Four years later, Bath Co. family still searching for missing daughter

BATH COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Pictures around Sharon King's home in Bath County are treasures.

"I hold onto these," she said, shuffling through several photographs, "because it's all I've probably got."

It has been four years since King last spoke to her daughter, Norma Jo Brown. On Tuesday, marking a somber anniversary for this mother still searching for her child, King said that it was a normal conversation - one she never imagined could be their last.

Four years after Brown was last seen, loved ones say they still do not know any more now than they did the day she disappeared.

"Not knowing kills me," King told WKYT's Garrett Wymer. "It breaks my heart."

Family members were concerned all along in the days after Brown's disappearance in 2014 because they said the last person they saw her with was Kevin Howard, a man charged in a Fleming County murder not long afterward. (Howard pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2016 for the Fleming County case and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.)

The last four years have taken a toll on this family, including on Norma Jo's younger sister, Sandra, with whom she shared a close bond, King said. But even with their broken hearts and torn spirits, there are still certain things from which they draw their strength.

"I struggle everyday, but I still got my hope up there that one of these days my kid is going to come home to be with us again," King said. "One way or the other. That's all I can hope for."

Asked what she meant by one way or the other, King said she hopes her daughter is still alive, but, realistically, knows that if she were she would have called her by now. She said they used to talk several times a day.

Every day Sharon and Sandra walk out to the tree beside their home. It is adorned with butterflies (pink and purple, Brown's favorite color) and a sign that says 'hope.' At the base of the tree is a stone, engraved on it: "Not forgotten / Norma Jo Brown / Aug. 6, 1981." King said it gives her a place to visit her daughter, and to talk to her.

"We know she's here but she's not, you know what I'm trying to say?" she said. "I get up every morning and look at it and talk, say 'Norma, honey, we love you. Where you at? Please come home to us.'"

Every night King said she asks God for answers, hoping to lay to rest her daughter - and the pain of the unknown.

"She's always with me," she said. "She'll always be with me in my heart. Nobody can take my hope away that one day we're going to find her, and she's going to be coming home."

Brown was 33 when she went missing. Family and friends recently celebrated her 37th birthday gathered around their tree, releasing balloons and holding a candlelight vigil to pray for her to be found. Family members said they have offered a $2,000 reward for information that leads them to Brown.

Kentucky State Police said on Tuesday that they do not have any new information on the case. They ask anyone with information to call Kentucky State Police Post 8 (Morehead) at (606) 784-4127. Any information is useful, police said.

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