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Unsolved Florida: Who is Kelley Brannon? Pt. 1

Published: May. 26, 2021 at 8:31 PM EDT|Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 10:42 PM EDT
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LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCTV) - Kelley Brannon, 36, was passing through the area when she seemingly vanished into thin air.

Witnesses said she was last seen walking away from a Live Oak motel with her guitar slung over her shoulder. Police have said she had no I.D., no money and there has been no sign of her since.

That was more than 10 months ago and since then, detectives have been chasing leads in an investigation that has spanned four states and includes work by at least a dozen law enforcement agencies.

“Kelley is unlike any other person I will probably meet in my life. Always, always interested in creating,” said Brannon’s childhood friend Cheryl Speak told WCTV’s Katie Kaplan. “Just an incredible person.”

It was Brannon’s spark that drew the pair together 20 years ago in the fourth grade, and what makes it so hard now that she is gone.

“You want closure. You want answers,” Speak said.

She described how Brannon knew right away that she would leave their small New Hampshire town to travel after high school. Kelley hitchhiked her way across the country, making it as far south as Mexico and as far north as Canada. She recorded it all for a documentary she was planning to make. She then returned home to earn a college degree and eventually went on to get her master’s in creative writing.

Brannon is described as a hardcore activist. Friends said she was at the front of the Occupy Wall Street movement. She ended up living in New York City for nearly 10 years. Along the way, she picked up music.

“She was doing a one-woman punk rock band and she wanted to talk about women’s rights,” Speak recalled with a smile.

Brannon’s band was called ‘Baby Killers,’ and its Facebook page shows she played anywhere she could, on the street, at house parties and in small bars. Eventually, she couch-surfed her way to Florida, where she traversed across the northern region in the year before she disappeared. She stopped in Tallahassee to play at The Bark downtown in June of 2019.

“I met Kelley at Hardback [Cafe],” said Marvin “Marvo” Ferguson, who met Brannon in Gainesville and ended up forming another band with her. “She just had a certain energy about her,”

Brannon was a regular at the venue, where she left a pair of silver boots hanging in the rafters, which now haunt the people she has left behind. Her “missing” poster is now hanging inside as well.

“It’s unreal. I don’t know how to process it still,” said another former bandmate, Zachary Chmielewicz.

Brannon ended up staying in Florida for her boyfriend, Eddie Emerson, whom she met on the road.

“She’s six years older than me, but we fell in love and we also argued a lot,” he said in a Zoom interview with WCTV six days after Brannon went missing.

Emerson admitted they had a tumultuous relationship, and police records show just how bad it got. He was arrested in Gainesville the day after Christmas of 2019 for allegedly hitting Brannon in the face.

Police photos from the night it happened show her faced red and swollen. A friend of Brannon’s shared a photo of her from a few days afterward, her eye black and blue.

Emerson admits they argued the night she vanished, but maintains that he had nothing to do with her disappearance: “I think she jumped into a car with a dangerous person,” he said in July of 2020.

Detectives have said Emerson is the primary person of interest in the case, but that there are several others. For now, those who love the punk-rock, free-spirited, and kind-hearted brunette have been left waiting, hoping they will find out what happened to her- soon.

“This case goes pretty deep because there’s a lot of strange things that went on in Live Oak and there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” added Ferguson.

A second ‘Unsolved Florida’ segment focused on the details of the Kelley Brannon case. It includes an interview with the lead detective, as well as two private investigators who have been hired by Brannon’s friends.

MISSING PERSON DETAILS:

  • Kelley Brannon, 37 years old (36 at time of disappearance)
  • White female
  • Brown eyes and black hair with gray streaks
  • Height: 5′4″
  • 130 Lbs

There is a $1,000 reward being offered by Suwanee County Crimestoppers. Anyone with any information can call 386-208-(TIPS) 8477.

Have an Unsolved story idea in north Florida or South Georgia? Email Katie at Katie.Kaplan@WCTV.TV

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