Inside Brittney Beers' Kidnapping

On September 16, 1997, 6-year-old Brittney Beers was riding her bike around her apartment complex in Sturgis, Michigan. Not long after, her bike was found but there was no sign of Beers (via The Charley Project).

Her disappearance set off a search for her and a man reported to have been seen speaking with her before her disappearance. Still, after more than 25 years, and a case that has seen its fair share of twists and turns the mystery of what happened to Brittney Beers remains unsolved.

In 2015, a man was arrested and charged with the murder of another young girl in a case eerily reminiscent of Brittney Beers'. The man in question — Daniel Furlong — admitted to the murder and he later raised eyebrows due in large part to how he bears a strong resemblance to the police sketch of the man believed to have been seen talking to Beers in 1997.

Brittney Beers goes missing

Brittney Beers left her home at around 7:30 on the night of her disappearance to ride her bike around the ​​Village Manor Apartments complex along U.S. Highway 12 in Sturgis, Michigan. About an hour later, Beers' mother, Tina Stetler left to run some quick errands. On her way out of the apartment complex, she saw her young daughter still riding her bike.

Not long after Stetler left the apartment, Beers' half-brother also claimed to have seen her, this time sitting on a bench. Another witness later reported having seen Beers talking to an unknown man driving what was described as a red or brown mid-sized vehicle. According to Charley Project, the same witness also reported that they spoke to Beers herself who told them that she had "made a new friend." This piece of information was a little unusual as according to Morbidology, Beers' older half-sister, Dixie, would later say that she the 6-year-old girl was "so scared and skittish about talking to strangers."

Where's Brittney?

Tina Stetler returned home from running her errands at around 9:05 p.m. that night. She then told Beers' brother to go find Brittney and bring her home. The only problem was she was nowhere to be found.

According to Morbidology, Beers was reported just over an hour later at 10:30. Authorities quickly assembled a search party. ​​"That first night was about 20 hours long," one member of the search party — Geoff Smith, Sturgis director of public safety — told The Sturgis Journal in 2017. "We slept for about four hours and we were back at it. It was like that for a couple weeks."

An unfortunate reality of the situation was that the apartment complex was along U.S. Highway 12 which was the main road through Sturgis. This meant that it would be relatively easy for someone to make a quick escape out of town. Not long after her disappearance, the search party discovered Beers' bicycle.

The search for Brittney Beers continues

Early on in the investigation, police put together a composite sketch of the man seen talking to Brittney before she vanished. According to The Charley Project, these sketches were distributed around the area, and while it wouldn't garner too many leads in the immediate aftermath of Beers' disappearance, it would come up again years later.

According to Morbidology, an early focus for investigators was a nearby area that encompassed 40 acres and included open fields in addition to railroad tracks and storage buildings, but there was no sign of Beers. This was yet another factor that led to investigators believing that Beers had been abducted.

"There's certainly a potential for an abduction," one investigator told the Battle Creek Enquirer in 1997. "It's pretty reasonable to think that there's something more than her just having wandered off or run away."

The missing person case would take an unexpected with the revelation of some disturbing information related to Beers' family.

Dark family secrets come to light and investigators refuse to give up hope

In 1998, allegations of physical and sexual abuse led to Brittney's brother and sister being removed from their home for their protection. According to The Charley Project, there was alleged abuse committed by Beers' father, Raymond Beers, her uncle, James Beers (who was living in the apartment with Tina Stelter at the time), and one of Beers' sibling's fathers, Kevin Folsom. Folsom also reportedly served time in prison for some of the alleged abuse but was released in 2008.

According to Morbidology, a judge was quoted as saying "I'm not going to return the children to her with James Beers around, knowing her son is afraid of him, knowing what he's done to other children."

The Sturgis Journal reports that since Beers' disappearance, the case has remained open, even as department leadership changed hands over the years. "I'm not willing to give up hope that we'll solve this case," Geoff Smith said. "I still have that hope and optimism. We want closure for the family, the community, and ourselves."

A possible break in the case

In 2015, almost 20 years after Brittney Beers' disappearance, police announced that they had a person of interest in the case.

According to The Charley Project, Daniel Furlong was arrested for the 2007 abduction and murder of 11-year-old Jodi Parrack. This came to light after Furlong became the suspect in another abduction of a 10-year-old girl who escaped. A DNA sample connected him to Parrack's murder and he later admitted that he had selected her at random and that he had planned on killing the 10-year-old who had escaped from him.

The characteristics of Furlong's crimes — and the fact that his victims were young girls — were just a few of the reasons that he has come under suspicion in recent years. "He couldn't tell me the truth about anything," Smith told The Sturgis Journal about Furlong. "I can't eliminate him, but can't make him a person of interest. I just can't believe anything he says."

Furlong looks quite a bit like the sketch of the man reported by a witness released by authorities in the early stages of the investigations.

"We believe he (Furlong) was in the area at the time, but nothing right now points to him in the Beers case other than the fact he's being charged in the murder of another young girl," Smith said, according to The Sturgis Journal. However, the case remains unsolved.