Mystery, fraud and unexplained death – Where is Brooke Leigh Henson?

Brooke Leigh Henson was a 20 year old woman, living in Travelers Rest, South Carolina when she disappeared without a trace on July 4, 1999.

Brooke (known to her friends as Brookey) hosted a party at her home on July 3, 1999. Her parents were out for the night at a concert, and they returned at around 2am on July 4, to find Brooke sitting on the front porch. She told them that she had an argument with her boyfriend Ricky “Shaun” Shirley. She then said that she was going to walk to a local store to get some cigarettes.

At around 2.30am, she had another fight with Shaun. She wrote a note for him, saying, “Follow me if you care” and she left to get cigarettes. The store she was planning to walk to was approximately two blocks from her home. She has never been seen again.

Brooke and Shaun had a rocky relationship. He refused to cooperate with police following Brooke’s disappearance. He had a criminal record for drug-related offenses and assaults, and he is considered a person of interest in Brooke’s disappearance, but has never been named as a suspect. Many of Brooke’s friends at the time were involved in criminal activity.

Searches were conducted for Brooke, but they proved fruitless. No sign of her has ever been found.

In 2006, a woman in New York City applied for a job as a nanny. When her prospective employer did an internet search to find out her background, she came across reports of Brooke Henson being missing. The prospective nanny’s name was Brooke Henson!

Police were contacted. In 2003, a woman named Esther Reed used Brooke’s name, social security number and birth date to obtain a fraudulent Ohio Identification Card. Using Brooke’s identity, she took a high school equivalency exam and obtained her diploma.  She then took a college entrance exam in California the following year and was accepted to the California State University at Fullerton, Harvard and Columbia.  She attended Columbia, racking up more than $100,000 in student loans.

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Esther Reed

When Law Enforcement caught up with Esther Reed, she claimed that she was really Brooke Henson and that she had gone missing voluntarily. Police did not believe her story and they arranged for her to take a DNA test. Esther fled, taking nothing except her cat, her toothbrush and her hairbrushes and combs.

Esther has a history of stealing other people’s information and using their identities to enroll in colleges and universities. Although she did coursework at reputable colleges under her stolen identities, she never completed high school herself. She also claimed she was a European chess champion. She ran up credit card debt and obtained a passport under her stolen identities.

Esther ran from police for two and a half years before she was arrested in Chicago, Illinois in February 2008 and charged with mail and wire fraud, possession of false identity documentation, and identity theft. In August, she pleaded guilty to federal fraud and identity theft charges. In February 2009, she was sentenced to four years in prison.

Police originally believed that Brooke had left the area of her own accord, however they now believe she was a victim of foul play.

On October 1, 2019, Shaun Shirley passed away. He was found dead in his mother’s house and his cause of death has not yet been released.

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Shaun Shirley

Traveler’s Rest Police Chief Benjamin Ford said “I wouldn’t name him as a suspect because again we’re talking about a missing person, and not a homicide-we don’t know that yet. We believe it, but we don’t know that yet. With him being gone we can never know what he would have told us, or if he would have told us anything. But now we don’t have the chance to ask,” Ford said, “I’m not here to judge anyone or say anyone’s guilty of anything, by any stretch of the imagination, but just the mere fact that he’s gone now hurts us a little bit more to maybe we can’t find out things. We just want to know the truth and get to the bottom of it.”

Travelers Rest police are asking anyone with any information about the disappearance of Brooke Henson to call Investigator Dan Kobler at (864) 834-9029 or email him at kobler@trpolice.com.

Source List –

Brooke Henson Missing Since the Fourth of July 1999

Boyfriend of Travelers Rest woman missing for 20 years found dead

Brooke’s Charley Project entry

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