Case of the Month: Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez

Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez with her daughter Stephanie

Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez with her daughter Stephanie

Case of the Month: Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez, was only 23 years old when she disappeared on Dec. 22, 1988, in Flint, Michigan. She had just lost her own mother and the family was grieving.

According to the papers, Brenda said that she was going to use a pay phone at Fenton and West Atherton roads in Flint. She put on her coat and went outside. She never returned.

Her snow-covered, frozen body was found near Tobaggan Hill in Holloway Reservoir Regional Park on Jan. 5, 1989. The authorities still refuse to reveal the cause of death (crucial to the investigation) but have labelled her case a homicide. However, nobody has ever been charged for her murder.

Brenda left a six-year-old daughter, Stephanie. She separated from her first husband when Stephanie was still very small. He moved back to Texas and passed away. According to Steph, her mom never stopped loving him.

Stephanie Bellanca does not remember exactly when she realized that her mom would never come back. She was only a child when this happened. But she has memories of her mom and about the period after her mom went missing. “I remember that she wasn’t there,” she said. “And I moved to Cheboygan with my great-aunt.”

This post was written on December 22, the day Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez disappeared. I often talk to Stephanie and I asked her to help me write this post. Here she is in her own words:

Brenda and Stephanie

Brenda and Stephanie

On the rare occasion that the topic of my mother comes up in conversation, it usually doesn’t go far. It’s just that most people do not know what to say, or how they should react to my response that my mother died when I was a kid at the hands of an unknown person. Now and then I come across someone who asks “what do you remember about her? Anything at all? You were so little it’s probably hard to remember much of anything.”

It’s true I don’t remember much, but what I remember is this:

I felt safe with her, life was hard because she was a young single mom but with her, I was safe.

Music brings our life back to me; it’s like looking at a still frame in time. I can feel those days when I hear certain songs. George Harrison’s ‘Got my mind set on you’ for example was #1 in 1988, the same year she disappeared. When that song plays I can see our apartment, the furniture arranged by her, the white walls and light coming in the windows.

She was warm and happy, and she had a way with people.

I guess like every little kid that has ever loved their mother, she was my everything. She was who I wanted to be when I grew up, and she was the warmth I wanted to fall asleep next to at night. I remember most when that was gone how alien the world became, how scary life was after that.

Stephanie Bellanca

Stephanie Bellanca

When on the rare occasion people ask because they genuinely want to know, it’s hard to say these things. So thank Alice for asking me what I remember because without your question I may not have been able to express how deeply she is missed to this day.

My body and soul aches over her injustice. So many people are concerned about dignity in death of inmates, but what about their victims. What about the survivors they left behind? There is no peace in many cases for us, because our loved one did not die peacefully, or with dignity. We were not there to say goodbye.

I have been at the bedside of a beloved family member which I thank God for everyday. But this was not so in my mother’s case and it changes you. All of the unanswered questions surrounding her murder, the thought that this person still walks among us, free.

If not for bloggers, detectives and seekers of justice like Alice; we would be forgotten.”


In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, sometimes more information can be found online and in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.

If you have any thoughts about Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez’s case I urge you to post them on your own social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. Every time we mention Brenda’s name online we enhance her digital footprint.

We must make sure that Brenda retains her web presence if we ever wish to find answers in her case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post. If you do, the post will show up in new news feeds, reach new circle,s and networks with new connections. And who knows. We may reach someone who can help advance the case.

Thank you for helping me help Brenda Lee Harvey Martinez and Stephanie.