Brooke Leigh Henson

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Above Images: Henson, circa 1999

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: July 4, 1999 from Travelers Rest, South Carolina
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: April 17, 1979
  • Age: 20 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'4, 104 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde hair, brown eyes. Henson's ears are pierced and her hair was dyed brown at the time of her disappearance. She smoked Marlboro cigarettes at the time of her 1999 disappearance, and did not normally wear makeup. Her nickname is Brookey.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A tan tank top, dark green shorts, black sandals, a silver watch on her left wrist and a silver bracelet on her right wrist.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Henson resided with her family in Travelers Rest, South Carolina in 1999. She hosted a party with several friends during the evening of July 3, 1999. Henson's parents returned from a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina at approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 4. She was sitting on their front porch at the time of their arrival. Henson said that she and her boyfriend had a disagreement earlier that night. She told her family members that she planned to walk to Willis's store on the corner of Hawkins Road and Poinsett Highway to purchase cigarettes. Henson departed from the house at approximately 2:30 a.m. after another verbal dispute with her boyfriend, and was last seen walking along Henderson Drive. The store is approximately two blocks from her residence. She left a note for her boyfriend, saying, "Follow me if you care." Henson never returned home and has not been heard from again.

    Henson's boyfriend, Shaun Shirley, had a volatile relationship with her and he and his friends refused to cooperate with the investigation into her disappearance. He has a criminal record for drug-related offenses and assaults, but he hasn't been named as a suspect in Henson's disappearance. Many of the people in Henson's life were involved in criminal activity.

    In New York City, a woman registered registered for graduate classes at Columbia University's School of General Studies using Henson's name, date of birth and Social Security number. She took criminology and psychology courses for two years before anyone noticed. The ruse was discovered in June 2006, when the woman applied for a job under Henson's name and her prospective employer did an internet search and found out Henson was missing. Investigators subsequently identified the student as Esther Elizabeth Reed. A photograph of Reed is posted below this case summary.

    When authorities confronted Reed, she claimed she was actually Henson and had left her home voluntarily. Investigators doubted her story and arranged for her to take a DNA test, but she never showed up to have the test done; instead, she fled, taking nothing except her cat and her toothbrush, hairbrushes and combs. Reed has a history of stealing other people's information and using their identities to enroll in colleges and universities, including Harvard University and California State University. Although she did coursework at reputable colleges under her stolen identities, Reed herself never completed high school. She passed her GED exam under Henson's name before enrolling at Columbia. She also claimed she was a European chess champion. Reed took out over $100,000 in student loans, ran up credit card debt and obtained a passport under her stolen identities.

    Reed was on the run for two and a half years before she was arrested in Chicago, Illinois in February 2008 and charged with mail and wire fraud, possession of false identity documentation, and identity theft. In August, she pleaded guilty to federal fraud and identity theft charges. In February 2009, she was sentenced to four years in prison. Reed stated she never meant to harm anybody and only took Henson's identity to rise above a painful past. Authorities believe she was an opportunist who didn't actually have anything to do with Henson's disappearance.

    Henson's loved ones stated that it is extremely uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning. Her family said that authorities did not begin a search of the area until three weeks after her disappearance. Investigators reportedly believed that Henson left of her own accord and expected her to return shortly afterwards, but now they suspect foul play. Her family describes her as a fun-loving woman who enjoys hiking and being outdoors. She dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. Investigators believe Henson was murdered and they have a suspect in her disappearance, but there is not enough evidence to charge him. Her case remains unsolved.

    Reed
    Above: Esther Elizabeth Reed

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Travelers Rest Police Department
    864-23-CRIME

    OR
    South Carolina Law Enforcement Division
    803-737-9000

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    Source Information
    WYFF-4
    Brooke Henson: Forever In Our Hearts
    The Brooke Leigh Henson Official Website
    North American Missing Persons Network
    The New York Post
    America's Most Wanted
    The Seattle Times
    WLS Chicago
    The Columbia Spectator
    Fox News
    The New York Times
    The Huffington Post
    Rolling Stone Magazine

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    Updated 7 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated January 30, 2010; details of disappearance updated.

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