(Introduction to show begins)
ERIC MEADOWS (WCAN Co-host): Good evening, we want to welcome you to another episode of Missing Pieces, hosted by Todd Matthews and myself Eric Meadow's. Todd, how are you this evening?
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): I'm really great Eric. How are you?
ERIC: Doing excellent. Doing really excellent. We hear that you have a guest coming on tonight. Who might we be talking to?
TODD: We have Tammy Welch tonight.
ERIC: Good evening Tammy.
TAMMY WELCH (Guest): Good evening!
TODD: She's another Southerner, just like myself. So we have a good accent thing going on here tonight. I've had a few long conversations with Tammy so she's really a nice lady. She runs a website that actually commemorates Brooke Leigh Henson who disappeared almost 3,000 days ago and I noticed on your website you have a ticker that counts off the days.
TAMMY: Yes I do, because I want people to know how long she has been missing.
TODD: And you've done candlelight vigils. Just a little bit of everything. I think you seem to be very involved.
TAMMY: Yes, we've done candlelight vigils. We make sure our posters get out especially around the anniversary of her disappearance because that's, you know? When people really need to know that she is still missing.
TODD: So, July 4, 2007 will mark the 8 year anniversary of Brooke's disappearance.
TAMMY: Yes it will be 8 years this year.
TODD: How long have you been involved in this? You were personal friends with her, right?
TAMMY: No actually her aunt is my best friend.
TAMMY: I've been involved in this since 2002. That's when I brought her website up and the reason I brought my website up was because there was no information out; as far as, not even news coverage. And I felt that if we have a website up for Brooke since she was a hometown girl. Then, maybe it would bring in some leads, some tips for the police. It's just grown from there.
TODD: She is missing from what town?
TAMMY: Travelers Rest.
TODD: Travelers Rest. That sounds like a nice town. Small little town. How many people are there? Is it like a big area?
TAMMY: Actually no. It's a very small town. I would estimate maybe 3,000 people.
TODD: So it's a really small place.
TAMMY: It's really a small place
TODD: Is it unusual for people to go missing there?
TAMMY: It is. Especially in that area. Because it's one of those things, it's almost like Mayberry. And that's just to give you an idea of what it's like. You've got a very close knit community. And for someone to go missing, it is mind blowing. Especially in such a small town.
TODD: Well, how did the community react to this?
TAMMY: Shock. Just major shock over the years. And of course you know with every year that passes, people forget. Maybe it's not so much that they forget. It's just one of those things. You have to experience it really, to understand how people feel about it. They want to be involved but yet, they are a little bit scared. Because it's like this couldn't be happening here. As far as the candlelight vigils, we've had a very good turnout with the community. The community does want to help. When they can, they do.
TODD: In what ways? Do they support the family? Have there been any searches? On the ground searches? That type of thing?
TAMMY: The only searches that have actually been, that have happened was through law enforcement. Which the original search for Brooke didn't start until like 3 weeks after she had disappeared. That's when they brought dogs in to search for her. And during that time, there had been a lot of rainfall. So really; in our opinion, there were no reason to bring the dogs in.
TODD: Those are like cadaver dogs?
TODD: The Cadaver dogs?
TAMMY: I'm not sure they were cadaver dogs. I think they may have been regular, you know?
TODD: Bloodhound type?
TAMMY: Bloodhound type dogs, yeah. So I mean, it does make a difference.
TODD: Her family calls her Brookey?
TAMMY: Yes they did. That was their little pet name for her was Brookey. She was just very special to them.
TODD: Talk a little bit about her. How old was she when she went missing? All of this is available on your website, of course. It's all there. And we'll have a link to your website on the show's website. But tell us a little bit about her.
TAMMY: Brooke was 20 years old when she disappeared. She was beautiful. Just absolutely gorgeous. She loved the outdoors. She loved spending time with her family and friends. She was just a typical 20 year old, who just loved life in general. And for this to happen, it is just devastating. You know? Because she was so close to her family. And yes, she was an adult. So there were times when she would leave home and stay gone for a couple of days. But this was totally different.
TODD: Now, staying gone for a couple of days? Was there ever a time when somebody didn't know where she was?
TAMMY: There were a couple of times, but it just took a matter of her mother going to her little address book and calling friends. And there she was. You know? She'd say, well she was going to come home in a couple hours and she'd come home. But, this time it didn't happen that way.
TODD: Were these overnight stays? Where she was gone for more than just a few hours?
TAMMY: Oh yeah, there was times. But like I said, she was a typical 20 years old.
TAMMY: But her mother woke up that morning that she had disappeared and just felt something wasn't right. And she started immediately calling her friends and no one had seen her. So this was completely out of character for her. You know? Because her friends usually always knew where she was at. She was usually with them or with her family. So, this just made it completely different.
TODD: And you've actually stated: "I'm guessing that some people would even refer to this beautiful human as being somewhat of a hippie chick, free spirit living in a world gone mad." That's an interesting comment there.
TAMMY: Yes, because that's the way she was. She really was a free spirit. I mean just a completely free spirit. And, you know? As far as the world going mad; I mean, you think about all the missing persons now. And you're like. Wow. The world really is going mad. And here was this beautiful young lady, this free spirit that just got, you know? Taken. Just poof, gone. She's disappeared without a trace.
TODD: Do you work or have you ever communicated directly with law enforcement about this particular case?
TAMMY: I have.
TODD: As far as processing tips?
TAMMY: Well, I have sent tips to the Travelers Rest Police Department. In fact, I just gave them a whole list of tips just a few weeks ago. Hopefully something will come of that. Fingers crossed and everything.
TODD: Have you found that maybe the idea of her being a free spirit? Has law enforcement looked at that? Because, it certainly caught my eye. Seeing this. Do you think this has negatively impacted her case as far as they way law enforcement perceived it?
TAMMY: No I don't. I really don't. I think what has been a negative part is the law enforcement thinking that she was a party girl. Due to how the family is perceived. And I feel like that has been an impact on how it's been handled. But you know? You can't look at it that way. Just because she was a free spirit; doesn't mean like, she just said: "Poof, I'm gone. I'm tired of this."
TODD: Because she's an adult. And, you know? And they handle adults differently than they do children. But she's at that…still quite a tender age.
TAMMY: Right, it is. Especially for a small town girl. I don't know how to explain it so that everyone can understand. But, when you're small town; especially coming from the South, I mean. You're kind of protected by your family. You know? It's not like coming from the city. Where you come and go. Southern families seem to shelter their children more.
TODD: It does seem like it. I'm sure that they don't love them anymore. But when you have tight knit families. And Tammy and I talked about this earlier today. Where I work; at my day job, I have 10 people. Four of these people are cousins. I had a boss to say at one point in time: "It's almost like we had a union shop, because if you made one of us mad, you had the half clan mad". But it's really like, but in the South it's really like that. We're a small community, everybody knows everybody. And it just makes for a really tight knit community.
TAMMY: It really does and like I said, she was more or less sheltered from the world. You know? It wasn't like she was, you know? I don't know how to explain this. She wasn't knowledgeable about what goes on in the world. She wasn't street smart. The whole thing is really odd how it's come about.
TODD: If anyone has any information. They should call Travelers Rest Police Department. Investigator Clark Frazier at 1-864-234-9029. It has a case file number and NCIC number. And South Carolina...That's South Carolina State Police. Agent Darrel Betzell at 1-803-896-7010. We'll have all these links included in the website. I see you have a candlelight vigil planned for April 17, 2007
TAMMY: That is correct. That is Brooke's birthday. She'll be 27 years old, excuse me 28.
TODD: What do you have planned for that day?
TAMMY: Ok. We're having a candlelight prayer vigil. And we're going to have Max Warden. He's going to be the minister who is going to be there for the prayer. He's going to be there for prayer....to lead us in prayer. And we're also going to have Chief Lance Crowe from the Travelers Rest Police Department...he's going to be there to speak. We're also going to release 28 white balloons and attached to these balloons with information concerning Brooke and her disappearance... and the symbol of the white balloons is hope. We still have hope. That maybe possibly she is still out there needing a way to get back home. And we want people to know that we still have hope. That's our way of showing...and also...it's kind of like when people release the doves...we're releasing the white balloons ...to show our hope and love for Brooke.
TODD: Now...what about her family? Do they attend these?? Of course they do... How many of these have you had for her so far? How does that go?
TAMMY: This will be the 3rd one.
TODD: The third one...
TAMMY: The first one; I believe, it was September or October of 1999...there was approximately 100 people in attendance. We had another one in October 2003. And there was a smaller crowd for that one...We feel this one will be even bigger than the first one. And you know...the family does participate. They are there...they also help with handing out the posters for it...and whatever else that is needed. So...this means a lot to them too.
TODD: Now I've thought of a million questions for you tonight. Because there's a lot of, I kind of met you in the strange way on the internet on something a lot of people don't embrace yet. That's MySpace. But before we get into that stuff I'm going to check and see if Eric has any questions for you. I can hear him thinking.
ERIC: How are you tonight Tammy?
TAMMY: I'm fine. How are you doing?
ERIC: I'm doing really well. It's really special having you on the show tonight...welcome to you...as well as a hand to help you but I do have some questions. You made a statement. How the family is perceived. You said: "She may have been thought of as a party girl and you said how the family is perceived." What did you mean by that?
TAMMY: Ok. What I'm saying is, the family is not...how can I put this? The family is more; first of all, they don't have a lot of money. But they like to have their parties. That type of thing. That's why I say its how the family is perceived.
TODD: And often that hurts the case in general.
TAMMY: It does. It really does in some cases.
ERIC: Ok. Is this how the police actually perceive them?
ERIC: My second question is. Is there a large tourist that frequents South Carolina?
TAMMY: Actually, I wouldn't say there is a large tourist. What I would say is there's a main highway. A lot of people travel US 25 to get from Atlanta to Tennessee. I wouldn't say Tennessee to North Carolina because that is a major road.
TODD: Does anyone suspect that it may have been someone passing through?
TAMMY: Yes, we have thought about this. It was a possibility because she left walking. She was kind of naive. So, we kind of wonder if maybe she got into a vehicle with the wrong person at the wrong time. And maybe that is what has happened. Since no one has come forward and it's going on 8 years.
TODD: Now, the other surrounding communities. I take it they are pretty rural?
TAMMY: Yes they are.
TODD: Any other unexplained incidents?
TODD: As a matter of fact...
TAMMY: As a matter of fact, we just spoke of this today.
TAMMY: There are approximately 10 others that are missing from the upstate area. Within a 50 mile radius of Travelers Rest.
ERIC: Are they all female?
TAMMY: No, it's a mix.
ERIC: What about the age group? Is there anything that is similar or runs in common between those that are missing?
TAMMY: They all became missing around the holidays. The females that are missing are in the same age group. It seems like the normal age is early 20's and that's for the males also.
TODD: So they are similar in their own respect.
TODD: Their age groups. What about in relation to the free spirit? Do you have much information on these other cases? We'll list those people. I think we talked about you getting a list.
TAMMY: Those people as far as I know were not free spirits. I have looked for that possibility for them maybe being that type, but I haven't come across that at all. One of the people is Jason Knapp. I don't know if you've heard of him. He was a Clemson University student who disappeared around Mother's Day and that was in....hold on just a second and I'll give you the date...and it's not just him. There was a Sheila Carver that disappeared from Oconee County. Which is just two counties over. There's just been several of them.
ERIC: You know? When you're saying that, I want to know has anyone ever considered that it might be someone local?
TAMMY: As far as I know, no.
ERIC: What would make you say that?
TAMMY: When I have told people about it, I just got the impression that they didn't see the connection. I don't think they've realized that there are that many missing from this area. So, I have to say "No." that they haven't put that together. But, I think it's something that seriously something that needs to be looked into. Because there has also been unsolved homicides and the people were about the same age. They've been going: "One that is 10 years old now and the girl was a college student" and "There's another one" where I believe late 20's and she was murdered in the town of Central. A college student and nobody knew anything.
ERIC: You know? The reason I'm saying this and this could be me, somebody that may be local is because everybody has their favorite hunting spot. And it sounds like, where they know they can get, especially around the holidays. Its easy picking, you know? It's just what I'm perceiving in the short time that you've been talking. But I think it might be somebody that is familiar with the area.
TAMMY: I have thought about that also or someone that has moved out of state but comes home for the holidays. That's a possibility. Because looking at the different ones, it seems that they are happening. Yes, they are happening around holidays. But it's usually maybe one a year. It's interesting that you know that they are like that.
ERIC: It is, it really is. Has anyone ever approached the FBI or it hasn't reached that level yet?
TAMMY: It hasn't reached that level yet. From my understanding though; as far as the FBI being involved, they are involved in Brooke's identity being stolen. But that's more in relation to the Esther Reed, you know? With the identity theft. And I think she has several other things against her.
ERIC: Has anybody tried to profile who has done this?
TAMMY: To my knowledge, no there hasn't been anyone to profile this.
ERIC: Well, if anyone has any suggestions...can you give them the contact points again?
TODD: Yes. State police and local police, Investigator Clark Frazier phone number is 1-864-234-9029. It's the Traveler's Rest South Carolina law enforcement. Agent Darrell Betzell at 1-803-896-7010. Hopefully somebody will have some information in this case. I'm seeing you have some of the other people linked on your website as well. I'm looking at your website as we're doing this show, some of the others that you've actually mentioned.
TODD: I see a couple are actually solved. What happened in those?
TAMMY: The ones that have been solved, Tamika Huston. Her boyfriend or ex boyfriend had murdered her and tried to hide the body and this went on for quite some time. It was solved and the family was able to give her a proper burial. The next one that has been solved is Alex Buckman from Spartansburg. He had witnessed a murder. I believe it was the brother of the person who committed the murder, murdered him. They took his body and placed it in a dump in another county. So, the body was retrieved and the family was able to give him proper burial as well.
TODD: So one ever knows.
TAMMY: Right. You never know. You really never know.
TODD: Now here's an interesting twist to this. In June 2002 a representative from the Doe Network, notified them of a possible match. From July 20, 1999, the family was told by authorities that the DNA test was conducted in 1999 was not a match. The family later found out that a DNA comparison was not run but rather dental records were used for comparisons. What about this?
TAMMY: Ok. That is what happened and when they used the dental records, one had a cavity and one did not. But if you look at the photos and put Brooke's photo up next to this Jane Doe, they look so much a like. It's unbelievable. So, it was so very disappointing to find out DNA had not been run but it was run against dental records.
TODD: Often they are very accurate. The people comparing these, they are very knowledgeable with what they are doing with that type of thing. They are well schooled in that. But then there was something else to the family's dismay. A woman claiming to be Brooke enrolled at several Ivy League colleges including Columbia University. Now this is the person that you said was an imposter...identity theft.
TAMMY: Right. That's Esther Reed. From my understanding, what she did was she got into a Vermont's Police, she got Brooke's personal information; which would include her social security number, and she took that information and sent a letter to the South Carolina Vital Statistics and received a copy of Brooke's birth certificate. And no one knew she was using this. The police really don't know how long she was using Brooke's identity. She did go to Harvard under Brooke's name and Columbia University under Brooke's name. In fact, when they caught on to her she was enrolled at Columbia University.
TODD: That's crazy. You have all this information online. Their height, their weight. How easy would it be for someone to go in and assume an identity? But you would think that would be difficult because there are FBI reports. It looks like the second this person began using the social security number it would be kicked out.
TAMMY: Yes, you would think that. But there is no law that actually connects. There is no database that connects Vital Statistics and NCIC. It doesn't know to kick this out.
TODD: It has been done manually. But I think you had a plan for that.
TAMMY: Yes, I am working with Senator Vaughn from South Carolina to have a law called Brooke's Law passed and hopefully; fingers crossed. What that would do is have all the South Carolina Law Enforcement agencies send their information to the South Carolina Vital Statistics. So that when a person is missing, that information goes to a database and if someone tries to get; say the social security number or get a copy of the birth certificate, then it would be flagged. And law enforcement would be contacted immediately, so they can get right on it and we wouldn't go through what Brooke's family has gone through. This has been completely devastating to find out she's not alive and then being told we don't know if she is live or not. This is someone else using her identity and I mean this person was extremely clever with her use of her identity.
TODD: This is for, if you're using; more or less, most of us are amateur detectives. If you're using a private investigator. Hope is the person is alive, only for a crushing blow, not only is it not the person you think it is, stolen her identity. It has to be heartbreaking.
TAMMY: Right. You know the thing is, the New York police told the police here: "You might as well close the case. It is solved." Luckily the police here said: "No, we need some DNA." The NY police asked for DNA...she agreed to it...and she never showed up...so you know...this has been a really big slap in the face for the family...from my understanding...this Esther Reed has actually had plastic surgery done, I don't know if that is so she will look more like Brooke...that I don't know?
TODD: But this is not the only identity she has stolen, right?
TAMMY: Oh no...She has stolen, three other identities...I believe...I don't know if the other 2 were actual people...but one of them was an actual person and she wasn't aware this person was using her identity...
TAMMY: That's really scary to think someone can do this?
TODD: How far along is this law? In the beginning stages...you've got the ear of the Senator....this is for a state law...not a U.S law yet...
TAMMY: I'm in the very beginning of this...long hard fight...but it's worth it if it can save family's from what Brooke's family has gone through..
TODD: But the senator really has an ear for this...
TAMMY: He really does...he's very interested in this...in fact...I'm hoping to hear from him really soon. So we can take the next step...whatever the next step is...
TODD: How has it been putting this together...it's hard...we're just normal people...and to set up and try to right something like this...I'm sure he's had some type of input, you can do this...you can't do that...helping put this thing together in it's proper format...how has that been trying to create that?
TAMMY: Right now this is what is going on...he's got the letter I sent him...I outlined how I thought this should be...he has got law researchers working on it now... ...so like I said...we're in the very beginning of this..
TODD: If you could ask...if this is ok with you and the Senator...that original letter would be very interesting for other people to see it...if possible we'd like to have it as a link or is it already on your website?
TAMMY: Not on the website yet...I was trying to hold back.
TODD: We can add it later as far as what you're got going on there...
TAMMY: Having a missing person and having someone steal their identity...it's really devastating...I want something that can flag law enforcement...so law enforcement is aware of this...so people don't go thru this...say they are missing 10 years...so and so is alive and I've seen them....you've seen my child? Then only to find out...sorry...it's not your child
TODD: So this law is created...it's not a huge invasion of privacy...it's to flag the law enforcement period of inactivity...suddenly became active again
TAMMY: I don't know if you are aware of this...in South Carolina...you write them a letter...mother's maiden name...and such...when someone writes a letter with this information...they get a copy but they have to have an address for them to go back...if law enforcement has that address...they can actually go to that person's home...
TODD: That's a good connection there...getting it initially...you could find out that information...by tomorrow morning I could have a lot of information on you based on your phone number and the connections you end up having...I could have enough information on you to go to the Department of Vital Statistics...
TAMMY: Yes...right now the focus is on the missing person. And getting that taken care of.
TODD: That was set up in a simpler time...I remember we used to go to bed with the doors unlocked...that is possible in the past...a lot of these things have been left like that...there is not a need until it needs to be fixed.
TAMMY: That's right....right now we're in this time of identity theft...happens every single day...if we could start with missing persons...maybe this could lead to something that is not just State but it moves up nationwide...
TODD: Well it will certainly be a good proving ground for it...it's so much easier to get a US law if it's a state law and it's been working .. I need to pick on Eric...he's a runaway himself. We've gotta use that...I've never had the courage myself.
TAMMY: So Eric you're a runaway...
ERIC: Yeah...I'm a runaway...I made it Jersey Turnpike...we were heading to my grandmother's house here in Ohio...and the police were out looking for us and the dog gave us away...
TODD: And you were how old?
ERIC: I was hungry.
ERIC: Not quite a teenager, almost.
TODD: I was on a train in New York and rode it to New Jersey...hillbilly on a train...didn't know how to get off...finally able to read the sign...figure out how to get back to NY City...you can get lost there and not even mean to... very easy.
ERIC: I do have a question...why did it take 21 days before they started an investigation.
TAMMY: They felt she was a runaway. And because of her history of taking a couple of days and staying with a friend...
TODD: So it did affect the case...whether it still does
ERIC: But why 21 days. I can understand waiting maybe a week...
TAMMY: Ok...this is only a theory...the family actually thinks...the town was having a festival...they feel like they started to search when hey did was they didn't want people stumbling over a body...so that's why...
ERIC: I don't get it....if somebody...stumbled over a body. I don't quite understand.
TAMMY: I don't know any other way to explain it...I don't know why they didn't start at the very beginning
TODD: Twenty-one days is three weeks...it could have been a week to week type of situation.
TAMMY: I really can't answer that.
ERIC: Seems like an awfully long time
TAMMY: It's a very long time....
ERIC: How is the family coping today?
TAMMY: Not real well...parents have actually separated...having this kind of stress...parents have actually separated and in the process of getting a divorce...stress of not knowing what is going on...over this time...haven't taken time to let them know what is going on...but there is a new Chief and a new Investigator and we all feel very confident that they are going to devote all of their time and energy into solving this case and we feel confident they are going stay in touch with the family
ERIC: Todd...I have a question for you...we have 8 years...how do they begin to initiate.
TODD: A lot of it you have to initiate some type of tip...you have to have something to go on...there was years that I wanted to have the body of the tent girl exhumed but without a reason to do so...it wasn't enough...it wasn't to merit a reaction...especially in a missing person...you can't use the excuse you want to gather DNA...can't do this in this case...do you know if the family has put DNA into the DNA database for this case
TAMMY: Yes...yes...actually what has happened...there was DNA collected...Brooke's DNA from hair brushes in the very beginning...?
ERIC: Her own DNA from the hairbrushes.
TODD: Now I'm seeing a bracelet on your website...
TODD: A tribute bracelet...to remind everyone in the community that Brooke is still missing but not yet forgotten... sell for how much?
TAMMY: We sell those for $1.50...and the proceeds from the sale of the bracelet goes towards a reward....it's been almost 8 years there hasn't been a reward and...we feel it's time a reward was put up...because we feel that if enough money was put into a reward fund...that someone would come forward...and give the police a tip to solve this case...
TODD: Do you have a fund set up yet with any amount in it yet.
TAMMY: Well...no...Not exactly...we haven't made the money yet...I'm so sorry ...I was getting a call...we do have some money...it hasn't got into the bank...we have some issues that I have going on...and issues with Brooke's aunt...we haven't actually set up the funds but it will be set up by the time we have the vigils...people purchase the bracelets...
TODD: Confident it's going straight into the fund...it's good to see a reward fund inching up...it's always exciting to me...to see a reward being increased...that's always encouraging because people are still working on it...and trying to raise the stakes in the case...and that often triggers something...you said that magic number...somebody that knows something is going to talk..
TAMMY: And...Talking about a reward...the Chief of Police is actually applied for a reward that the Carol Sund Carrington Foundation
TODD: Very familiar with that
TAMMY: And add the money from the bracelets to that...and we do plan on having other functions...other benefits...because we really feel that the magic number...would cause a person to rat their grandma out...seriously...something we're working towards. We really want someone to come forward.
TODD: Hope you make a million...now crimestoppers...this case has been involved in Crime Stoppers...probably is already a reward offered through that...
TAMMY: Right...you can receive UP to $2,000
TODD: Based on what is the criteria?
TAMMY: Up to $2,000 for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.
TODD: You've got a very well organized site and a ton of information...very well put together...you guys have done everything...NCIC...good information on her...guestbook and your myspace profile...from what I hear...you had people that didn't think that was a very good idea.
TAMMY: That is correct. And one of them is my husband who did not think it was a very good idea.
TODD: Now imagine the family....searching for somebody
TAMMY: They were ecstatic that she was on myspace.
TODD: Why not use it?
TAMMY: It's a wonderful resource...allows Brooke's friends to be on their...feel closer...stories that are really sweet...everybody that knew her loved her...that was the type of person she is...so many people actually seeing her...the people that join myspace see the link and go over to the website...and see her story...and that is what matters...they see her story...even though her story isn't like other...they can see and relate and feel close to her...and know that people know her and love her and what her to come home.
TODD: Tragically abused...it actually puts a bad taste in your mouth...if I found out my 14 year old son was I wouldn't want him to be there...this particular case...through myspace...I set up one for my work and I ran into her there.
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