(WALA) - For nearly a year, the disappearance of Brittney Wood has remained unsolved - with few answers or explanations.
At only 19-years-old, the mother of one vanished from her home in Mobile on May 30, 2012. She was last seen driving off with her uncle, Donald Holland, Sr.
"I don't think it can get any worse," said Brittney's mother, Chessie Wood. "We've had deaths in our family that wasn't this bad, because we knew what happened to them."
Local and national search crews spent months combing for clues.
SEX ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
The search continued as authorities arrested relative after relative in connection to an alleged child sex ring involving Brittney's family and friends. Investigators said they had been looking to talk to Brittney about the sex crimes before she even went missing.
"We oftentimes look for that golden nugget. That one person that can make the difference in your case," said Detective Eric Winberg, former lead investigator on the family sex abuse investigation in Baldwin County. "In this particular case, Brittney Wood was that person. She was the person that could tell the whole story."
It's a story that technically began February 26, 2012 when investigators said Brittney's uncle, Randall Scott Wood, called authorities to report the family sex abuse.
Investigators, along with Brittney's mother, believe the missing teen was a victim herself. Authorities believe Brittney was one of the only victims who knew that other children were being abused by numerous relatives as well.
"We oftentimes look for that golden nugget. That one person that can make the difference in your case."
For some, the abuse started at three-years-old and goes on to their adulthood," said Det. Winberg.
In a series of Facebook messages investigators believe are between Brittney and one of the alleged victims, Brittney writes on May 27, "Hey beautiful. How are you? Tell me what's going on. I don't know what's true and what you said."
The alleged victim then identifies relatives Randall Scott Wood, Dustin Kent, and Donald Holland as abusers - writing in part: "They raped me."
The conversation continues for quite some time, sharing heartbreaking details. Brittney, however, ends it saying in part, "I love you. I'm sorry."
"I feel that that was their attempt to reach out to one another and say, 'Hey, this is what's going on here,'" said Det. Winberg.
The alleged victim then writes repeatedly to Brittney on May 28 and again on May 30, with no response.
May 30 was the last time Brittney was seen alive, traveling with her uncle, Donald Holland, to a home in the Styx River area in Baldwin County.
"He was a very smart, charismatic, and manipulative individual. So I truly believe that, again, yes, he knew I was actively searching for her," said Winberg.
"He was always nice, smiling," said Brittney's father, Wallace Hanke. "You wouldn't know by looking at him and talking to him that he was a demon. That's all he was, was a demon."
"You wouldn't know by looking at him and talking to him that he was a demon."
FOX10 sat down with Brittney's parents, step-parents, and younger brother to talk about the cases.
When asked why they believe Brittney would get into a vehicle with Donald Holland, after speaking with one of the alleged victims, Brittney's mother replied, "I believe she got in that truck to confront Donnie and it went terribly wrong."
On June 1, two days after Brittney went missing, authorities said Holland drove to a dead end near his home in Fairhope and shot himself with Brittney's gun.
Her cell phone battery was also found in his truck.
Coincidentally, Holland was supposed to meet with Det. Winberg and the Department of Human Resources that day, to discuss the sex abuse allegations.
Authorities said he had been acting erratic hours before the suicide, and his wife reported him saying that he "didn't want to go to jail for something he didn't do."
THE OTHER ARRESTS
In the weeks following his suicide, Holland's wife Wendy, Brittney's uncles Dustin Kent, Randall Scott Wood, family friend William Brownlee, Brittney's cousin Donald Holland, Jr. and even her brother Derek Wood, 21, was arrested in connection to the sex ring investigation.
Mouseover each photo for more information on the subject.
FOX10 spoke to Derek Wood, who remains in the Baldwin County Jail. He said the sex abuse ring actually began years ago.
"This all started whenever I was probably about seven-years-old and it continued throughout the years and led up from Donnie teaching me things. And whenever I was younger I would go over to his house and he had got me to do something that I wasn't proud of," said Derek from jail.
Detectives said Derek Wood's case is a sad one - a victim himself, turned suspect.
As he works through the legal case , he said his sister's disappearance is first on his mind.
"It's been pretty hard, man. I really just would like to find my sister. I mean, the jail time is hard but it's just time," said Derek. "I'm just sitting around praying that my sister comes home or we could find something about her."
Despite all the connections - the relatives, the messages, and Brittney's involvement - the Baldwin County Sheriff's office maintained her disappearance and the sex crimes investigation were not connected .
In the months that followed, at least four different law enforcement agencies became involved in the case.
Sources told FOX10 it was impossible to investigate one case without looking at the other. One reason for separating them, sources said, was to maintain perspective and maintain the integrity of each case.
ONE YEAR LATER
May 30, 2013 will mark one year since Brittney went missing from her home. It's a year her daughter Payton has spent asking questions as she lives with her father's grandparents, Dennis and Maxine Harris.
"I'll never, ever, ever give up that little piece of hope that she's alive."
"You know, at some point if she asks me, I'll have to tell her," said Dennis Harris.
Authorities believe to solve the disappearance of Brittney Wood, someone will need to come forward - someone likely from within the family.
"I'll never, ever, ever give up that little piece of hope that she's alive," said Chessie Wood.
"If Brittney would have run away, she would have gotten her kid," said Brittney's younger brother TJ.
"It's going to come together just by other means," said Det. Winberg. "It'll take a little longer, it'll be a little more laborious, but at the end of the day were going to have the right people and we're going to have all of them."
Investigators have also looked at alternative theories in Brittney's disappearance, and many are still out there searching.
Authorities have even sought help from deputies in Texas to check out leads and visit the homes of some of Brittney's out-of-state friends.
Meanwhile, several of the suspects in the sex crimes investigation are expected to go to trial in August 2013.
More arrests are expected as well.
Missing Brittney: The Untold Story is set to air Monday, April 29 on FOX10 News at 9 p.m.
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