IF BRANDON ABBETT were a 10-year-old girl, his father and sister say his disappearance a year ago this month may have received more attention.
Brandon was 15 and a freshman at Pleasant Hill’s College Park High School on Jan. 16, 2022, when his family says he went out his bedroom window late at night and disappeared.
Brandon’s mother Daun lived in Redding, but his father Andrew and then-17-year-old sister, Jade, immediately started canvassing their neighborhood.
Jade approached a man playing basketball on his driveway with his son, showing them a photo of Brandon. The man immediately asked how she knew he was missing.
“He’s like ‘Oh, he just ran away. Give him 24 hours. Teenage boys get angry.’ I’m looking for him and his son was standing right there and I don’t know how he could have such an (attitude).”
They posted fliers around town the following months, though it was difficult to convince shopkeepers, and even one of Brandon’s teachers, to put them up. Andrew Abbett said it took the police a couple of months to take his son’s disappearance seriously, and only at his angry urging. Police then “tore apart” his house searching for evidence, which Abbett said he welcomed. They went to the neighbors to see if there was video evidence, which there wasn’t.
A year later, almost all the fliers around town are gone. Just like Brandon.
Abbett admitted it’s not the typical missing child case that gets attention. Brandon was quiet and had a small circle of friends at an age when some rebellion is expected from teenage boys.
Brandon’s parents had a contentious divorce, then years of custody battles. Jade, now 18, told stories of their mother trying to convince her to leave her father’s home, even if it meant traveling to another state.
Abbett said some media outlets showed up to do stories about his son’s disappearance, only to pack up and leave once they heard the circumstances.
“They figure there’s another parent involved and they don’t want to get in the middle of a parental thing,” Abbett said. “Even if he went willingly, he’s underage. It’s there’s just a different level of sensationalism.”
‘It’s still surreal’
Brandon’s room remains the same as when he left, with his bed, electronic drum set and bookshelves with baseball trophies and books. Gaming magazine covers still hang from the wall and an unopened birthday present and a celebratory balloon sit by his desk.
He turned 16 on Jan. 4. The window screen he pushed out to leave is still bent. The family usually makes a point of avoiding the room.
“It was surreal; it’s still surreal, sitting here talking about it,” said Andrew Abbett, sitting at his kitchen table with Jade in his Pleasant Hill home. “People need to know what’s going on. The more people that hear about this, you know, or maybe see or hear something, maybe they can talk to the authorities.
“I don’t even know if my child is alive right now,” he said.
Brandon and Jade spent years caught between their parents, going back and forth between homes, including to Redding, where their mother moved a few years after the divorce.
Jade, who’s now a senior at College Park, said her mother offered to take her to live in Redding or send her to live with relatives in Maryland or Florida.
At one point, Abbett said Daun tried taking the kids out of school to homeschool them in Redding, an idea with which Abbett strongly disagreed. He said there were other points of contention, like whether the kids should be vaccinated and, in Brandon’s case, whether he should be tested for ADHD to address his troubles in school.
Daun Abbett didn’t return messages asking her to comment for this story.
Pleasant Hill Police Detective Sgt. Andrew Gartner said last week, “We are actively working with the FBI, following up on all potential leads. Numerous search warrants have been authored in hopes of finding more information to Brandon’s whereabouts. This is still very much an active investigation.”
“Brandon’s mother, Daun, has been fairly cooperative with our investigation,” Gartner said. “A search of her property was conducted by investigators early on. She is not a listed suspect at this time.”
Andrew Abbett is an electrician. He says his parenting style was moderate — there were rules that, if not followed, meant consequences, like confiscation of video games or, when they were younger, having the kids stand in the corner. Abbett had Brandon switch middle schools to see if the change would help.
“The last time I saw him, I gave him a hug and told him I loved him on Sunday night and he went to bed. It was like 10 o’clock.”Andrew Abbett, Brandon’s father
Abbett said he was never physical with his kids, though he openly wondered if he was too hard on Brandon.
“I think Brandon’s got some learning disabilities so it made it harder on him and I would have to kind of crack down on him and take things away from him to motivate him, which I realize in retrospect probably wasn’t always the best thing to do,” Abbett said. “I didn’t know any other way and it had been suggested over time that we get him tested for ADD and ADHD, etc.”
They argued about homework the weekend Brandon disappeared.
“I walked away from him for a bit and came back and I’m like ‘Listen, you know my good intention is I want to make sure that you have the tools that you need to succeed when you become an adult,’” Abbett said. “He just didn’t want to hear anything that I had to say.”
“The last time I saw him, I gave him a hug and told him I loved him on Sunday night and he went to bed,” Abbett said. “It was like 10 o’clock.”
Waiting by the phone
Jade said she heard Andrew come into her room around 1 a.m., she presumed to see if she was sleeping. She hasn’t heard from him since. She said people at school are surprised to find out her brother is still missing.
“I’ve checked my spam and my e-mail and any random phone calls I get or voicemails,” said Jade, who hadn’t separated from her brother for more than a week until a year ago. “I check area codes of the voicemails and I haven’t heard anything. I don’t think he knows my phone number by heart, but I feel like I would be the one who he would reach out to.”
Jade’s contact with Daun already stopped. Andrew hasn’t spoken with Daun since he called her the morning he found Brandon gone. He said his ex-wife denied knowing Brandon’s whereabouts and blamed the episode on “drama” at Andrew’s household.
Both Andrew and Jade said Daun never came down from Redding to distribute fliers or help in their search.
Jade said her brother was in good spirits the month before he disappeared, something she attributed to the holidays. She said her mother tried emailing her and twice showed up at College Park after school and denied being involved with Brandon’s disappearance.
“I told her ‘I don’t want to talk to you right now until I know where my brother is,’ because I assume that she had something to do with it,” Jade said. “That’s the only way it would make sense and she’d be like ‘OK, fine.’”
Abbett says he hasn’t ruled out something else happened to Brandon.
“It sounds unlikely but it’s also something, of course, you have to think about, and I have. If there is evidence of that, I’m unaware of it.”
No matter where Brandon went that night, Abbett said he just wants to know he’s safe.
“Is he safe? Is he being abused? Is he getting food? Is he locked in a cage?” Abbett asked. “It would be better just knowing that he’s OK.”
Pleasant Hill police ask anyone with information about Brandon Abbett’s whereabouts to call them at 925-288-4600 or make an anonymous tip with the FBI or by calling 415-553-7400.
There is a Facebook page dedicated to Brandon Abbett’s disappearance.