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Crimewatchers.net opened on April 26, 2015 with the purpose of making a difference in getting the word out for the missing, unidentified, and justice for victims. Let us know if you have a case you'd like us to feature here, on Twitter &/or Facebook. Contact email: CrimewatchersCW@gmail.com

VA MELISSA BRANNEN: Missing from Lorton, VA - 3 December 1989 - Age 5

Discussion in 'Missing 1980 to 1989' started by SoSueMe, Apr 17, 2015.

  1. SoSueMe

    SoSueMe Administrative Manager Staff Member

    The disappearance of Melissa Brannen occurred on December 3, 1989 at the Woodside Apartments in Lorton, Virginia. She was the five-year-old daughter of Tammy Brannen, a single mother who lived in the complex. She disappeared while attending a party held at the complex for its residents. A handyman for the complex was convicted in her kidnapping and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Her body has never been found, she was never proven to be dead, and murder charges were never filed.[1]

    The story of her disappearance was told on The FBI Files in the sixth episode of the first season.

    More at the link above.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2017
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  2. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Daughter reunited with family 18 years after being kidnapped, Madison mom reacts

    It was bittersweet and emotional for the family reunited with their child after that many years, but also for families here in North Alabama who have been through the same thing.

    Madison resident Tammy Brannen turned away from her 5-year-old daughter Melissa for just a moment 27 years ago.

    Tammy hasn't seen Melissa since.

    She celebrates homecomings like this for other mothers.

    She also said a lot has come from Melissa kidnapping in the late 80s. It was one of the first times they tried a case based on forensic evidence. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children dedicated its forensic imaging unit in honor of Melissa Brannen.

    “You know one of the things about the not knowing is, especially if you’re involved in the way that I had been, you learn a lot of things that you maybe wish you didn't know. And they keep you up at night,” Tammy said.

    “So this little girl, hopefully she grew up in a loving home, and I’m sure it’s a huge relief to her family,” she said.

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  3. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
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  4. Kimster

    Kimster Director Staff Member

    Good for WAFF for featuring Melissa!
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  5. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Haven't watched this yet, but some sort of show on Melissa's disappearance.

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  6. Imamazed

    Imamazed Lead Administrator Staff Member

  7. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    Melissa Brannen’s abductor, Caleb Hughes, will be freed from prison after nearly 30 years

    If you lived in the Washington area in 1989, you remember 5-year-old Melissa Brannen. Starting in the Christmas season, she was repeatedly shown on the local news singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in a home video, as hundreds of police and volunteers scoured southern Fairfax County, Va., looking for her. At a Christmas party with her mother on Dec. 3, 1989, Melissa suddenly vanished. She has never been found.

    As the searches continued, the name of a suspect quickly surfaced: Caleb D. Hughes, then a 23-year-old groundskeeper at the Lorton, Va., apartment complex where Melissa lived with her mother, Tammy Brannen. After a year of intense forensic examination by the FBI and Fairfax County police, Hughes was arrested and charged with abduction with the intent to defile. In March 1991, a jury convicted Hughes and sentenced him to 50 years in prison, on top of a four-year sentence he was serving for auto theft.

    Now Hughes is set to be released from prison. His case occurred in the era before “truth in sentencing” and before Virginia abolished parole in 1995. Virginia law in 1991 not only allowed for parole, but also automatically reduced sentences based on good conduct during incarceration. Though the Virginia parole board rejected Hughes for parole in 2017 and 2018, he is being granted a mandatory release on Aug. 2 after receiving more than two decades worth of “good conduct allowances.” He will have served more than 29 years of a total 54-year sentence.

    Melissa’s mother and her grandfather Larry Pigue could not be located for comment. Tammy Brannen moved from Virginia years ago.

    Hughes is now 53 and is being held in the medium security Dillwyn Correctional Center in central Virginia. He could not be reached for comment.


  8. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed Administrator Staff Member

    30 years later, the man who kidnapped 5-year-old Melissa Brannen released from prison

    It was a dark and bitterly cold winter night in Lorton, Va. when 5-year-old Melissa Brannen vanished from a Christmas party at her apartment complex clubhouse.

    Court documents show her mother let her go back inside for a plate of potato chips, and turned her back to put on a coat and say goodbye, when Melissa disappeared.

    It didn't take long for the evidence to point to Caleb Hughes, then 23. Police called his home for hours after Melissa's disappearance starting around 11 p.m. the night she vanished. For three hours, police kept calling and only got his wife.

    Later, his wife would testify that she heard the clothes dryer running at about 12:20 p.m when he finally came home - with his sneakers and clothes from that night - inside the dryer. Police said Hughes called police back at about 1 a.m. at the clubhouse.

    "He was very agitated, very upset that the police were bothering his wife and why we were calling," police said, according to court documents. "He couldn't understand why we were calling his house."

    Police found fibers that matched the clothes of the missing girl's in the car after searching it and while at the station ahead of a polygraph test, Hughes asked an officer "Did you find any blood on my clothes or in the car; am I guilty yet?"

    When an investigator accused him of abducting Melissa, he said "Prove it," according to court documents.

    Hughes was sentenced to 50 years for kidnapping with intent to defile and has been in custody since January 1990, our content partners at the Washington Post reported. Police never found Melissa's body.

    At the time of his release - Aug. 2, 2019 - he served 29 years and seven months, the Post reported, which is about 54% of his total 54-year sentence.


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