COLD CASE FILES: The unsolved kidnapping of Brittney Beers
This cold case is not a murder case - at least not yet. Brittney Beers was 6 years old when she went missing from her Sturgis apartment complex in 1997. She would be 21 now.
And now, even 16 years later, the community wants desperately to know what happened to her.
Like the cars that travel down U.S. 12 in Sturgis, time seems to speed by. It was along that road in 1997, at the Village Manor Apartments, that Brittney vanished.
"I'd like to know," says neighbor Karlene Kay Frohriep, "I'd really like to know whatever happened to Brittney."
Frohriep lives in the apartment complex -- The same complex where Brittney lived, played, and disappeared.
"A beautiful child. She was such a beautiful child. She would go all over our neighborhood and pick neighbors' flowers," says Frohriep.
On September 16th, 1997 at about 8:30pm, Brittney and her brother were outside riding bikes in the apartment parking lot. Her mom went to get groceries for supper, her brother went with his friends across the street to get candy. Brittney, knowing she couldn't cross busy U.S. 12, stayed behind. Witnesses said they saw Brittney on a bench in front of the complex around 8:45. It was the last she was seen - 15 minutes later, no one could find Brittney.
There was a lot of media coverage after she disappeared. WSBT video from 1997 shows a makeshift memorial at the bench where she was last seen, media waiting for the latest from police, volunteers searching the area, and interviews with her family.
"We've been everywhere been over our steps 5 times - but we will go back over them a again till we find her," said Brittney's father to WSBT in 1997. He has since died in a car accident.
But there were no signs of Brittney. Some witnesses said they might have seen her talking with a man in the minutes before she vanished. Police think he might have been driving a red or brown car. Police had an artist draw a composite of what that man may have looked like.
According to media reports at the time, the family was at times the focus of the investigation, but no one was ever charged.
"We need to get brittney home okay," said Brittney's uncle, Jimmy Beers, to WSBT in 1997. "Brittney needs her mom and me, cause we love her. Okay. Her grandfather is hysterical. Her mother is really hysterical. Whoever took this girl is making her mother go crazy."
Brittney's bike was left in front of her apartment door but police found no other evidence. They have received tips though, about 1,100 so far. And they still follow up on every one of them.
Still, 15 years later, without much to go on, the hope that she could be found alive is long gone for many.
"My gut tells me that she is probably not alive. I hope she is," says Detective Sergeant Geoff Smith of the Sturgis Police Department. "But like it said, this many years out it is hard to keep up that hope."
Brittney's old neighbor, Frohriep, keeps hoping. She planted flowers in memory of Brittney, and like the rest of the community here in Sturgis, "I'll never forget her. I know I will personally never forget brittney," says Frohriep.
Brittney's mom declined an interview with WSBT.
Anyone with information on this case can contact:
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children- 1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)
Sturgis Police Department (Michigan) - 1-269-651-3231 or Your Local FBI
Age progression photo done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children