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AUGUST 2, 2006: Brandi Wells still missing after 12 years

LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) - An East Texas woman's disappearance still remains a mystery after 12 years.

At 23-years-old, Brandi Wells was studying at Trinity Valley Community College to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher.

However, on the night of August 2, 2006, those dreams became a nightmare.

That night, Wells was seen leaving Graham Central Station in Longview. Just a few hours later, her car was found alongside Interstate 20.

But, it's what happened between those hours that has left Wells' family searching for answers.

BACKGROUND

Wells lived in Brownsboro but would often visit her mother, Ellen Tant, in Tyler. And she did just that on the last night she was seen.

"She came in, she changed clothes and said she was going to the club with some friends," Tant says. "But, I just assumed she meant the Electric Cowboy, which was right down the road from out house."

Tant says she thought Wells was going to meet friends and enjoy one last night out before the Fall semester started where she would encounter a college semester full of homework, group projects and begin taking steps toward her goal of molding the minds of future generations.on. 

"She would've been a wonderful teacher," Tant says. "She could've help sculpt so many impressionable children and do great things." 

Little did Tant know that would be the last time she would see her daughter.

"I was like, okay maybe she was with friends, and since she doesn't drink much, maybe she got a bit tipsy, went back to somebody's house and stayed and didn't drive home, good girl," recalls Tant. 

The next morning, Wells was still not home. But, Tant didn't think much of it. It wasn't until the following evening after Wells had gon to the club she knew something was wrong. 

"I had started calling her phone, but it went straight to voicemail every single time," says Tant. "It was unusual for her to not being answering her phone. So, that Friday, I called the police." 

It was then she would discover her daughter was further away from home than she knew. 

"As I was talking to him, my youngest daughter came up and was listening to the conversation," Tant says. "When I say, 'She went to the club,' and he asks, 'Which club?,' I said the Electric Cowboy. She says, 'No mommy, she went to Graham Central Station in Longview'." 

Wells had ventured off more than 45 minutes away to an unfamiliar city.

Officers, who were with the Longview Police Department at the time, launched an investigation starting with the surveillance tapes from the nightclub. 

Family members of Wells were called to the police station to help identify Wells in the tapes. From there, two images of Wells were sent out to the public. 

Tant, unable to be there due to family health issues, would view them several weeks later. 

That's when she noticed the pictures were not of her child.

"I was like those are not the clothes Brandi left in," Tant says. "Where are the clothes Brandi had on?" 

For six weeks, the woman whose photo had been sent out to the public and circulated on a continuous news cycle was not Wells. 

"Brandi was seen walking through the door a full 10 minutes before this girl in the exact same clothes that I had showed police she was in," Tant declares.

The surveillance footage shows Wells entering Graham Central Station, near south Longview, around 10:36 p.m. Two minutes later, she can been seen checking in at the counter.

"In the club, people told police that Brandi was asking for a couple of bucks that she could borrow for gas," claims Tant. "She got lost a couple of times and ran out of gas." 

She was inside the club for nearly two hours.

Just before 12:30 a.m., she can be seen walking by the counter and out the front door. A man in a white cowboy hat followed close behind her.

"As he walks left, you can see him look over toward Brandi," Tant says. "You can only see Brandi's feet at this point. You can see her walk toward him." 

It's unknown if the man in the cowboy hat was found and questioned.

"I don't think Brandi left the parking lot of that club by herself," says Tant. 

The next day, Wells' car was found on the side of Interstate 20, near Farm-To-Market Road 2087, between Longview and Kilgore. However, it would be days before police would link the abandoned vehicle to Wells.

A gas can,that didn't belong to Wells, was found in the trunk, and inside her car were all of her belongings, along with her ex-boyfriends cell phone. The one thing missing was Wells' cell phone.

"On Brandi's phone a week after she disappeared, you see all these phone calls, one right after the other, that lasted maybe two or three minutes," says Tant.

Police were able to find and question three men who had used her phone. Reports say one of them failed a polygraph test, however, all three were released.

"He (one of the men questioned by police) claims he's walking down the road and he hears this beeping sound and he looks over and there's a cell phone laying up against a tree," explains Tant.

The driver's side seat had also been adjusted for someone taller than Wells. But, with the car having been there for so long, it's unknown if there was a connection.

Community search parties were organized in south Longview, close to the club. During one of those searches, neighbors in the area would send a warning of sex-trafficking in the woods near where Wells' phone was found.

After months of trying to find Wells, the trail turned cold.

Over the years, new information would come in, most notably a phone call saying Wells was alive in Kansas City. But, it turned out to be another false lead.

Tant says despite this, she's not giving up on her daughter.

"I always hear her in the back of my mind saying, 'Mommy, I'm waiting for you, come get me, help me'," says Tant. "You hear that all the time. It stays in your heart, that she knows she needs your help. And you don't know how to help her, what to do, there's nothing to go on. Another fear is she's laying in someone's fields with her bones just scattered everywhere and she deserved better than that. She deserved a burial."

To this day, Tant is staying strong, living now for both herself and her daughter, while still waiting for her child to come home. 

"I always told myself that man's not going to have two victims out of this family," Tant says. "I'm not going to be a victim. But, a missing person is a human being ripped out of someone's life. That leaves a big hole."

Anyone with additional information or questions regarding this case should contact the Texas Department of Public Safety-Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 512-424-5074 or 1-800-346-3243.


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