Missing: Melissa Brannen

Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. One oversight or a moment of misplaced trust, and they can be gone in a heartbeat. That became reality for Tammy Brannen on December 3, 1989 when her five-year-old daughter Melissa Brannen vanished without a trace. Tammy and her daughter were attending a Christmas party at the apartment complex where they lived in Lorton, Virginia. As they were leaving, Tammy allowed Melissa to run back and grab some chips. The young girl was never seen again. Suspicion immediately fell on a handyman named Caleb Daniel Hughes, who had been acting creepily at the party. Hughes was arrested and charged with kidnapping, but because police never found Melissa’s body and couldn’t determine where she died, they couldn’t change him with homicide. Hughes was paroled from prison early in 2019. Still, local authorities consider this an active murder investigation.