Details of Disappearance
Regina was last seen at LaGuardia Airport in the New York City borough of Queens on March 26, 1987. She resided in on Whippoorwill Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut at the time of her disappearance, and was employed as a flight attendant for American Airlines. Regina had previously sent two of her three children to live with her mother in Texas and she was last seen after placing her third child and the family's live-in babysitter on a plane to join the others.
On the way back to Newtown, Regina called her best friend and said that if her parents hadn't heard from her within four days, to be alarmed. She said that in that instance, her friend should wait another two days, then try to contact her. If her friend was still unable to reach her, that meant her estranged husband of five years had "done to me what he promised to do to me."
On March 27, Regina's dog began barking continuously and a neighbor called the police to complain, but nothing was done. Regina subsequently missed a lunch date with her best friend and two flight assignments with American Airlines. Her employer notified her parents, who asked her best friend to check on her.
On April 2, Regina's friend went to her home, opened the garage door and found her dog alone. The floor was covered with feces and there was a bowl of water and an unopened bag of dog food which had been purchased at a supermarket Regina didn't shop at.
Regina's best friend and her estranged husband, Willis Brown, both filed missing persons reports for her. It turned out it was he who had left the dog food bag at her home. He said he bought it on March 26, the same day he was in Newtown for a dental appointment, but couldn't remember what else he'd done that day.
Regina left most of her personal belongings behind at her residence, including her airline identification badge, her makeup bag and a check for $1,000. Willis suggested the police look for her car in a certain part of the New York City borough of Manhattan, a neighborhood known for its drug activity.
On April 6, her bronze Honda Accord hatchback was found parked in front of an apartment building on 104th Street in Manhattan. The keys were in the ignition, there were two child seats in the backseat, and the windshield had several parking tickets. There was no sign of her at the scene and no indications of a struggle.
Regina had been in the process of a divorce from Willis, a senior American Airlines pilot. Willis into an apartment in Queens, New York, and Regina had a court order barring him from the house in Newtown. She did let him come over to visit their children, however.
The Browns' marriage had been troubled, with allegations of domestic violence. Willis insisted the couple's children had been fathered by other men, although paternity testing proved otherwise. In June 1987, he drove to Texas, forcibly removed his children from their grandparents' home and took them back to Connecticut, where he hired another live-in babysitter to care for them. Three weeks later, however, a judge ordered him to return the children to the care of Regina's Texas relatives.
Willis went forward with the divorce after Regina's disappearance and the case went to court on September 28. He sought custody of the children and no longer denied paternity, and claimed his wife had abused drugs and had numerous affairs, including one with the couple's marriage counselor (whom Regina saw alone, after Willis refused to go). He had made similar allegations during his divorce from his first wife.
One of Regina's friends testified against him in court, saying Regina was terrified of her husband. Her loved ones described her as a deeply religious woman and a devoted mother who wouldn't have abandoned her children, and police never found any evidence of extramarital affairs or drug use on her part.
In April 1988, the divorce judge granted custody to Regina's family in Texas. In his ruling, the judge wrote Willis had physically and mentally abused his wife and "reduced her existence to a living nightmare." After Regina's disappearance, Willis told various people false stories that she had been sighted in faraway places around the world.
Willis has never been charged in connection with his wife's disappearance or even been named as a suspect, although police did call him a "person of interest." A Massachusetts television station did a documentary on Regina's case in 1990; the program implied Willis was responsible for his wife's murder. He sued the television station for defamation, invasion of privacy and and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but his claims were dismissed.
The police did not search Regina's house until May 7, six weeks after her disappearance. They did search a tract of land for her body in 1989. Willis had rented a trailer on the property at the time of Regina's disappearance. No evidence was uncovered during any of the searches.
Willis owned a small private plane in 1987 and the police were unable to locate it for years. They finally found it in 2008. They weren't able to determine whether Willis was using the plane at the time of Regina's disappearance, however, as the airport he used was a very small one that didn't keep a consistent record of flights.
Regina's disappearance remains unsolved and foul play is suspected. She was declared legally dead in 1995.