Back in 2012, the case shocked and captivated the state of Alabama, leading to several theories about her disappearance.
Across the course of the documentary, there are gripping twists as the truth about Brittney Wood’s family is uncovered.
Here’s everything you need to know about the mysterious case of Brittney Wood and Monster in the Shadows.
The Real-Life Story Behind Monster in the Shadows
Brittney Wood’s disappearance
Then-nineteen-year-old Brittney Wood was last seen on May 31, 2012, after she left her family home alone at around 7.30p.m. She told her mother Chessie she was going to see friends, but this turned out not to be the case.
Chessie and Eric Winberg, the former detective for Baldwin County who led the case, believe Brittney was picked up by her uncle Donnie Holland, and was driven to a house where he was staying on Water World Road near Styx River.
Cell phone records gathered by detectives working on the case also place Brittney at Donnie’s property.
This was the last trace of Brittney Wood.
One day later, Holland was found in his car with what was perceived to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The vehicle had been parked in a secluded bit of land overlooking Fish River in South Baldwin.
Holland was then taken to hospital, where he died two days after Brittney’s disappearance. His death was ruled as suicide.
The gun at the scene of Holland’s alleged suicide attempt had belonged to Brittney Wood. Her cell phone battery was also found in the car. Both discoveries have never been fully explained.
Questions have also surfaced about the location of Donnie Holland’s gunshot wound to the head, raising suspicions he was shot by somebody else. The discovery of Brittney Wood’s gun also led some to believe it had been planted. A ballistic analysis was never carried out, meaning the DNA on the gun and bullet was never recovered.
Nicki Patterson, the assistant district attorney in Mobile County told Alabama Local News in March 2019: “Baldwin County had every reason in the world to think of it as a suicide.
“At that time, there was no indication at the depth of what we were looking at. And no one was aware that Brittney was missing.”
Patterson added: “They came across a body with a gunshot wound to the head that appeared to be self-inflicted and he was being investigated for molesting.
“His wife said they were out looking for him because he threatened to commit suicide.”
Child Sex Abuse Ring Uncovered
Brittney Wood’s disappearance led law enforcement to uncover an incestuous child abuse sex ring that was headed by Donnie Holland and three generations of his family. The authorities also determined Brittney herself had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her relatives.
In total 11 people were arrested on child sex abuse charges, including Donnie Hollands’s wife, Wendy Holland, and Brittney’s brother Derek Wood.
Other family members and family friends arrested included Nelton ‘Butch’ Morgan, Brittney’s Uncle Dustin Kent, Dustin’s wife Mendy Kent, James Cumbaa; Randall Scott Wood and Jennifer Moore.
Donnie Holland’s wife, Wendy Holland, who was found to have deleted several text messages off of Donnie Holland’s phone when she found him injured, was sentenced to 219 years in prison after being convicted of sodomy, sex abuse, and child torture in 2015. She is not eligible for parole and continues to maintain her innocence.
Stephanie Hanke, Brittney Wood’s stepmother, believes Wendy knows something about Brittney Wood’s disappearance, given that her husband Donnie is thought to be the last person to be seen with Brittney Wood. She told Alabama Local News: “I think she knows certain things. There are things she can shed some light on.”
Brittney’s uncle, Dustin Kent, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in November 2015 on charges of sodomy and incest, and James Cumbaa, a Wood family friend, faced charges of sodomy, sex abuse of a child, and rape.
Brittney Wood’s other uncle, Randall Wood, was charged with rape, sodomy, and child enticement, and Nelton “Butch” Morgan faced charges of child sex abuse and rape.
Brittney’s brother, Derek, and her cousin Donald Holland Jr. were granted youthful offender status, meaning their records are sealed.
In Monster in the Shadows, it is revealed Derek, who was also a victim of sexual abuse, took a plea deal and served three years in prison. He has also had to register as a sex offender for life.
Former detectives and Brittney’s mother Chessie Wood have considered the theory that the teen may have been meeting with her uncle to confront him about the sex abuse, and she paid for telling the truth with her life.
At the time of Brittney Wood’s disappearance, Donnie Holland had been under suspicion of child molestation offenses and police were closing in on him. Brittney’s uncle Randall tipped off the authorities on February 26, 2012, to report the family sex abuse.
On the day Donnie Holland was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, he had been scheduled to be quested by officers investigating the child sexual abuse allegations.
However, law-enforcement agencies have officially maintained the Brittney Wood missing person case and the child-sex abuse investigation are not linked, but Brittney Wood’s family believes differently.
There are also numerous theories Brittney was kidnapped and sold into sex trafficking, or that she simply ran away.
In a surprise turn of events, Chessie, who fronts Monster in the Shadows and is leading the search for her daughter, was charged with two counts of sodomy and sex abuse of a child less than 12 in 2013.
In October 2016, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment and did not serve any prison sentence. As heard in the documentary series, Chessie continues to maintain her innocence in the child sex-abuse ring led by her brother-in-law Donnie Holland.
In July 2020, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released an image showing what Brittney Wood, who has been missing since 2012 would look like now age 27.
Alabama Local News reported the image led to several tips received by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, who carried out a dig at a site in Grand Bay, which unfortunately returned no results.
Brittney Wood’s mother waited all day near the search scene in the hope investigators would find something relating to her daughter’s disappearance. After the dig proved fruitless, Chessie told NBC 15: “Deep down, my baby is not here anymore.
“Actually our thought process as a family changes. At the end of the day, my sister Wendy Holland or her husband, Donald Holland has something to do with the disappearance of my daughter.”
Unfortunately, the disappearance of Brittney Wood remains unsolved today.
“I wanted to make a crime documentary that could actually help the family. I started researching missing person cases in America and I was blown away by the amount there were,” said director and producer Thomas Leader.
“Even though there are tens of thousands of missing people, what happened to Brittney Wood stands out. There are so many unanswered questions that I wanted to get answers for, so many twists and turns that I wanted to understand better.”
Sadly, Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack and the police department believe Brittney Wood is deceased and her body has been concealed. The case still remains open today.
In a statement, he said: “Closure will only come when Ms. Wood’s killer (or killers) are indicted and Ms. Wood’s body is located.”
Monster in the Shadows is streaming on Peacock now.
If you have any information about Brittney Wood’s disappearance, go to Missingbrittney.com.