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2 People Vanished Months Apart In The Same Small West Virginia Town — Were The Cases Related?
When Brenda Lambert disappeared after her child's birthday party, she was at a pivotal point in her failing marriage.
How could two people go missing within months of each other in a small West Virginia town?
On July 22, 1992, Brenda Gail Lambert, 22, went missing from her home in Bluewell, West Virginia after a birthday party for her 1-year-old son, Raymond, Jr.
Six months later, another local, 24-year-old Mark Anthony Cook, went missing. He was last seen at a bar in town on January 14, 1993.
Some said it was a coincidence — while others maintained that the vanishings were linked.
By July 1992, Brenda’s rocky marriage to Raymond Lambert, then 26, was heading toward divorce, investigators said. He had moved out and was living with his mother and father at their 200-acre mountain property. Weeks before her disappearance, Brenda even filed a protective order against her husband, claiming domestic violence.
She was set to see a legal aid lawyer on July 30. But after Brenda disappeared, that meeting never happened.
Raymond was immediately a person of interest, but he claimed his wife had just run off and left their kids.
Investigators also noted there was tension at the birthday party on the day Brenda disappeared because of the presence of Brenda’s cousin, Tammy, who was known to be having an affair with Raymond.
The celebration had ended around 8 p.m. and Raymond took the kids to his parents’ home. Raymond claimed he returned at 2:30 p.m. the next day, which is when he found out Brenda was missing. Brenda’s car, keys, purse, and shoes were still there, suggesting that she had not left voluntarily.
A week after Brenda vanished, Tammy moved in with Raymond and eventually married him.
Brenda’s siblings, Tim Christian, Sr. and Christy Kennedy, told the team of investigators that their sister was a tomboy who grew up to be “a really good mother.” They were cautiously optimistic that “Cold Justice," Det. Matt Hatfield, and Capt. Joe Parks of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office could finally determine what happened to Brenda.
“She’s been gone for 30 years and there was never any hope whatsoever,” said Kennedy.
With Kennedy’s guidance, “Cold Justice” investigators began work on the case by getting a lay of the land. As Siegler surveyed the area from atop Coaldale Mountain, she was struck by how daunting the landscape is.
“If Brenda's out here, she could be anywhere,” she said. “The good thing is you don't have to have a body to prove a murder.”
Investigators interviewed Brenda’s older sister, Kay Christian. She said that Raymond was physically abusive and had allegedly choked Brenda, who wanted out of the marriage.
Christian also flatly dismissed rumors that Brenda and Cook’s disappearances were linked.
“Anybody trying to connect those two is just getting thrown off really bad,” she said.
Brenda’s other sister, Kat Hazelwood Bailey, also verified that Brenda had an appointment with legal aid before she vanished: “She wanted to get her kids before he did,” she told investigators.
Bailey added that Raymond told Brenda that he’d see her dead before she took his kids. But according to Bailey, Brenda had leverage over Raymond.
Bailey’s interview illuminated an inconsistency in Raymond’s account of when he found Brenda missing. He told sheriffs it was at 2:30 p.m. on July 23 — but he told Kat he found out she was missing at midnight on the 23rd.
The team also interviewed Brenda’s aunt, Bonnie Patterson. She claimed that Brenda’s daughter told Patterson that her father and grandfather were “on and off the mountain” on July 22, according to Spingola.
“Did Brenda’s threat to Raymond’s family get them involved with what happened to her?” he mused.
Brenda’s daughter and Raymond’s father are deceased, so Patterson’s statements couldn’t be corroborated.
The team knew they had to speak with Raymond’s ex-wife, Tammy Loveday Lambert. In an interview, she claimed she didn’t know Raymond was married when they met. She also said that Raymond told her that there was no way he’d allow Brenda to take his house and kids.
Tammy said she believed that Brenda had run off, but as time went by and Brenda’s mother died and her children celebrated milestones, she became less convinced of that story. She didn’t ask questions, though, because Raymond was physically abusive to the point where he’d strangle her, she alleged.
She also told investigators she’d heard from Raymond’s sister that Raymond and his father were at the sawmill the night of Brenda’s disappearance.
When investigators interviewed Raymond he firmly denied any wrongdoing. When he was asked if his family still owned the sawmill property and if investigators could search it, he dodged giving a straight answer.
The "Cold Justice" team was also able to get some information about Cook. Parks made contact with a confidential informant who had intel “on two murders that he knew about.” The source said that Cook was killed after leaving the bar on January 14, adding that rumors about Cook and Brenda running off were lies.
When investigators reviewed their findings, they were able to eliminate the theory that there was a link between Brenda and Cook. They also eliminated Tammy as a suspect.
The “Cold Justice” team and local sheriffs agreed that Raymond Lambert did have motive and opportunity when it came to Brenda's possible murder.
“The case is never going to get any better than it is right now,” Parks said.
Parks told Brenda’s siblings that the prosecutor “wants to look at a few things” but that he felt good about the case going forward: “Things are going to start moving.”