The Evolution of a Missing Person's Case

By: Auburn Hutton Email
By: Auburn Hutton Email

It's been nearly a month since 19-year-old Brianna Denison disappeared...but police, her family, and the community continue to search for the missing woman. For other local families, it's been 20 or more years since one of their loved ones went missing...but today, those cases also remain unsolved.

An 11-year old girl named Jennifer Martin mysteriously disappeared from her Lemmon Valley neighborhood back in 1987. While her face may not be as recognizable to you as Brianna Denison's is...Jennifer's family has not forgotten.

Jennifer's older sister, Colleen, says she now believes Jennifer is dead. But like Brianna's family, who continues to search for the missing co-ed, Colleen says she was long convinced her sister would still be found alive. She says it took her years before she could call Jennifer's case a recovery.

"Finally I was able to convince myself that she most likely was murdered and would not be coming home," said Colleen Martin.

Jennifer Martin vanished after walking to a 7-11 store within just feet of her Lemmon Valley home. Colleen says police and volunteers quit their search for her sister after only a week.

"On horseback and on ATV's and just walking through sagebrush and everywhere they were allowed to go searching for her. But it wasn't anything that was organized," said Martin.

Brianna's search team is still looking for the missing woman, even a month after she disappeared. The entire community has stepped in...and forensics specialists are sorting through DNA samples, hoping to find more clues. Colleen says 20 years ago, none of this was possible.

"We had to actually go into the print shops and go everywhere and say 'we need these posters. She was abducted. We need it this way and oh by the way, can you do it for free?' Most were generous and did it for free, but nothing like what's going on with Brianna. It's so different."

Still, Colleen wears a "Bring Bri Back" bracelet in support of Brianna's family, saying she understands their pain. She says it hurts too much to get personally involved in the Brianna search, but she prays for Bri's family, and for her missing sister, each and everyday.

"Don't give up hope. You can always hope. You can always hope," said Connie.

Colleen says she still keeps in touch with local police and sheriff's investigators, just in case there's a development in the case. Whenever another kidnapping takes place, she says it's a reminder that opens up her old wounds.

Colleen says media coverage has changed as well. Her sister's disappearance mostly stayed only in the local news. After Jennifer disappeared, Colleen and her family contacted "America's Most Wanted," but they weren't all that interested in the story. Only after the local community petitioned heavily, did the show finally pick up the piece.

Colleen says in the case of Brianna Denison, the woman's family continues to head up the search effort...and she says she stands by their decision to stay brave and optimistic.


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