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Unsolved: Life After the Murder of Brenda Martinez

Brenda Martinez was just 23 years old when she disappeared from her home in Flint just before Christmas of 1988.

Her body was found several days later at a park in northeast Genesee County.

Her death was ruled a homicide, but the case remains unsolved.

Stephanie Bellanca still has vivid memories of her mother, Brenda.

“She was a lot of fun. She liked music. We used to listen to a lot of the radio back then. She was a great host. Like I said, she hosted the family. She hosted her friends,” said Stephanie.

And December 1988 had all the makings of what would be another memory-filled holiday season. Brenda went to use a pay phone at the corner of Fenton and West Atherton roads in Flint on the 22nd.

But she never returned home.

Stephanie was 6 years old.

“That’s your comfort, your person. She was all I had. And then she was gone. And nobody could explain why,” said Stephanie.

Brenda’s body wouldn’t be found until several days after the New Year at this park outside of Flint.

Her death would be ruled a homicide.

“I think there was a long time, even after the funeral and everything, you just kind of have this magical thinking. Like one day she’s just going to walk in the door, you know, it’s it was a bad dream or it was a mistake or somebody was confused, maybe she just got lost. She’s going to come back. So that was that was definitely hard as a kid trying to come to terms with something such a big loss when you’re so little,” explained Stephanie.

Stephanie was sent to live with relatives in Northern Michigan, all the while wondering what happened to her mom, and why.

“And we’ve tried getting answers for years, and it’s just you just want that back. You want to be safe. You want to feel home. And so that’s something that you just do your best to have for your own children, because there’s you know, there’s a part of you that will never understand how that happened,” said Stephanie.

It’s the same question police have tried to answer for decades, but the case has largely remained cold, with few details made public.

“This is somebody that’s very important. Maybe not to you, but to her family and her friends. She was kind of like the glue. She held us all together and she enjoyed that. She enjoyed us being together. So we definitely want to try to find out what happened, and bring some closure for her legacy and for my children and for myself and, you know, the friends and family that are still wondering what happened and why,” said Stephanie.

For now, Stephanie and her family will continue to wait, as they keep sharing her mother’s story, hoping to one day bring the case to a close.

“Why isn’t always the most important part, but being able to have your day in court, I guess, and look at that person and say ‘I know what you did and now everybody else does too’. And seeing them come to terms with that is something I think would give me more closure than anything,” said Stephanie.

If you have any information about what happened to Brenda Martinez, call the Richfield Township Police Department in Geneses County at 810-653-3565.