When a mother visited a hospital and didn’t return, her children set out to find out what had occurred, but it took them till 30 years later to learn the truth.
The fate of Myrtle Brown, who vanished in 1990 while visiting friends in New York at the age of 35, remained unknown until her brother Robert Brown happened to run into her on a television documentary about mysterious bodies.
Accidental contact with a news organization led to the over three-decade-long cold case’s resolution, but before the TV piece, the Brown family endured 32 years of daily agony over their mother’s whereabouts.
Robert Brown, Myrtle’s brother, was watching “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” when a feature on the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner’s cold case team aired. Dr. Angela Soler, Assistant Director of Forensic Anthropology, is in charge of the team, which oversees over 1,250 cases involving unidentified persons.
Dr. Soler has been gathering information and analyzing whether it can be connected to a loved one who is at least 20 years old. She can make sense of many of these situations since they are based on traces of evidence and even decades-old circumstantial patterns.
Brown discovered an image showing the team’s reconstruction of a facial feature in the report. They make use of this to bring situations to the public’s and viewers’ attention. This is one method they keep people informed and provide them with information when they need it.
“I saw a young lady that could be or could not have been my sister,” he told NBC. “And I said to myself, ‘Wow, I wonder if that could be her.’”
Robert called the cold case team thinking the identified woman he saw on TV was his sister, but they said it wasn’t her.
However, Robert and his wife spoke with the medical examiner’s office two days later and informed them about Myrtle. Myrtle’s disappearance will be investigated, according to Dr. Angela Soler.
“I took a look at the reconstruction and noticed, OK, I’m probably looking for a middle-aged Black woman,” Soler told NBC. “It all matched with what the family was telling us, and we were also informed that she went missing in May of 1990. So I knew exactly where to start my search.”
Soler went over roughly two months’ worth of records pertaining to “unverified unknowns” or missing people. All other names were still pending confirmation at the time, and only a brief name had been confirmed. On May 17, 1990, Myrtle Brown went missing from her house. She discovered an unidentified body in a replica of a home that matched Myrtle’s missing date after beginning the search on May 1, 1990.
“In this instance, the contextual information included the date that she passed away,” Soler added “She passed away in Brooklyn, which matched the family telling me that she used to receive medical care in Brooklyn.”
“She had a presumptive name that matched, a presumptive date of birth that matched, and the family had given some medical information about their missing loved one that also matched what was in the case file,” Soler said.
Then Soler called Robert to let him know she could have located his sister. Robert Brown who had been waiting for three decades to find Myrtle has finally found her sister.
“Robert, I think we found your sister,” Brown said, recalling what Soler told him. “I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘I think we found your sister.’”
“She sent a photo to both of us, and it took me a second to realize that’s her,” Robert said.
Myrtle Brown was visiting her best friend in New York when she had her purse stolen in May 1990, which held her ID and epilepsy medicine.
According to NBC News, She went alone to the emergency room of a Brooklyn hospital later that evening after telling her family she wasn’t feeling well and needed a refill on her medication. They never heard from her again, and she never returned home.
For weeks, her grandmother, and family members visited local police precincts, hospitals, and near their home. But no one was able to help.
Myrtle’s daughter Eboney, who was 13 at the time said, “She ended up going alone and that was the last minute, you know, we heard of her once.”
“I never thought she’d died. I thought maybe she just wanted something different, maybe, out of life. I didn’t know, to be honest, I was just confused and sad,” her daughter said.
The family wondered what became of their loved one for 32 years.
As Soler provided the details she discovered in the case file, Eboney also joined the call.
Seeing the photo, Eboney said the photograph took her back 30 years.
“As soon as I saw the photo … just, you know it, you knew it was her,” she said.
The 35-year-old Myrtle was never hospitalized or registered at King’s County Hospital, but her family later learned that she had been there when she had a seizure and died away. Myrtle simply provided the hospital with her name and date of birth.
Myrtle’s family was able to conduct a virtual memorial for her, and according to Robert and Eboney, their family is now at rest knowing what happened to their cherished mother and sister.