Kelley Brannon is rarely on social media, avoids leaving behind bank records and falls off the grid sometimes.
However, she always keeps in contact with family and friends — that’s the reason her month-and-a-half long silence has left them looking for answers.
The 36-year-old was last seen or heard from on July 15 in Live Oak, Florida, about a 66 mile drive from Gainesville, according to a missing persons poster.
On July 14, Brannon and her 30-year-old boyfriend, Eddie Emerson, were on a road trip to Detroit, Michigan, and stayed at the Sunshine Inn in Live Oak July 14. After an argument, Brannon sat outside their hotel room while Emerson went to bed. In the morning he woke up to a voicemail containing the last words any family or friends have heard from her — ending in a cryptic sentence: “Oh, I’m getting in a car right now. Bye.”
Brannon was last seen by hotel guests outside the hotel wearing a white T-shirt, black shorts and a guitar on her back, according to a missing persons poster Emerson posted on Facebook.
Since then, multiple potential sightings have been generated on a Facebook page called Kelley Brannon - Missing Discussion Group.
These include a farmer in Lake Park, Georgia, who said he saw Brannon walking through his vegetable field and gave her a ride July 21. A convenience store clerk in the same town said Brannon bought a Black n’ Mild cigar with change and asked for a phone charger the next day.
Alarmed by the cryptic voicemail, Emerson said he filed a missing persons report the next day.
Emerson said his relationship with Brannon has a rocky history. Heated arguments and temporary breakups weren’t unusual.
Mikalena Kenyon, a 31-year-old friend of Brannon, said she received a text from Brannon Jan. 1 with a photo attached. In the photo, Brannon was on a bicycle and had a black eye.
“Happy New Year,” Kenyon said the text said, “Eddie punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. Now, he has to wear an ankle monitor, haha. This is a weird way to start the new year. Hope you’re good.”
Emerson and Brannon decided to leave the Micanopy farm they were living on July 9 to buy a $2,000 fixer-upper house in Detroit, Michigan, he said. Their plans to take I-75 from Gainesville to Detroit were interrupted when Emerson’s Toyota pick-up truck’s transmission overheated from a lack of fluid.
While his truck was in the shop, the couple pulled Brannon’s tan Toyota Camry, filled with guitars, an amp, chickens and all their belongings, into the Sunshine Inn’s parking lot at around 6 p.m. July 14, Emerson said.
That evening, they took their chickens outside the hotel room to a grassy area where they could graze. As the sun set, three stubborn chickens ran free and Emerson said he told Brannon they should leave the chickens out for the night because he was tired of trying to catch them all.
When Brannon refused, Emerson said they broke into a verbal argument. Emerson went up to their hotel room and said he received a string of angry texts from Brannon.
A few hours later, Emerson said he checked on Brannon to find her drunk and crying outside of the hotel. He said he took her keys off her waist so she wouldn’t drive.
“I didn’t really comfort her, but I should have, obviously,” Emerson said.
Emerson said around midnight he received a text from Brannon’s phone saying she was threatening to leave. She told him she would rather starve to death, jump off a bridge, and get eaten by vultures, than share a room with him, according to Emerson.
“The biggest regret of my life right now is falling asleep right there and not going out and protecting her,” he said.
The next morning he woke up to a voicemail that he played over and over the next few weeks. In the voicemail, Brannon told Emerson she paid for her own room at the Sunshine Inn and reported her car stolen by Emerson because she was angry he took her keys.
“I should obviously, definitely do the Detroit thing on my own or go to Iceland,” Brannon said in the voicemail.
Without warning, Brannon said she was about to get in an unknown vehicle. Although she mentioned reporting her car stolen in the voicemail, Brannon never filed an official report.
Emerson used to work as a small engine mechanic at Sapp’s Saw and Mower dealership on Sixth Avenue. Now, he said he’s at his mother’s house in Dracut, Massachusetts, and spends most of his time on his computer and cell phone trying to find information about his missing girlfriend.
Although Brannon was a free spirit, Kenyon said it’s unusual to go this long without hearing from her.
At least once a month, Brannon emailed all her friends, Kenyon said. These emails included life updates, causes she was passionate about and promotions for friends’ bands.
Brannon is the kind of person who has an idea and makes it happen, Kenyon said. She loved to jump into new projects, from writing a film script to learning the guitar.
She later formed the local Gainesville band, The Friendly Cunts, a local four-person punk band.
“She doesn’t really do small talk,” Kenyon said. “She would jump right into whatever anyone in the conversation was passionate about.”
When 30-year-old Christian Torres first met Brannon at a Brooklyn rooftop party, he said she left an unforgettable impression. She was boisterous, loved to talk about ducks and chickens and convinced him to try urban farming, Torres said.
Torres said another of Brannon’s friends, Bob Murray, started a GoFundMe page to finance a private investigator for her case.
“If she made it to a place where she was around other people, and they found out she was missing, they’d remember her,” Kenyon said. “She is memorable. If you met her, you’d know it.”
Anyone with information about Brannon’s disappearance should call the Live Oak Police Department at 386-362-7463.
Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Brannon was last seen by other hotel guests. The article was also updated to say that Brannon sent a message to Kenyon on Jan. 1. The phone number Live Oak Police Department also attached to the article has been updated to the correct one. The previous version of this article initially reported otherwise.