Brittney Wood, 19, went missing in 2012. She was last seen with her uncle, Donnie Holland, who was found shot dead in his car shortly after.
Wood is believed dead at this point, but her disappearance led to an in-depth investigation that uncovered an incestuous sex ring in Alabama. The Associated Press reported that the incest and child abuse went on for three generations in two families that merged when Donnie Holland married Wendy Wood, Brittney’s aunt.
“You’d be surprised how many of them had prior allegations. Nothing happened,” said Teresa Heinz, an assistant district attorney in Baldwin County, Alabama. “You have to wonder what wouldn’t have happened to these children if something had been done. And Brittney might still be alive.”
Officials are unsure of how many children have been affected by the sex ring, but the number is estimated to be somewhere between 11 and 16 children who could have been as young as 3 or 4 when their abuse began.
The suspects involved in the sex ring are believed to have made the children watch their relatives perform in orgies when they weren’t physically molesting them. Parents within the family are believed to have shared their own children with others in the ring for the purpose of sex.
The children of all the suspects have been removed and placed into foster care or with family members who were not a part of the heinous crimes.
Donnie Holland was reported to be the leader of the sex ring at one point.
“Donnie was the manager. He’d say, ‘I’ve got this child and this adult, come on over,'” said Nicki Patterson, Mobile County Assistant District Attorney.
Since then, 11 individuals have been charged with crimes related to the Alabama sex ring. Several of those were related to Brittney Wood, including two uncles, her brother, and her own mother.
Wood’s uncles and brother all plead guilty in court. Her mother, Chessie Wood, denies any involvement in the sex ring and is currently waiting to be tried.
Chessie Wood expressed how she felt about being charged.
“There are innocent people in this and there are guilty people in this. 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.”
Meanwhile, the district attorney is still trying to look into how the sex ring managed to go through generations of family members without being discovered, despite complaint reports filed.
“You look at these reports and wonder, ‘Why? How did it not go anywhere?'” said Heinz.
[Image courtesy of the Associated Press]