Why Were The Millbrook Twins Removed From The National Center Of Missing & Exploited Children Database?

The girls' mother, Mary Sturgis, said that investigators told her the girls were probably runaways, something she found implausible.

By Gina Pace & Gina Tron

How could two missing twins be deemed found, leading to their names being removed from the National Center Of Missing & Exploited Children database? It seems like a nearly impossible mistake to have been made when the twins have not been seen in decades.

Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook were 15 when they vanished from Augusta on March 18, 1990, never to be seen again. Since then, there have been a series of perceived missteps. The initial officer on the case got the girls' names wrong on the missing person’s report, according to the Fall Line podcast. Then, those original sheriff’s department records on the case were lost, according to the Charley Projectan online database of missing people that have been gone at least one year.

According to the twins’ mother Mary "Louise" Sturgis, the first investigator on the case, Jim Shipp, then with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, told her he thought the girls were likely runaways, something she found implausible.

“They weren’t the type of girls that stayed out like that, they always went to school and when they got out of school they came straight home,” Sturgis told producers of “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins,” an upcoming special on Oxygen.

The family told The Fall Line podcast creators, who dedicated a season of the podcast to the case, that Shipp visited them in April of 1991 and told them that the case had been closed because the twins had turned 17 and could no longer be legally made to come home. 

In 1993, the family told producers they got a call from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) letting them know that it was reported to them that the twins had been found. The family, however, still had never seen them. Who had told the NCMEC they had been found?

During the production of “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins,” Shipp, now retired, agreed to meet with Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor and one of the investigators giving the case a new look for Oxygen. He did not agree for their discussion to be filmed, but confirmed that he was the one who told NCMEC the girls had been seen, although he had never laid eyes on them himself.

According to Coates, when she asked him why he did that, Shipp said it was because he thought it was an open case that should have been closed. Shipp said he had been told they had been seen by people in the community including the principal at the teens’ school. Coates said the principal has since passed away, so she can’t corroborate Shipp’s claim. 

Robert Lowery, vice president of NCMEC’s Missing Children Division told the Fall Line podcast that a terrible injustice was done when the girls’ names were removed. He was not acting vice president at the time when it happened, but said that “we have to have an agency to work with” which resulted in the Fall Line theorizing that the names were probably removed because the local investigating officer closed the case — something Shipps comments to Coates confirm.

The twins are now back on NCMEC’s site and their case got reopened in 2013, according to WRDW in Augusta.

To learn more about the case, watch “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins” premiering on Saturday, November 23 at 7pm ET/PT, only on Oxygen.

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