Despite being the only case of missing twins that are still missing today, the disappearance of the Millbrook twins nearly 30 years ago received shockingly little attention from law enforcement.
Many have questioned whether that was because the missing girls were black and lived in the projects in Augusta, Georgia, a town that has marked inequality, with Broad Street serving as a dividing line between the rich and poor.
“The better, well-off side has the money to go and look for family members if they go missing,” Jessica Logan, a sister of Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook told the producers of “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins,” an upcoming special on Oxygen. “They’ll get more help quicker than a woman would with a heap load of kids that lives in the projects.”
What twists and turns did the investigation take over the years?
Dannette and Jeannette were last seen by their family on March 18, 1990. Their mother, Mary “Louise” Sturgis told “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins” that when it got dark and they weren’t home, she and her daughter Shanta Sturgis went out in the neighborhood to look for them, and when they didn’t find them, came home, called authorities and were told they had to wait 24 hours to file a missing person’s report. When they called back, they were connected to investigator Jim Shipp with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department.
Sturgis says Shipp told her mother that they probably ran away, something the family found to be 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 said.
Brooke Hargrove, one of the two podcasters behind “The Fall Line” which investigated the case, told producers “[f]or whatever reason he decided these children were runaways”
Laurah Norton, the other podcast host, was disturbed by the lack of effort put into initially looking for the 15-year-old girls.
“I’ve looked at a lot of cold cases and I’ve seen wonderful investigations, I’ve seen mediocre investigations, I’ve seen well-intentioned investigations but I’ve rarely seen no investigation and that’s what we saw in the case of the Millbrook twins,” Norton told producers.
The family heard little news on the case and said that they rarely heard from Shipp. The family told “The Fall Line” that in 1991, Shipp visited them and said that since the girls would now be 17 years old, they were too old to be considered missing children and could no longer be legally made to come home.
In 1993, the Sturgis family 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 and wondered who told NCMEC that the twins were accounted for.
During the production of “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins,” Shipp, now retired, agreed to meet with Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor giving the case a new look for Oxygen. He did not agree for their discussion to be filmed, but according to Coates 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.
For years, the Sturgis family kept putting pressure on law enforcement to reopen the case. In 2013, Richard Roundtree, who had campaigned on the platform of improving community relations, became the county’s first black sheriff. He reopened the Millbrook case and the twins are back up on NCMEC’s site.
Yet, no big leads materialized. In 2017, the case became the focus of “The Fall Line” podcast. The following year, they partnered with “Unresolved,” another podcast, to raise money and erect a billboard in Augusta to keep attention on the case.
There still have not been any arrests.
Now, the case is getting a fresh look —and new potential leads — in “The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins” which will air Saturday, November 23 at 7/6c p.m. , only on Oxygen.
“Plain and simple an injustice was done to that family,” Roundtree told Coates and fellow investigator Page Reynolds recently during the filming of the special.
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