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A musician's mysterious disappearance over the summer following a fight with her boyfriend at a Florida motel has left her family desperate for answers.
Kelley Brannon, 36, and her boyfriend Eddie Emerson were on a road trip to Detroit when they stopped at the Sunshine Inn in Live Oak, Florida. That's where Brannon was last seen July 14, a little before midnight, Live Oak Police Capt. Jason Rountree told Oxygen.com.
The couple had gotten into a heated argument at the motel. Emerson told NBC Dateline that he last saw Brannon drinking and crying outside of their room. He said he took her car keys away from her and went back into their motel room before exchanging angry texts with Brannon. In the midst of their fight, he said he fell asleep.
In a voicemail Emerson provided to Oxygen.com, Brannon tells him that she booked her own room at the motel and that she’d reported her car stolen by him. An official report was not filed.
“You are not a partner,” she tells him in the voicemail. “You turn on me in a split second. [...] I’m sick of your abuse.”
At the end of the voicemail recording, Brannon abruptly says that she’s getting into a car, and it sounds as if there are voices in the background. It is the last known communication by Brannon. Emerson reported Brannon missing the next day.
The couple apparently had a turbulent relationship. Brannon’s friend Mikalena Kenyon provided a text to Oxygen.com in which Brannon told her: "He [Emerson] punched me in the face and gave me a shiner the day after Christmas.”
Online records show that Emerson was arrested on a battery charge.
"I am very regretful for the incident in December that sent me to jail and I learned an important lesson," Emerson told Oxygen.com. "She wouldn’t go this long without contacting anybody, but if she is still out there and doesn’t want to be with me, any pain of that would be overshadowed by the joy of knowing she is alive."
The couple’s goal was to make it up to Detroit to buy an inexpensive house to fix up. They were just a few days into the trip when Brannon vanished.
Cheryl Speak, Brannon’s longtime friend, told Oxygen.com that she fears the pair were in a toxic relationship. Emerson is also being eyed by police but has denied having anything to do with his girlfriend's disappearance.
"There is one primary person of interest and that’s her boyfriend," Rountree told Oxygen.com, adding that the apparent toxicity and history of their relationship has played a factor in their examination of him.
Rountree said that while aspects of Emerson's story have been cleared, other parts have not, though he declined to specify further. Online sleuths have theorized that the voicemail on Emerson's phone may have been doctored.
"I know there's been some speculation that it's recorded-over voicemail," Rountree said. "I don't have any confirmation of that. We are working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on different analyzation tactics and methods."
Rountree added that other persons of interest include people who were staying at the motel, particularly people who have criminal connections in the area. However, he said none of them stand out.
Emerson said in an interview for a true crime YouTube show that he and Brannon met up with a man he identified as "the town criminal" at the motel. He said the man was around at the time Brannon vanished, and he later added that he heard this man was "pestering" Brannon during their fight to go into his room. Emerson claimed that this man later stole guitars from his room, and said he believes that this man has information about Brannon's disappearance.
Speak told Oxygen.com that her missing friend makes an impression on everyone she meets. She calls her the kind of “free spirit” most people haven’t seen since the 1960s. She said Brannon was passionate about activism and was active in Occupy Wall Street, pipeline protests, and the women’s rights movements. Brannon got her bachelor's in arts and an MFA in creative writing, and she often sold her drawings online. She had recently been traveling and performing as a one-woman punk rock band.
“She is so creative,” Brannon’s mother, Christine Brannon, told Oxygen.com. “She’s full of talent.”
Christine added that her daughter, who she said loves animals and people and was always thinking of others, kept in close touch with her. She said that when she last saw her daughter, she was taking great precautions to keep her mother safe during the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s just so awful to think that somebody has extinguished her light, her creativity, her joy,” Christine told Oxygen.com. “She was such an activist and a go-getter but she would never hurt anybody.”
Kelley Brannon is 5’5” tall and weighs approximately 130 pounds. She has blue eyes and black and gray hair. She has a circle-A tattoo on her right hand near her thumb.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Live Oak Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 386-364-7463 or call the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch at 386-362-2222. You can remain anonymous by contacting Suwannee County Crime Stoppers 386-208-8477(TIPS)
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