Parents Search For Adolescent Who Bolted

16-year-old Allegedly Stole$6,000 With Boyfriend

August 18, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The girl in the picture her boyfriend took looks hardened, her youthful innocence drained with each drag of the Camel cigarette dangling defiantly from her lips.

She is 16-year-old Brandy Chappell, but she is not the daughter Leslie and Louis Chappell say they knew. This Brandy is the teen-ager police say allegedly stole $6,000 from her parents July 17, hopped a plane to Boston with her boyfriend and hasn'tbeen heard from since.

The Chappells had been worried about their daughter for over a year. Since transferring from Liberty to Westminster High, her personality had changed. She was irresponsible, disrespectful and hated school.

"It felt like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' " said Leslie Chappell. "Like something took away my daughter and left a stranger inher place."

The Chappells, who also have an 18-year-old daughter,say that while the family lived in Eldersburg, Brandy was happy. Heryears at Sykesville Middle School and the 1 1/2 months she attended Liberty High were typical for a girl her age. She loved cheerleading,her collection of Cabbage Patch dolls and going on family trips.

She liked to hang out with her mother, stay at home and watch television. She never talked back to her parents. Twice she was a contestantin a state beauty pageant.

But that girl bears no resemblance to the one that emerged when the family moved to Westminster in October 1989.

"It started out small at first," her mother said. "During the first year (at Westminster) she had a hard time doing her work."

The real changes came after June 1990, when the Chappells took a trip to Ocean City and Brandy bumped into George Beahm Jr., an older boyshe knew from middle school. Brandy's mother didn't like George. He was different from the other boys with whom Brandy went to dances. But everyone told her interference only would push the teens closer together.

"You don't want her running off with him, or doing something crazy," Leslie Chappell's friends told her.

During the last school year, her parents, family and friends watched as Brandy became a stranger. Her chestnut brown hair was bleached with peroxide. She was suspended from school for smoking, cutting classes and being caught with caffeine pills. She fought with her parents constantly over George.

Brandy told her mother she could never keep her away from her boyfriend. To ease the situation, the Chappells gave George -- who never graduated from high school -- a job in their body shop in Catonsville.

But the Chappells began to suspect their daughter was involved in drugs. They searched her room when she left the house. The Cabbage Patch dolls became potentially sinister when eyed as hiding placesfor drugs.

When George didn't show up for work July 17, Leslie Chappell knew something was wrong. After calling, she rushed home to see if he was there with Brandy.

Leslie arrived home to find her pictures of Brandy and George gone, along with Brandy's clothes and $6,000 of the Chappells' money.

After alerting police and hours of frantic telephoning, the Chappells checked bus and train stations. They arrived at BWI Airport at 1 a.m., missing Brandy and George's flight to Boston by 25 minutes.

The Chappells and a friend drove all night to Boston and spent the night showing the teens' pictures to airline ticket agents, airplane crews and cab drivers. They drove back later exhausted and overwrought.

Since Brandy left, the Chappells havetried to learn to cope. They jump every time the phone rings and torture themselves with thoughts of what they did wrong. They imagine all sorts of horrible fates for Brandy.

"Every time the phone rings I wonder if it's someone telling me she's dead," her mother said.

The Chappells' third daughter died when she was 8 months old.

"I thought that was the worst thing," said Louis Chappell. "But this not knowing, that's worse."

Anyone with information should call Lt. Dean Brewer at 848-4646.

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