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It was a case that shocked Mobile, Alabama: a child sex abuse and incest ring that, according to prosecutors, spanned three generations of a family and involved numerous victims, who recounted in court to being groomed and sexually abused by adult relatives and their acquaintances.
The investigation into the horrific abuse dovetailed with another mystery – the 2012 disappearance of 19-year-old Brittney Wood, who was related to many of the key figures in the incest ring. Nearly 10 years later, despite a host of guilty pleas and convictions in the case, Wood remains missing. In a new docuseries, “Monster in the Shadows,” Chessie Wood, Brittney's mother, speaks out about her daughter’s disappearance, the people she believes are responsible, and even her own arrest related to the abuse ring.
“A lot of people told me to just hang on, time will heal it,” Chessie says in the first episode. “Time heals nothing. I think it helps you to learn how to cope with the pain. But it does not heal a single drop of your pain.”
Chessie was the last person reported to have seen Brittney alive, when the teen, a young mother to a toddler, left her mother’s home between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. on May 30, 2012, saying she was going to see her uncle, Donald “Donnie” Holland, who authorities believe was a ringleader of the abuse ring. On June 1, Holland was found dead in his parked truck in a remote wooded area, shortly before he’d been scheduled to speak to investigators about the abuse allegations, according to the Associated Press. He'd been shot toward the back of the head and a gun belonging to Brittney, as well as her cell phone battery, were found in his vehicle, the AP reported. Authorities ruled the death a suicide, though some, including Chessie, have speculated that he was murdered, citing the location of the fatal gunshot wound. Chessie reported Brittney missing the next day.
But as news of the incestuous pedophile ring began to dominate the news cycle, Chessie Wood went from terrified mother, to being charged with a sex crime. In 2013, she was hit with charges of sodomy and child sex abuse in Mobile County. The charges against her were later settled with a plea to one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.
Chessie continues to maintain her innocence, saying in the docuseries that she only took the plea because “all I could think of is I ever go behind bars, I’ll never find her."
While "Monster in the Shadows" allows Chessie to air her suspicions on who is responsible for her daughter’s disappearance, it also gives her a voice to grieve for Brittney, whom she has never stopped advocating for. Her biggest hope is that the docuseries raises enough attention that somebody will come forward to let law enforcement and the family know what happened to Brittney and where she is. While Chessie doesn't hold out hope that her daughter is alive, she refuses to give up on her.
She recently told the local Fox news affiliate that “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."
"Monsters In The Shadows" will air on Oxygen on Monday, January 17 at 9/8c. It's also available to stream on Peacock now.
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