Details of Disappearance
Kellie was staying with her boyfriend, Mark Graves, and his family in their apartment in Walled Lake, Michigan in May 1982. She had moved out of her family's West Bloomfield, Michigan home after telling friends that her stepfather, Paul Brownlee, abused her. Her friends stated that they had seen bruises on Kellie's body before she vanished.
Paul had pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct in 1977 when Kellie's older sister Kim filed charges against him. Kim then moved to California, where the girls' biological father resided. Kellie remained in Michigan, where she had a good relationship with their mother, Loretta.
Kellie had occasionally moved out of the family's home after problems with Paul came to the forefront. Loretta stated that Kellie was planning to move back to West Bloomfield once Paul left the residence. Loretta did not divorce Paul until 1985, three years after Kellie disappeared, but there were apparently ongoing discussions about the plan at the time.
Kellie and Graves took the bus together to their high school on May 20, 1982. Kellie skipped classes that day and hitchhiked to the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, Michigan, where she proceeded to apply for jobs at several stores. Kellie listed the Brownlees' residence as her address on all of her applications.
A friend's mother saw her at the mall and offered her a ride, but Kellie declined. She said that she planned to place more applications before going home. It's unclear if she was returning to the Graves' or the Brownlees' residence. This was the last confirmed sighting of Kellie.
Graves reported that Kellie was missing when she did not return to his family's apartment or call him by 9:00 p.m. A search was initiated soon after, but little evidence was located. Graves was ruled out as a suspect early on in the investigation.
Speculation began to center around Paul Brownlee, who claimed that he was visiting his father-in-law's grave and going to the gym on the day Kellie disappeared. Paul also denied abusing Kellie in any way and maintained he had nothing to do with her disappearance. Paul placed a $1,000 reward for information about his stepdaughter's disappearance in June of 1982.
Paul agreed to a police interview in July 1982 and again stated he was innocent. He retained an attorney and refused to submit to a polygraph test the same month. Having little evidence to implicate Paul other than rumors of abuse towards Kellie, investigators began to look elsewhere for clues. They suspected that counterfeiting operator James Mitchell DeBardeleben may have had a connection to Kellie's case.
DeBardeleben's residence was searched by United States Secret Service agents in November 1983 in northern Virginia. There investigators located numerous journals, audio tapes and photos of various women in sadomasochistic activities against their will. DeBardeleben was suspected of attacking and murdering many women, as well as conducting his counterfeiting ring. He apparently liked brunette females and hitchhikers, both of which fit Kellie's mold.
Photos were given to Loretta for purposes of attempting to identify Kellie, but there was not a connection. DeBardeleben has since been ruled out as a suspect in Kellie's case. It is worth noting that he did not cooperate with authorities in their investigation of another young brunette's disappearance, Judith Chartier
. DeBardeleben remains as a suspect in that case.
Paul continues to maintain that he is innocent and not connected to Kellie's disappearance. He occasionally hands what he considers to be leads over to authorities in West Bloomfield, who still want to re-interview Paul about the case. He continues to refuse their requests.
In 2018, authorities announced Arthur Ream was a possible suspect in Kelly's case and in the disappearances of Cynthia Coon
, Kimberly King
, Kim Larrow
and Nadine O'Dell
. A photo of Ream is posted with this case summary.
He was convicted of sexual assault in the 1970s and, in 1986, murdered Cindy Zarzycki
, a thirteen-year-old girl who was dating his son. He was convicted of her murder and afterwards, in 2008, he lead authorities to her body, which was buried in a shallow grave 30 miles from Detroit, Michigan.
While in prison, Ream reportedly told cellmates he was serial killer with four to six victims. In May 2018, police began digging at the same property where Cindy had been buried, expecting to find the bodies of other missing girls there. No human remains were located, however, and the digging stopped after a week. All the cases remain unsolved.