After disappearing more than a month ago with her boyfriend and $6,000 of her parents' money, Westminster runaway Brandy Chappell was picked up by police yesterday in a run-down Houston motel.
Brandy, 16, and her boyfriend, 17-year-old George Beahm Jr., were found unharmed at the Red Coach Motel, a motor-court in a Houston neighborhood known for drug dealing and street prostitution.
Brandy, who was being held by juvenile authorities in Houston last night, is expected to arrive at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 3:26 this afternoon, where she will be met by her mother, Leslie Chappell, and a Westminster City Police officer.
For Chappell, the nightmare that began the morning of July 17 when Brandy and George disappeared ended yesterday morning when a 29-year-old clerk ofthe Red Coach Motel in search of a reward called the Chappells' Catonsville body shop.
"At first, when he called, I knew she was dead.I thought, 'Oh, my God, he's killed her,' " Chappell said. "It went through me like lightning."
She said the clerk, Michael Johnson, first called the Chappells' Westminster home, where Brandy's 18-year-old sister took the collect call. Johnson was told to call Chappell atthe body shop; that call between Chappell and Johnson was monitored by Westminster Detective Cpl. Wayne Mann.
"More and more as he talked, I knew that this guy knew who Brandy and George were," Chappell said.
Apparently, Brandy and George ran out of the $6,000 they found hidden in a videocassette case at the Chappells' Buck Cash Road home July 17. With that money, Chappell said, they hopped a late-night flight from BWI to Boston. From Boston, they then flew to Houston, Chappell said.
In Houston, Brandy and George bought a 1978 ChevroletCamaro, putting in a new stereo system, a reconditioned engine and anew set of tires, Chappell said.
The Red Coach Motel, whose roomsrent for $22 a night or $85 a week, is in the heart of an area of southwest Houston that police say is known for prostitution and drugs.
"There are three or four little motels down there that are pretty sleazy," said a Houston police officer who asked that his name not beused. "The area is real low-rent. It's pretty tough."
Houston police -- apparently with the cooperation of Johnson, who believed he was receiving a reward -- found Brandy and George in a room of the motel yesterday afternoon. While George was able to avoid being picked upby police, Brandy was taken into custody.
George's whereabouts were not known as of press time last night.
Brandy is expected to becharged in the theft of her parents' $6,000, Chappell and Westminster Lt. Dean Brewer said.
"I am at the point where she has to be punished, she has to receive help," Chappell said about the decision sheand her husband, Louis, made to press charges. "Maybe this will keepthem (George and Brandy) apart, and she can get her life back on track."
Brandy's life fell off track, her mother said, about a year ago,
when she began dating George, a high school dropout she knew from middle school. The one-time cheerleader and honor student became a different person, her mother said. She bleached her chestnut brown hair. She became disinterested and hostile to her family. The Chappells say she started using drugs.
No drugs, however, were ever foundby her parents or by the Houston police officers who searched the motel room where she and George had been staying.
Johnson, the motelclerk, never told Chappell how he knew Brandy and George had run outof money.
The reward he requested during the call to the body shop -- something the Chappells' hadn't before considered -- most likelywill be the Camaro, Chappell said.