Brittney Wood was 19-years-old when she went missing from Alabama on May 30, 2012. Her disappearance opened a Pandora’s box of family secrets, ultimately leading to 11 convictions and the discovery of the largest child sex ring Alabama has ever seen.
A single mother to a 2-year-old girl, Brittney had far from an easy start in life. She was molested as a child by her step-grandfather, who was later sentenced to life in prison. As she reached her teens, Brittney became involved in drugs and was bouncing from home to home at the time of her disappearance. She had last been seen on the way to her uncle’s house.
The uncle in question, Donald ‘Donnie’ Holland, was under investigation at the time, facing numerous allegations of child sexual abuse against members of his family. On the day that Holland was scheduled to be questioned he took a gun to his head, killing himself and taking his secrets to the grave. The gun, police later found out, belonged to Brittney Wood. Volunteers searched the 5 mile radius surrounding Donnie’s house but found no trace of the troubled young woman.
As authorities delved further into the case against Donnie, they uncovered a depraved and incestuous sex ring that shook the community to its core. Investigations revealed that Donnie, his wife Wendy, and numerous other relatives had been taking part in group sex parties for years, sharing each others children under the guise of family barbecues. Groomed from an early age, as many as 16 children were abused by the gang, forced to watch the others until they were deemed old enough to take part. Despite several formal complaints of abuse going back at least 6 years, it seems that none of these allegations were seriously pursued.
Wendy Holland, wife of Donnie and maternal aunt of Brittney, was found guilty of a range of abuse charges in 2015 and was sentenced to 219 years in prison.
Wendy's twin sister, Mendy Kent, was also found guilty and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Mendy's husband, Dustin Kent, pled guilty to his charges and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Randall Wood, brother of Wendy, Mendy and Brittney's mother Chessie, pled guilty to his charges and was sentenced to a 15 year split sentence, of which only 3 were spent in prison.
Brittney's brother, Derek Wood, was granted youthful offender status, and as such, his records are sealed.
Wendy and Donnie's son, Donnie Holland Jr, was also granted youthful offender status.
Brittney's mother, Chessie, pled guilty to the misdemeanour of reckless endangerment.
In addition to the 8 family members, 3 family friends, William Bonny Brownlee, James Cumbaa and Nelton "Butch" Morgan were also charged.
Despite the large number of arrests, none of the accused gave any indication as to the whereabouts of Brittney Wood. Some suspect that she may have disappeared following an act of vigilante justice against her uncle Donnie, a theory fuelled by the unusual position of his gunshot wound. While self-inflicted gunshots are typically directed to the side of his head or via the mouth or forehead, Donnie was found with an injury to the rear of the head, behind his ear. Considering what Brittney knew about her family, it seems unlikely that she would leave her 2-year-old daughter behind. However, it is worth noting that the little girl was in the custody of her father prior to Brittney's disappearance.
Brittney's stepmother, Stephanie Hanke, has since revealed that a female family member had told Brittney she had been raped by 3 male relatives just days before she went missing. It is possible that, with investigations pending, the family needed Brittney to be silenced. The circumstances surrounding the discovery of Donnie's body have certainly raised suspicions. He was found in his SUV by his wife Wendy and a female friend (who incidentally would also later be accused of sexual abuse and the production of child pornography). Alongside Brittney's gun, her cellphone battery was found in the car, perhaps removed in the mistaken belief that it would prevent her phone from being tracked by police. Hanke believes that Wendy Holland holds the key to Brittney's disappearance, but 6 years on, she has given nothing away. The perpetrators may be locked behind bars, but for Brittney Wood justice is yet to be done.
Speaking to Case Remains, Brittney's mother Chessie said the following: "It's been 6 years since Brittney went missing. Wish I could say it gets easier, but that would be a lie. Through the grace of God, we have learned to cope with her not being in our lives. We also realise that she is now in the hands of our Father in Heaven. Knowing this gives us the greatest peace. We focus on the good memories we have of Brittney which make us smile. Please keep her and her daughter in your prayers."
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