‘They’d never seen anything like it on that island’; the mystery of Brenda Holland’s disappearance endures 5 decades later

National

HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Brenda Holland was having the time of her life. And it would turn out to be…the last times of her life.

Brenda was a 19-year-old theater student at what was, at the time, Campbell College (now Campbell University).  She was one of the brightest students in their program.

“She was active in the theater culture, there. She’d been in some plays, including Oklahoma!” says journalist, John Railey.

She’d gotten a plumb job as the makeup supervisor for the Lost Colony production in the summer of 1967. But on July 1st, she simply disappeared.

“They’d never seen anything like it, on that island,” says Railey, whose new book, The Lost Colony Murder on the Outer Banks: Seeking Justice for Brenda Joyce Holland tells her story.

Brenda wasn’t like a lot of the people who’d been involved in the production, over the years.

“She comes from a blue-collar family, up in the mountains and she’s down there – she’s an outsider,” notes Railey.

So, when her body was pulled from the sound, a few days after her disappearance, the investigation that ensued was something less than textbook by the standards of even 1967.

“I think this was a classic example of the generation gap,” says Railey about how the investigation got so messed up. “Sheriff (Frank) Cahoon at that time, was 60-years-old, this was flower power, the summer of love and the Lost Colony which was once mainly composed of locals in the cast and crew is more and more getting folks from out of town because they saw what Andy Griffith had done from there so everybody wants to catch that magic. Cahoon didn’t understand those folks – he was older – so, when he started looking at Danny the whole Lost Colony Crew kind of circled around him and said, ‘It wasn’t Danny.’”

Railey had long had an interest in the case, since his family owned a home on the outer banks as he grew up. Now that he was a journalist, he couldn’t help but seek some answers in a case that has never been solved.  He got a big break with some information – great detail – that helps lead him to his idea of how Brenda died.

The tragedy of it was, Brenda had a great life ahead of her, if she survived that summer.

“I really wonder what she could have done, had she not been killed. I think she’d definitely be on Broadway, now, working in makeup and costumes,” says Railey.

See what the big break was, in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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