Seventeen-year-old Kellie was last seen on May 20, 1982 in Novi, Michigan. She took the bus with her boyfriend, Mark Graves to their high school, but skipped classes that day & hitchhiked to the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi where she planned 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 Kellie at the mall and offered her a ride, but she declined, saying that she planned to place more applications before going home. This was the last confirmed sighting of Kellie.
In May of 1982, Kellie was staying with Mark and his family in their apartment in Walled Lake, Michigan. She moved out of her family's West Bloomfield, Michigan home after telling her friends that her stepfather, Paul Brownlee, abused her. Her friends stated that they had seen bruises on Kellie's body before she vanished.
In 1977, Paul had pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct when Kellie's older sister Kim filed charges against him. Kim later moved to California, where the girls' biological father resided while 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 didn't divorce Paul until 1985 (three years after Kellie disappeared), but there were apparently ongoing discussions about the plan at the time. Mark reported 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. He placed a $1,000 reward for information about his stepdaughter's disappearance in June of 1982.
Paul agreed to a police interview in July of 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.
James' residence was searched by United States Secret Service agents in November of 1983 in northern Virginia. There investigators located numerous journals, audio tapes and photos of various women in sadomasochistic activities against their will.
James 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.
James 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, 17-year-old Judith Ann Chartier. He remains as a suspect in that case.
Paul continues to maintain that his innocence and is 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.
A report surfaced in the spring of 2000 concerning a serial killer's possible connection to Kellie's disappearance. It's not known if the murderer, who is responsible for the slaying of a Michigan woman in the '70s, is involved in Kellie's case. Investigators continue to follow leads in her disappearance.
Because of the circumstances involved in Kellie's case, foul play is suspected.
Kellie is described as having brown hair and brown eyes. Her upper left front tooth is capped and her ears are double-pierced. She was last seen wearing a long-sleeved peach blouse, white painter pants and burgundy Nina pumps. She also has a slight heart murmur.