Brenda Crowley, age 16, was last seen sometime in March 1980. She apparently ran away from her home on Harbor Road in the Mariners Harbor neighborhood of Staten Island, NY.
She lived with her mother, Theresa Crawley, her mother’s boyfriend Joe, and several siblings. Brenda’s mother had a total of eight children with three fathers, none of whom were active in their children’s lives. Brenda’s mother struggled with alcoholism and was reportedly abusive. One of Brenda’s sisters stated that each of the siblings had run away from home, but only Brenda remains missing.
In 1981, Brenda’s mother was positively identified as a Jane Doe who had been found at an intersection in the Castleton Corners neighborhood of Staten Island. The cause of death was strangulation, and a man she knew from a local bar confessed to the crime. Brenda’s siblings attempted to locate Brenda to inform her of her mother’s demise, but were unable to find her. They also learned that no missing persons report had been filed, though their mother had told them that she’d reported it. One of her sisters attempted to file one at that time, but police refused to accept it. It wasn’t until 1994 that her family was finally able to officially report Brenda missing.
In 2008, investigators dug up a portion of a backyard at a property in East Islip, New York, on Long Island. This was the result of a tip, reportedly from one of Brenda’s family members, that Brenda had been killed by her father and buried there. The search turned up only dog bones.
However, Brenda’s father did live at that house, with his new wife (stepmother to Brenda) and her children. Neighbors described him as a preacher who was often drunk and swore heavily. These neighbors also remembered Brenda living there, although it’s unclear whether this was before or after her disappearance.
It is rare for me to use Topix as a source for anything, but I was able to corroborate some of the comments that were made there by neighbors of the residence that was searched, and I do believe that Brenda was there. Also, the fact that a relative indicated to police that she had been killed there, makes me think she was there – whether the tip was a suspicion or rumor, I don’t know, but I don’t think a family member would have stated this if Brenda wasn’t there at the East Islip home.
There was a point where one of Brenda’s sisters contacted the Social Security Administration, in an attempt to determine whether Brenda’s social security number had ever been used. The representative replied with “She isn’t dead.” but refused to supply any additional information. I have heard of multiple case where the police were able to use Social Security records to track a missing person, I’m wondering why that hasn’t been done in this case.
On a side note, I think most of us who follow missing persons cases have that one face – the image of a missing person, suspended in time, that sucked us in. For me, that was Brenda. I am originally from Staten Island, and remember hearing about the abduction of Holly Hughes a year later, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything on the news about Brenda.
Holly Hughes is presumed to be a victim of serial killer Andre Rand, he has been convicted of her kidnapping, along with the kidnapping of Jennifer Schweiger in 1987. He is also suspected in the disappearances of Henry Gafforio, Tiahease Jackson, and Alice Pereia, all of Staten Island. Brenda lived in the same neighborhood that Tiahease went missing from in 1983.
Personally, I have doubts that Andre Rand was responsible for Tiahease’s disappearance – I think there was a tendency to blame all the missing persons cases from the Island on Rand, then known as the Bogeyman. It turns out that Rand targeted helpless, young or disabled victims. I do not believe he would have attempted to abduct Tiahease, or Brenda, as they were older and would have been able to fight back. It’s worth noting that I’ve never seen Rand mentioned as a suspect in Brenda’s disappearance – I’ve mostly seen her referred to as a runaway and aside from the dig in East Islip, no indication that she met with foul play.
I hope Brenda can be found safe, her siblings miss her terribly.
The Charley Project