Palm Bay woods to be searched for Brandy Hall's remains

Mother of 2 vanished in 2006

By John A. Torres of Florida Today

PALM BAY, Fla. - More than 12 years after the 32-year-old mother-of-two vanished, the search for Brandy Hall continues.

On Wednesday, several groups with cadaver dogs, numerous volunteers, a noted forensic anthropologist, Brandy's mother and daughter and private investigator Nicolas Sandberg will begin searching wooded areas and wetlands in the Palm Bay area hoping to find any clue that may solve the mystery, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Hall, a volunteer firefighter in Malabar, left the station around 10:45 p.m. on August 17, 2006. She then spoke with Palm Bay Fire Captain Randall Richmond on the phone for 10 minutes and 46 seconds. That is the last phone record of anyone speaking with her.

It was revealed later that Hall and Richmond -- both married -- were having an affair. 

Her truck was found in a nearby pond the following day. Richmond, after initially telling police he had not spoken with her in weeks, told investigators a few days later that Brandy said she was leaving town.

Was Brandy Hall the victim of foul play or did she simply decide to walk away from a complicated personal situation? The morning she was discovered to be missing, her husband, former Osceola fire captain Jeff Hall ,was to be sentenced to prison for operating a marijuana grow house.

The case is rife with many unusual circumstances. Drugs. The affair. A public argument. A lost police tip. Alibis that seemed to lose credibility as time passed. Rumors that police could never substantiate. 

There were Brandy's belongings turning up one and then two years after she went missing in different parts of the region. Her bag, still containing some of her belongings, was discovered in a canal in Vero Beach in 2007. In 2008, her fire helmet washed ashore near Mather's Bridge in Indian Harbour Beach. 

The case was the focus of season three of Florida Today's award-winning podcast "Murder on the Space Coast." And that's where private eye Nic Sandberg comes in. Sandberg, who spent 15 years in law enforcement in South Carolina and who grew up in Palm Bay area, listened to the podcast and decided to get involved.

"It hits close to home," Sandberg said. "This was right there in my neighborhood.  I want to do justice. I want to see justice for her."

Wednesday's search is focusing in on areas where cadaver dogs previously alerted. The hope is with more sophisticated equipment and a small army of volunteer searchers -- including dogs from Peace River Search and Rescue -- something will turn up. 

Also assisting in the search is Arpad Vass, a noted forensic anthropologist and professor at the Law Enforcement Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee. Vass hopes to use his newly patented grave-detecting machine, which uses DNA from one of Brandy's family members, to locate her remains.

The Palm Bay Police ruled Brandy's disappearance a homicide and the investigation technically remains open. 

"I'm taking care in this investigation as it were my own," Sandberg said. "I'm basically just starting over as if the investigation was fresh." 

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