Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Faith remained in search for woman

Body found; family never gave up hope

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OWENTON — A relative of an Owenton woman missing for more than a decade says her family never gave up hope that they eventually would find her.

        On Saturday, that faith paid off, when a suspect in Lawanda Sue Raines' disappearance led police to what they think to be the 32-year-old woman's makeshift grave in a wooded area off Ky. 22 east of Owenton.

        Authorities would not release a possible motive or say how Ms. Raines died.

        “We trusted that God eventually would show us where she was,” said Ms. Raines' sister-in-law, Mary Susan Tomlin of Owenton.

        Kentucky State Police said a suspect being held on unrelated charges in the Grant County Jail led them to the site, after new information in the case prompted them to question him Friday.

        Ms. Raines, a divorced mother of four, had not been heard from since she reportedly was seen with her boyfriend on May 21, 1989, said Trooper John Bradley, spokesman for Kentucky State Police Post in LaGrange.

        Mrs. Tomlin said authorities told her that Keith Bramblett, Ms. Raines' former boyfriend, was the one who led them to her remains.

        However, police would not confirm or deny that account.

        “I can't say if the former boyfriend has been ruled out as a suspect,” Detective Sgt. Carey Duncan of the Kentucky State Police LaGrange post said Monday. “I can only tell you that based on what witnesses said, we felt we had enough information to seek an indictment in the case.”

        Col. Sandra Zavodny, a shift commander for the Grant County Jail, confirmed that Mr. Bramblett was being held there, but she would not release any other information, citing jail policy.

        Sgt. Duncan said the case against the suspect will be presented to the Owen County grand jury on April 10.

        Although Ms. Raines had been involved in drugs and alcohol and had ridden with a motorcycle gang in her younger years, at the time of her disappearance she appeared to have her life in order, her sister-in-law said.

        Ms. Raines was attending nursing school with her sister, Pam Cook, at Kentucky State University, Mrs. Tomlin said.

        And while Ms. Raines' three older children lived with their father in Ohio, she had custody of her 2 1/2 year-old daughter, Summer, whom she doted on, her sister-in-law said.

        “She enjoyed taking care of Summer and wanted to be a good mother to her,” Mrs. Tomlin said.

        On May 22, 1989, one of Ms. Raines' sisters called police to report her missing after she failed to return home. The night before, Mrs. Tomlin said, her sister-in-law had attended a party in Grant County with her boyfriend of a few months.

        For weeks after Ms. Raines' disappearance, family members searched fields, roadways, cisterns and wells throughout Grant, Carroll and Owen counties, Mrs. Tomlin said.

        They put up dozens of posters seeking information about Ms. Raines' whereabouts and pleaded through local newspapers for any details that would lead them to their missing relative.

        Family members even contacted the television show Unsolved Mysteries, but they were unable to get a representative of the show to return their call.

        In May 2000, Sgt. Duncan said he asked Detective Carey Figg “to start from scratch and take another look,” after another detective who had investigated the case was transferred from the post.

        Through Detective Figg's investigation, witnesses who previously were reluctant to come forward provided new information, Mr. Duncan said.

        On Sunday, Mrs. Tomlin joined other relatives in visiting the site where Ms. Raines' remains were found.

        The wooded ravine was about 300 yards from a dirt road family members had repeatedly walked in their search for their missing relative.

        “Thank God for Detective Figg,” Mrs. Tomlin said. “Hopefully, we can have some closure now.”


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