Left and Center: Brittney circa, 1997
Right: Age Progressed to age 25
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: September 16, 1997
Missing From: Sturgis, St. Joseph County, Michigan
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: August 1, 1991
Age: 6 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 45
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Brittney was missing 4 of her upper baby teeth at the time of her 1997 disappearance, she was known to wear her hair tied back in a ponytail at the time she went missing
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white tank top or t-shirt with a floral design, tie-dyed hot pink or bright pink shorts, and a pair of white tennis shoes with a pink design on the sides, her shoe laces had a red line going down the center of them
NCMEC Number: 837981
Details of Disappearance
Brittney was last seen in Sturgis, Michigan on September 16th 1997. She was seen playing outside of her apartment in the Village Manor Apartment complex. Her mother, Tina Stetler, left the apartment at approximately 8:30 pm to go and run some errands, Brittney was playing alone on her bicycle at the time her mother left. She had been outside for an hour by that time.
About five minutes after Tina left, Brittney’s half brother reportedly saw her sitting on a bench that was in front of their residence. Some accounts state Brittney was riding her bicycle along with her brother but that they became separated when he crossed the street. Britney was not allowed to do this. Shortly after this, a witness said he saw Brittney speaking with an unidentified man in a vehicle.
The man was described as a Caucasian male who was in his late 20s to early 30s in 1997. He had short dark hair and a thick mustache He was driving a red or brown 1980s mid-sized Renault. The witness said shortly thereafter, Brittney walked over to him and she said that she “made a new friend”. Brittney disappeared and was never seen or heard from again.
Tina returned home at 9:05 pm, approximately 35 minutes after she last saw Brittney. She asked Brittneys brother to go and look for her but he was unable to locate her. The police were called at this point. An extensive search of the area uncovered no evidence of the child’s whereabouts . A bloodhound that was used in the search for her was able to trace Brittney’s scent to the parking lot of a nearby convenience store that was frequently utilized by interstate truckers. Nothing else was found
Investigators believe Brittney was possibly kidnapped by someone she wasn’t acquainted with her and she was taken out of the area. The police have ruled out any possibility of her wandering away or running off due to her age. Investigators have found no concrete evidence of who she might’ve been taken by. Her bicycle she was riding was eventually found abandoned near her home.
Investigators distributed a sketch of the man seen speaking with Brittney to the general public in hopes they could identity him. He is not considered a suspect but police would like to speak with him in regards to the case. Investigators do not know if he is connected to Brittney’s presumed abduction in any manner but he is someone of interest that they would like to speak with.
Investigators have stated that there were at least five attempted abductions in the days before and after Brittney went missing in St. Joseph County. On September 7th 1997, a 32 year old woman was walking on Big Hill Road at 1:30 pm in Sturgis when she was accosted by a man who tries to force her into his car. She managed escape him and even scratched him in the face in the process.
On September 10th, an 11 year old girl was nearly abducted when two white males attempted to lure her into their vehicle. The girl recalled that one of the men had a scar on his face. She managed to run back home safely. The attempted abduction occurred in Centerville at approximately 7:00 pm.
On September 15th, a white male attempted to lure a boy into a vehicle in Constantine. The boy was able to run home safely. This attempted kidnapping occurred at approximately 4:30 pm. On September 19th, one of three men attempted to force a 12 year old girl into a red two door mid-sized vehicle in the parking lot of Mendon High School. She got away from the men and ran home safely and uninjured.
The men in that case had a similar car to the driven by the man sought for questioning in the Beer case. The man who attempted to abduct the 12 year old girl was described as being around 20 years old who stood at 5 feet 10 inches. He is described as being Caucasian and weighed around 200 pounds. He had blonde hair that was cut shorter on the top but longer on the back.
It’s unknown if these abduction attempts are linked to Brittney’s case. The men sought in those cases have not been identified by police. After Brittney went missing, rumors began to circulate regarding her family and the children’s house life. Brittney was often times spotted playing outside by herself. She once told a neighbor that her mother would lock her out of the house for being bad.
Another neighbor would always see Brittney playing in the sand box near her own apartment alone. The neighbor would tell Brittney to return home because the sandbox is far away from her apartment. Just a few days after her disappearance, Brittney’s uncle, James Allen Beers, was arrested on domestic violence charges that were unrelated to Brittney’s case. He lived with Brittney, her mother, and her siblings at the time of her disappearance.
Months after Brittney’s disappearance in January of 1998, her older brother, Joshua Lee Folsom and younger sister, Autumn Stetler, were both removed from the home due to alleged child abuse by James Allen Beers. Tina was urged to leave him due to the abuse he put her children though but she refused and as a result they were taken from her care.
Tina had dispositional hearings where she was ordered to get a job and to maintain a stabilized environment in her home for her children to remain in. She would not regain custody unless she left James. Joshua feared him and he has a history of violence towards children.
James was not the only who allegedly abused the children. Court records indicated that there was alleged abuse from Kevin Folsom, he was the father of Joshua. He was previously convicted of criminal sexual conduct and had been in prison since 1996. The victim in that case was Brittney. She was sexually abused by him when she was just 3 years old.
Brittney’s abuse came to light when she refused to let her baby sitter bathe her one evening. The babysitter questioned Brittney’s refusal and she told her that Folsom had been molesting her. When Folsom was interviewed in August of 1995, he told police he became aroused while bathing Brittney and touched her.
Autumns father was Lonnie Garvie. He passed away in 1996, unfortunately. He was described as a good and devoted father. He was a cook at Herrmann’s East Side Food Shop. He was often seen feeding Brittney and her siblings inside the restaurant. A waitress at the restaurant told police it was possible someone abducted Brittney to give her a better life since she had no stability in her home.
The following year after Brittney’s disappearance, Tina had a termination petition hearing in which she volunteered to have her parental rights to Joshua and Autumn taken away. She admitted that she did not have the financial accommodations that she needed to take care of her children.
Brittney was removed from this petition due to her status as a missing child. If she was found there would be a deprecate petition to have her taken away from her mother as well. Tina’s father was granted custody of Joshua while her brother and his wife took custody of Autumn.
In 2000, investigators went after a lead in the case that came from Detroit, Michigan. Over 2,000 images depicting child pornography was discovered on the computer of a man, Russell Tombs. He was 41 years old at the time of his arrest. In more than a dozen of these photos, a young girl can be seen in them. The child looked to be in between the ages of 4 and 6.
The young girl in the photos appeared to be crying as she was raped by an older man and appeared to be tied up in a laundry room and a bedroom. Investigators released photographs of the file to the Meia in hopes that they could identify her. Shortly thereafter, the Sturgis Police Department called and said they believed the girl resembled Brittney.
After a week, investigators found that the file in the photographs was not Brittney. The girl was eventually tracked to Texas and testified against her parents who were later convicted of child pornography charges. The photograph and it’s possible relation to Brittney’s case brought renewed interest and media attention to the case.
In 2015, investigators named child killer, Daniel Kevin Furlong, as a possible suspect in Brittney’s presumed abduction. Furlong was convicted on charges of 2nd degree murder in the death of 11 year old Jodi Parrack who was killed on November 8th 2007 in Constantine Township, Michigan. He was found to be responsible after he attempted to lure a 10 year old girl into his White Pigeon garage in the summer of 2015.
The girl managed to escape and he was arrested for that crime. His DNA was taken and police found it was a match to blood and saliva found in Parrack’s body. He formally confessed to killing Parrack by strangling her and that he dumped her body in a cemetery. Investigators believe he was likely involved in more crimes than just Parrack’s murder.
Constantine Township is only 16 miles and 23 minutes away from Sturgis where Brittney disappeared from. Authorities have noted that Furlong matches the sketch and description of the man that Brittney was seen speaking to before her disappearance. Jodi Parrack physically resembles Brittney and Furlongs crimes match up with Brittney’s disappearance.
Investigators have reason to believe Furlong was in Sturgis at the time of Brittney’s 1997 disappearance. He was questioned in regards to the Beer case but he denied that he abducted or killed Brittney but investigators can not eliminate him and can’t definitively say he’s telling the truth. Furlong seemed to be cold and un-remorseful when talking about the Parrack murder.
Furlong was sentenced to 30-60 years for the murder of Jodi Parrack. Investigators estates that they have other persons of interest in Brittney’s disappearance but cannot release their names since the investigation into her disappearance is active.
Brittney’s disappearance had a heavy impact on the area citizens in the years after it occurred. Every year, to mark her disappearance, a group of people would gather at the Village Manor Apartments where she went missing from. Although the beach she was sitting on is long gone, the memories of her life and her disappearance remain. Her grandparents and mother have attended these events.
Brittney’s presumed abduction remains unsolved and foul play is suspected. There’s been no sign of her since 1997.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Sturgis Police Department 269-651-3231