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On May 30, 2012, Brittney Wood left her mother's home in Mobile, Alabama sometime between 7 and 7:30 p.m. It was the last time anyone would report seeing the young woman alive.
A new docuseries, “Monster in the Shadows,” streaming now on Peacock, tries to unravel the mystery of Wood's disappearance, which led to the shocking discovery of an incest and child sex trafficking ring within Wood's own family. The details were graphic and horrifying: victims told police they'd been abused since they were children by relatives and other adults.
But during the ensuing court cases, which exposed the heinous abuse, it was easy to lose sight of Wood's disappearance. "Monster in the Shadows" attempts to reframe the story around the search for the young mother.
Thomas Leader, who directed and produced the documentary, told AL.com, "We wanted to try and change Brittney from that connection to all of the horrendous crimes that her family did. We wanted to lift her from that missing-poster page and create a three-dimensional character that the audience could understand and care about. We wanted to put the focus back on Brittney.”
Wood was 19 years old when she vanished in 2012. She told her mother she was going to meet her uncle, Donald Paul Holland Sr. Her last cell phone ping was from River Styx area, where Holland Sr. lived, AL.com reported. Two days later, on June 1, Holland Sr. was found in a secluded wooded area, inside his truck, with a gunshot wound near the back of his head. His death was ruled a suicide, though some, including Brittney’s mother Chessie Wood, suspect Holland was murdered, citing the location of the gunshot wound. Authorities believe he was shot with Brittany Wood's handgun, which was located in the vehicle, along with her cellphone battery.
Brittney’s best friend, Tiffany Bailey, told “Monster in the Shadows” that Brittney had purchased the gun for protection not long before she disappeared.
At the time of his death, Holland Sr. was suspected of being a "ringleader" of the child sex exploitation and incest ring involving multiple members of Wood's family and his own. Investigators believe that Wood herself was a likely victim of the organized multi-generational abuse, and could have been a key witness, according to AL.com.
Wood's parents reported her missing on June 2, the day after her uncle was found, but as the years stretched on and multiple people, including Wendy Holland, Donald Holland, Sr.'s wife, received lengthy prison sentences for child sex crimes, Wood remained missing. None of the investigations of her family and friends have yielded any information about where Wood might be or what might have happened to her.
And as late as 2020, investigators pursuing a tip, dug up a site near the Grand Bay area looking for Wood. But the search revealed nothing.
Wood was 17 when she gave birth to her daughter, Payton. In 2018, the local NBC news affiliate WPMI spoke to Wood's then 8-year-old daughter, Payton, on what would have been her mother's 26th birthday.
“I would give her a balloon. I can’t give her a hug I wish I could,” the little girl told them. “I miss her.”
Chessie Wood hopes that "Monster in the Shadows" will finally give her and her granddaughter some closure, but she has begun to lose hope that her daughter will be found alive. She recently told Mobile’s Fox10 News that while she is grateful that the docuseries has put her daughter's case back in the news, she's also finally begun planning a funeral for Wood, 10 years after her disappearance.
“I promised her that I would not give up ever until I take my last breath and if this documentary is it which we’re praying it may be, we were willing to give it a shot,” Chessie said.
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