It was eight years yesterday that Hattie Gertrude Brown went missing. She would be 56 now, and her family and friends continue to pray the mystery surrounding her disappearance will one day be solved.
Unless you have experienced it, no one knows what it is like to lose a loved one and have no clue what exactly happened to them or where they may be.
At the age of 48, Retired Sgt. First Class Brown seemed to have vanished from the face of this Earth. That was on May 16, 2009.
Last year on the seventh year of her disappearance, the family made legal decisions including filing a petition seeking determination of death under the Code of Virginia.
Although the past eight years have been long and painful for her family who long for answers about her disappearance, last August they celebrated her wonderful 48 years in a celebration of life service.
“Facing the determination of death is “nothing but sad,” said Hattie’s sister, Diane, last year. “Yes, it’s very painful, but we will forever hang on to love, faith and hope. It’s by God’s grace and lots of prayers that we have the strength to face each day.”
This year her family remembered their loved one once again on the eighth anniversary of her disappearance by asking for continued prayers from the community.
“Please continue to keep us in your prayers,” Brown said this week.
Born on Sept. 21, 1960, Hattie Brown disappeared without a trace in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 16, 2009.
The charred remains of her 2003 Volkswagen Jetta were found on a Virgilina farm later that summer.
Brown was 48 at the time of her disappearance.
Still, her family says they will never give up hope about finding out what happened to her.
“It’s been long and painful, but we’re hanging in there, keeping the faith and taking one day at a time,” her older sister said.
“We’re still hoping, even though it’s been eight years, that someone will come forward with information,” she added. “It’s really hard for us to believe she has been gone this long.”
Eight years have passed since any family member has spoken with Hattie, and her siblings continue to miss her.
Following her disappearance back in May, 2009, there had been no trace of the missing woman or her car until Tuesday, July 7, 2009, when a farmer cutting hay discovered the charred remains of the Volkswagen Jetta on farmland near Virgilina.
The farmer was working on his property in the southeastern corner of Halifax County when he came upon an abandoned vehicle behind an old barn. The vehicle had been completely destroyed by fire.
Special Agent Troy LaRue of the Virginia State Police said the farmer found the burned-out Volkswagen and told his son. They contacted the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office who then contacted Agent LaRue and the Appomattox Division Office of the state police.
It appeared the car was burned at the site where it was found and had been at the site for some time.
State police, the sheriff’s office personnel and South Boston Police had been searching for Hattie Brown and her vehicle since they were last seen May 16, 2009 at a Sheetz gas station at the intersection of Highways 501 and 58 in Riverdale.
A video camera captured the woman and her car at the gas station at approximately 2:33 a.m. Investigators found that she was accompanied at the gas station by her nephew, Derek Brown, who law enforcement officers at that time described as a “person of interest” in the case.
Since her disappearance in 2009, Brown’s family has offered a cash reward for their loved one’s safe return.
Since she went missing in 2009, several of her brothers have passed away. Andrew, who was 59, died seven years ago on July 31, and Adolphus died in 2013 on May 25 at the age of 70.
Diane Brown said not a day has gone by that she hasn’t thought of her missing sister.
“We won’t ever give up until we find out what happened to her,” she said. “With God’s grace, we know one day there will be an answer.”
But until that day, Brown said she covets prayers of the community on her missing sister’s behalf.
Anyone with information about this case can contact the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office at 434-476-3334.