CO MARY BERNADETTE BRUBAKER: Missing from Boulder, CO - Dec 1996 - Age 32


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Mary was traveling from Colorado to Yuma, Arizona with her boyfriend. She has not been heard from since she left Colorado.

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Mary Brubaker
When Mary Bernadette Brubaker moved to Arizona, it meant seeing less her family, most of whom lived in Boulder, Colo., but she kept in touch regularly through cards and letters as well as phone calls and she made the drive first from Tucson, then from Yuma, to visit when she could. So when she didn't check back in with the to confirm a Western Union transfer in the summer of 1997, they began to worry that something had happened to her.

In late 1996, Brubaker's boyfriend accompanied her on her last visit and the family could tell that things were tense between them. Brubaker and her boyfriend lived in an isolated area and, as she struggled with their tumultuous breakup, she told her sister Colleen Dowdy she was beginning to hear voices. Then communication from Brubaker stopped. Somewhere between Boulder and Yuma, Mary had disappeared.

"All those things put her as an at-risk missing person, yet none of this mattered to the police," Dowdy said.

At the time, they were told that Brubaker "had the right to go missing if she wanted as an adult, and that she would probably turn up."

To Brubaker's family that explanation didn't make sense.

For years, Brubaker's family reached out over and over again — to her ex-boyfriend, her neighbors and law enforcement. They searched for activity on her credit card or driver's license, hired detectives and later spent hours on the internet. But it seemed like Mary Brubaker had vanished without a trace.

"With this it's like every birthday, every Christmas, if something comes up and it's mentioned, then it's like a sting that you feel like, like just this burn and frustration and the hopeless, helpless," Dowdy said. "But I never give up hope that she's out there somewhere."

Brubaker's disappearance weighed heavily on the family including her son who was 13 when his mother vanished.

"We've been living with this question; this is just an unsolved mystery," said her sister, and it's a question comes up whenever the family gets together. "They all ask, every time: have you heard from Mary? Has anybody got any information?"

Dowdy especially collected information about her sister Mary's case. She also learned more about the challenges of locating missing persons — and tracing the names of unidentified bodies.

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