Jody Brant wasn’t a typical teenager. When the 16-year-old decided she wanted to visit family in Michigan over Memorial Day weekend in 1994, she didn’t bother to ask anyone for permission. She simply packed a couple of suitcases, climbed into her black Ford Escort, and left her Lawrenceville, Georgia home to make the 770-mile drive north. It was a trip she made several times in the past, but on this occasion, something went horribly wrong. Jody never arrived at her cousin’s house in Pontiac, Michigan and she was never seen again.

Although she was only 16 years old, Jody was very independent. Her mother, Donna, struggled with drug addiction and her father had never been a part of her life; Jody had learned to be self-sufficient at an early age. She had grown up in Michigan and remained close with friends and family there after moving to Georgia with her mother and older brother a couple of years earlier.

Jody worked full-time at a fast food restaurant and had been thrilled when she saved up enough money to buy a used Ford Escort. Her brother, Joseph, had helped her install a new stereo system in the car; it helped to keep her entertained on long trips. She put it to good use when she made the drive from Georgia to Michigan.

Jody left her home around 11:00 pm on Friday, May 27, 1994; she planned to drive through the night and hoped to reach Pontiac late the next morning. Although the drive was a long one, it was very straightforward; Interstate 75 went directly from Lawrenceville to Pontiac.

About 10 a.m. Saturday, Jody called her cousin Jennifer Jones at her home in Pontiac to say that she was lost near Erie, Michigan, a small town about 10 miles north of Toledo, Ohio. It wasn’t clear where Jody was exactly, but it looked like she had gotten off of Interstate 75 by accident as it went through Toledo. She thought she would soon be back on track after getting directions from her cousin. Jennifer would never hear from Jody again.

Jennifer knew something was wrong when Jody didn’t show up by Saturday afternoon. At 11 p.m., she called the Ohio State Police and the Michigan State Police to say that Jody was missing. She told the police that she didn’t know if Jody had made it to Michigan because when she last talked to her at 10 a.m., she was still in Ohio. Jennifer thought that Jody was by herself when she talked to her, and there were no signs that she was in any kind of trouble. “She just sounded like she was lost and angry.”

The teenager Jody was last seen by her family in Georgia, which Jennifer called to let them know. As soon as they got off I-75 in Georgia, Jody’s uncle Roy Jones and her brother Joseph drove to Michigan to look for her and her car. They went to gas stations and rest stops, where they put up missing posters and asked workers if anyone remembered seeing the teen.

At a service station near Toledo, an employee said she thought she saw Jody early Saturday morning. The teen used the payphone to make a call and bought $10 worth of gas before leaving, the employee said. This is the last time Jody was seen for sure.

Roy and Joseph didn’t know that Jody’s car had already been found when they were on their way to Michigan. Around 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, someone in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, called the police after seeing a car that had been left behind and set on fire near the corner of Turk and Consear Roads. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office sent deputies to the call, but they didn’t know at the time that the car was linked to a missing person.

They didn’t make the link between the burned-out car and Jody’s missing person report until Wednesday. They began a full search of the area where the car was found right away, hoping to find some information that would help them figure out where Jody was. On foot, troopers searched the area with search dogs, and from above, a state police helicopter did a search. They couldn’t find Jody.

Detectives asked a lot of people in the area where the car had been left, but no one remembered hearing or seeing anything strange that weekend. One homeowner said that her dog had been quiet the whole night, even though it usually barked loudly when there were strangers around. No one knew when the car had been left there.

Arson investigators from the Michigan State Police looked over Jody’s car. Based on what they found, the car caught fire sometime after 10 p.m. on Saturday. It was started on the floor by the front passenger seat. The keys to the car were left in the ignition, and Jody’s things, including her two suitcases, were found in the trunk.

Family members of Jody saw that her rear bumper had a big dent in it that wasn’t there before she left for her road trip. Her mother was sure that someone had hit her on purpose and then taken her when she pulled over to look at the damage. It looked like she had been hit from behind.

The driver’s seat had been pushed all the way back, like a tall person had been driving the car, which was another strange thing about it. Because Jody was so short, she had to pull the seat all the way forward to reach the pedals. Her family thought that someone much taller than her had driven the car to the remote spot where it was found.

In both Georgia and Michigan, detectives talked to all of Jody’s known friends and family. In Michigan, none of her friends or family had talked to her after 10 a.m. Saturday. However, a friend in Georgia told police that Jody had left a message on her answering machine at 6 p.m. Saturday. Jody only said that she had made it to Pontiac and was fine in the short message. She hadn’t called anyone in Michigan, which seemed strange, and there was no solid proof that she had ever made it to Pontiac that night.

When asked about the call Jody is said to have made, Pontiac Police Sgt. Everett Gard said, “Because of that last phone message, we think it’s possible she is alive and in the Pontiac area.”We don’t know why she made that last call, though.

Robin Gulley, Jody’s stepfather, didn’t understand the message. “That doesn’t make sense.” Why did she call a friend instead of her mother or me to let us know she was okay? He was sure that Jody had been hurt by someone. “I’m pretty sure she’s being held against her will.” After she called her cousin from Toledo on the phone, I think someone took her away. He told a reporter, “This story will have a good ending.” The call gave him hope that Jody was still alive. I’m not going to give up.”

Donna Jody, Jody’s mother, wouldn’t even think about the possibility that Jody had been killed. She talked to a psychic because she was desperate to find her daughter. The psychic told her that Jody was still alive and being held against her will in Michigan. Donna held on tight to this thought. “I know she’s still alive.” She asked the person who took Jody to free her in public. “If someone still has her, we hope they’ll feel bad about what they did.” I just hope and pray that they’d rather be charged with kidnapping and setting fires than murder.

A week after Jody was last seen, her family said they would pay $25,000 for information that would help them find her. A few people called to say they thought they saw the missing teen, but none of them could be confirmed.

Some people said that Jody may have been using drugs, which could have caused her to disappear, but there is no real proof of this. According to her stepfather, Jody drove to Pontiac the week before she went missing to deliver marijuana. He said, “she had been talked into a delivery of drugs.” There was evidence that Jody and two male friends had been to Pontiac earlier in May 1994, so this could be true. However, there is no evidence that Jody had drugs on her when she went missing.

The mother of her stepfather, Betty Gulley, said that Jody was only going to Michigan to spend Memorial Day weekend with a cousin. “She was going to stay there for a week, and then they were going to get back together.” It was proven that Jody was going on vacation to Michigan because of the things that were found in her car. She had packed her roller skates along with two suitcases full of clothes.

The Pontiac Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and the FBI were all involved in the initial stages of the investigation into Jody’s disappearance. Despite the fact that there was no evidence Jody made it to Pontiac, it was decided that the Pontiac police would be the lead agency on the case.

The Michigan State Police continued to assist the Pontiac Police Department in their investigation into Jody’s disappearance, but they weren’t nearly as optimistic about the chances of finding her alive. Detective Sgt. Alison Hegwood noted, “We have a disappearance and a vehicle that has been burned. I’d say those are rather suspicious circumstances…we’re treating this as a homicide until we get further information.”

Unfortunately for investigators, they would never get any further information. Jody’s trail went cold after she left the Toledo-area gas station that Saturday morning. Detectives believe that she was most likely a victim of foul play but exactly what happened to her remains a mystery.

Jody Lynn Brant was just 16 years old when she went missing in May 1994. Her older brother, Joseph, described her as being a spunky free spirit who was both tough and playful; she was mature for her age and was on the road to becoming a successful and responsible young adult. Jody has blonde hair and green eyes, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds. She has a tattoo of her initials on her left hand and a cross on her left ankle. If you have any information about Jody, please contact the Michigan State Police at 734–242–3500.

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