. However, the teenager refused as she wanted to continue applying for jobs. It was the last time anybody saw or heard from Brownlee.
At the time of her disappearance, she was described as having double-pierced ears, wearing a long sleeved peach blouse, white painter paints, and Nina burgundy high heels.
When Brownlee didn’t show up at Graves’ house by 9:00 p.m., he started to worry. When her friends could not find her by 11:00 p.m., they decided to call Loretta.
Police were soon involved, and began questioning Brownlee’s friends and family. After they spoke to Graves, he was quickly ruled out as a suspect. Next, investigators focused on Paul Brownlee.
Stepfather a Suspect?
Only a few people knew that Paul was not Kellie’s biological father. Authorities first believed that Paul had something to do with the teenager’s disappearance. Upon questioning, however, Paul revealed that he was visiting his father-in-law’s grave when Kellie disappeared.
He then went to the gym and made a few phone calls. After asked by investigators, Paul denied seeing Kellie at all that day.
When asked if he would take a polygraph test to verify his story, Paul initially took time to think it over. He then hired an attorney, and refused the polygraph.
In January 1991, nearly six years after Loretta divorced him, Paul brought investigating Sergeant Dan O’Malley an ad of a tall girl with long brown hair modeling a hot pink bathing suit from a Jacobson’s catalog, saying it might be Kellie. However, the girl in the picture was 12 years old, whereas Kellie would have been 26 at the time.
Loretta eventually got her nursing degree, and later became the director of community mental health center. She has since remarried and now goes by the name Loretta Burke-Gooch.
Authorities then suspected that rapist, torturer, and suspected serial killer Mike DeBardeleben may have been involved in Kellie Brownlee’s disappearance. They found some of his counterfeit bills in Novi where she was last seen, around the same time of her disappearance.
When they raided DeBardeleben’s house in Northern Virginia, they stumbled upon violent and sexually explicit photos of women. Most were pretty, young, brunette hitchhikers, and none looked as though they were there on their own accord.
Some of the photos were shown to Brownlee’s mother, but none were of Kellie. DeBardeleben has since been ruled out as a suspect in her case.
Recent Developments in the Case
Currently, several law enforcement agencies, with the help of bulldozers and heavy machinery, are unearthing a plot of wooded land near the north branch of Clinton River in Macomb County. They believe the bodies of as many as half a dozen young girls could be buried there.
68-year-old Arthur Ream told police about the location, which is about 25 miles north of Detroit, as he confessed to the rape and murder of 13-year-old, Cindy Zarzycki. This week, authorities returned to the site to look for the possible remains of Kellie Brownlee and others. She is one of at least six victims police believe could be tied to Ream.