A Lawrence County family has spent the last five years fighting to keep their loved one’s memory alive, as the search continues for Janson Brewer.
Brewer’s family has been to the ends of the earth trying to find out what happened to him.
“Somebody said that he got fed to the hogs. So, we went out and looked the property over, had a team of cadaver dogs and we didn’t have no luck with that,” stepfather Patrick Youtsey said.
The rumor mill in this small community has offered up several conspiracies. Loved ones claim they’ve done their best to look into each one.
“We followed up on some more leads. One that he was at a trailer house and maybe got put in a septic tank, so we went and had that pumped and nothing come out of that,” Youtsey continued.
They even looked into a tip that Brewer had been hit in the back of the neck with a hatchet, and his body had been rolled up in a tarp. But tip after tip, each one has led to deeper heartbreak.
“It’s hard. It’s really hard when you see someone that’s got so much good in them, and everybody misses him. But when it’s all taken away from you, it’s very rough,” Youtsey said while tearing up.
Brewer was 27-years-old when he went missing on August of 2016.
“I texted him, asked if he wanted to go fishing this Saturday, which was the 19th,” brother Joshua Brewer said.
Talks about going fishing would be the last conversation Joshua would have with his brother.
“I got called into work at the time,” Joshua remembered sending his brother a Facebook message. “I told that I wasn’t going to make it, but the worms were in my mom’s refrigerator at her house that he was welcome to them.” He added, “And I seen where he checked it, but he never responded and that was the last time I ever heard from him.”
The St. Joseph Police Department initially took the case, which was later turned over to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, and then to the 22nd District Attorney’s Office in 2019.
“Leads just flooded in on the front end,” said Jeff Dunn, Criminal Investigator with the DA’s Office said. “But nothing panned out. Really had no idea what actually happened.”
Investigators believe Brewer was last driving a silver Ford Ranger with a stepside bed and was with a man named Daniel Braden, who used the first name Shawn. Neither have been seen since.
“What makes it difficult, especially in today’s society, is the fact that we have social media, so many social media outlets, everything is publicized so much more now, it just makes it difficult on an investigator because it kind of gets the rumor mill started, so to speak,” Dunn said. “And everybody wants to be involved and everybody thinks they know tidbits here and there and they hear a story and they tell it to five different people and that causes us to get flooded with leads that really aren’t substantial.”
Both men have had previous run-ins with the law, but the family said that doesn’t take away their hurt and Brewer has a good heart.
He is a father of three, including a son who had passed away at a young age from a medical condition. Loved ones noticed red flags when his children’s mother didn’t hear from him.
“That’s his baby momma. If he don’t have no contact with her, you knew something was wrong because that’s his pride and joy, his gold right there,” brother Josh Tatum said. “Family and kids. He’d take a bullet for his family and kids.”
Their efforts to keep Brewer’s case in the public eye is fueled by the goal of one day having closure for his children.
“[We want to] keep that fresh in everybody’s mind that he’s still missing and he maybe deceased or whatever, but we still want to find closure for him because he has two kids that need that and has a mom and family, brothers and sisters that would love to have closure, know what happened to him,” Joshua said. “If it’s something we can’t actually have the remains or whatever, but we would like to have a closure and be able to put the family and everything to rest.”
A family friend contacted News 2 about this case that remains unsolved. He’s also watched the family suffer for years.
“I mean, we’re going through some tough times. If I was to leave this world not knowing what happened to my son, I can’t imagine,” Eric Armstrong said. “They need closure, they need something. Someone knows something and I think someone should step up and say something. “
Brewers’ mother and stepfather teared up as they look back on photos and memories they shared with him. His mother hopes Brewer and his son have been reunited up above.
“It means the world to me because I need closure, I need to know where my baby is and that I can put him up beside of his son. That was his pride and joy, his little boy that passed away,” Loria Youtsey said. “He was just always sad about him, he always talked about him all the time, he missed him so much. Closure is what I need, to be able to find his body and put him up there with the rest of the family.”
The family claimed they have been disappointed with the way their son’s investigation has gone so far.
The DA’s Office said they haven’t given up and are working with the TBI on leads, including some that have surfaced recently. Dunn said he shares the family’s frustration and he wants them to know he’s committed to finding answers.
“You know, we have 20-year-old homicide cases that we’ve been able to solve. So, it’s just that right piece of information and the right person coming forward, the truth to finally come out,” Dunn said. “And I really think, I’m confident in the fact that we will find him.”
Investigators have followed up on lots of rumors and hunches, but right now they really need people to come forward who have substantiated tips and factual information about the case. They will continue to follow up on any and all tips that come in.
Tips can be submitted by calling the 22nd District Attorney’s Office at their Lawrence County office at 931-766-1453 or their Columbia office at 931-380-2536.