Brittney Wood was last ween with her uncle Donnie Holland in 2012, and now the case of the missing teen and her uncle’s suicide has led police to discover what they say is an extensive child sex ring in the backwoods of Alabama.
Wood was 19 when she went missing on the night of May 30, and police zeroed in on her uncle, who was being investigated for sex crimes at the time. Within days, Holland would end his life with a single gunshot to his head, but police were able to continue investigating and find what they said was a network of relatives and friends who sexually abused and shared young children.
Police said Donnie Holland was the leader of a network, and that Brittney Wood was likely a victim and would have been a key witness. She is presumed dead, though her body has never been found.
“Brittney could have been huge,” said prosecutor Teresa Heinz. “She could have corroborated so many things.”
But even without Wood, police have been able to arrest eight of her adult relatives and three family friends, leveling dozens of felony charges against them. Those charged include Brittney’s mother, Chessie Wood, and her two aunts.
Chessie denies the charges, but said some of her family members are responsible for abusing children.
“There are innocent people in this and there are guilty people in this,” Wood said. “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.”
The charges have led to criticism of local authorities, who appeared to know that something was going on in the backwoods areas of Alabama.
“You’d be surprised how many of them had prior allegations. Nothing happened,” Heinz said. “You have to wonder what wouldn’t have happened to these children if something had been done. And Brittney might still be alive.”
Despite the charges and the belief that Brittney Wood has been killed, family members have not given up hope. Her step-father maintains a Facebook page sharing details about her disappearance and asking for anyone with information to come forward.