Trigger Warning: This post deals with issues of sexual assault and domestic violence and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.
A teenage girl disappeared. And while it’s almost certain that Brittney Wood will never be found, her absence has shone a light into the unimaginable darkness she lived with before she was taken.
19-year-old Brittney Wood was last seen with her uncle on May 30, 2012, in the southern U.S. state of Alabama. Her uncle, Donnie Holland, was found dead from suicide just days later. Brittney is presumed to be dead, too.
Her disappearance has unravelled an incestuous child sex ring that authorities suspect spans over three generations in Brittney’s family.
Now, two years on from her disappearance, eight of her family members have been charged in relation to abuse allegations. Alabama police say Holland was the leader and Wood was likely to be a victim.
It has been described as the largest sex ring to ever be uncovered in Alabama.
Children, some as young as three and four, were sold and shared among family members for years.
And no one knew.
A missing poster in the search for Brittney Wood.
Brittney disappeared without a trace. So far, no clues relating to her disappearance have been uncovered and no one has been charged.
Meanwhile her mother, Chessie Wood, is awaiting trial in relation to the charges. The 39-year-old denies any personal wrongdoing, but says members of her family are guilty.
“There are innocent people in this and there are guilty people in this,” she said in an interview.
“I don’t know how the judicial system is going to figure it all out because they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed.”
Chessie is accused of having sex with a young female family member, but insists she was unaware of the situation until after Brittney disappeared.
“The number one thing here is to find Brittney. The number two thing is to get all these sick (people) off the streets,” she said.
Chessie, a mother-of-five, believes her sister has the answer to what happened to Brittney.
“I know who can tell me what happened to Brittney. It is my sister Wendy. She knows what took place and I just beg her to tell the truth. No more hiding and no more lies,” she said in December last year.
“No mother should lose their daughter, but it is even worse when there is no body. We just want to mourn. All I want is to be able to say goodbye to my daughter and to end the agony of not knowing.”