The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins: After three decades, investigators dig deep into one of the most baffling missing cases
One moment, they were buying chips and soda at a Pump-N-Shop gas station in Augusta, Georgia and the next moment they were gone - where are Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook?
Nearly three decades ago, 15-year-old African American twins, Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook, vanished off the street in Augusta, Georgia. One moment, they were buying chips and soda at a Pump-N-Shop gas station on the corner of 12th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 4:30 pm and the next, they were gone.
They had grown up in the same neighborhood in the projects, Bethlehem, so the clerk Gloria knew them. She had turned her back for a minute to ring a customer and it seemed like they just disappeared into thin air.
Oxygen's two hour special 'The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins' digs deep into the baffling and frustrating case and appears to go further than ever before. At the beginning of the documentary, host of 'The Fall Line' and a case expert Laurah Norton says, "I've seen wonderful investigations, I've seen moderate investigations and here, there was no investigation."
And nothing describes this case best.
The special, for the first time in 30 years, digs deep into the story of the two teens who went missing on March 18, 1990, and have not been seen or heard about since. The family has pleaded for help for decades with no relief. Former federal prosecutor Laura Coates and former homicide detective Page Reynolds, aided by Norton and her co-podcasting sleuth Brooke Hargrove, set out to uncover the mystery that has spanned decades. Someone somewhere would have had to know what happened to them.
Were they taken by a serial killer?
So far, the stories and investigations about the case have talked of the same old leads - the girls had seen a white van follow them home from Church the day they had disappeared.
The van or the man in it was never identified or tracked down. In the same area that the girls went missing from or were taken away lived a serial killer by the name of Joseph Patrick Washington. He lived in Hale street near the Pump-n-Shop where the girls were last seen and would be seen on the Martin Luther King Jr. boulevard.
He was actively attacking women in the early 1990s around the same time that the girls went missing. He's known to have killed 2 women possibly three and was arrested in 1993 and died in 1999. He was known to pick up women at gunpoint, take them to another location, sexually assault and sometimes murder them. He preferred African American women with short hair. Both twins had short hair. However, because he was arrested in 1993, by when the twins were already declared runaways and the case was closed, they never connected it to Washington.
John Millbrook was married to the twins' mother, who described him as a violent and cruel man, who she split up with after she feared he would hurt her daughters. He had little to do with the twins' upbringing. However, the team finds that John may have had something to do with the girls vanishing.
Laurah Norton and Brooke Hargrove reveal to former homicide detective Reynolds that when they dug around, they had come across an inmate named Earnest Vaughns, who is currently serving out a life sentence in Dodge State Prison for murder. When they had reached out to him to see if they had heard about the twins, he had written them a letter that said that he had some information. The letter had been submitted to the Richmond County Sheriff's office two years ago, but they heard nothing at all after that.
The investigators reach out to Vaughns themselves through his daughter April Kettle, and what they heard shook them awake. Vaughns says that the twins had gone to their father's home on 3rd street, a known place for drug dealings. John Millbrook was a crack adict and had loaned out the home to drug dealers in exchange for crack. The twins had been made to smoke marijuana and drink, following which one of them was sexually assaulted. The other came to her rescue but was punched by one of the men and fell backward, hitting her head and hurting herself badly.
He also mentioned Merry Brothers Brickyard - a place surrounded by dense flora and a potential body dumpsite.
An eye-witness, Vaughns was around 12 years old at the time and recalled the names of "Lil Cheese" and "Oodle Boy" as being present at the scene, along with John. He also said that "Lil Cheese" had sexually assaulted one of the twins. And get this - "Oodle Boy" had a white van.
When the original investigation was opened in 1990, the detective on the case Jim Ship had dubbed them as runaways and shutout the family from any information regarding the case. When the team reached out to him, he said that he had spoken to Mary Louise, the mother, every two weeks. He also confirmed that he had called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and told them they had found the twins, based on hearsay. Coates was quoted saying, "He said, 'If you find two dead twins you let me know'".
In short, there was no investigation from Detective Ship. He said that they were "known" and that he had thought the mother's "IQ" was the problem so he hadn't updated her.
The team reaches out to Sheriff Richard Roundtree of Richmond County, who agrees to look into it. Sgt Christopher Langford and Detective Lucas Grant speak to Vaughns in prison but conclude that he was talking about a different double murder.
The real shocker comes when Shanta Sturgis, the twins' sister, reveals to the documentary investigators that Vaughns had told his daughter April that the investigators had told him to tell them that he had made it all up. Shanta had known "Lil Cheese" as a known drug dealer and that they knew him when they were kids.
When the matter is taken to Roundtree for a meeting, Grant does not come and the department decides that there was no reason to pursue the lead or doubt the information from the investigators.
Once again, the family is left with questions about what happened to their twins.
Anyone with information or concerns about the case can reach out to the Sheriff's office at 706-821-1000.