Kym L. Pasqualini is the founder and former CEO of Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults.
The mysterious disappearance of a young mother from Sykesville, Pennsylvania, has haunted her family for over 15 years. The days following her disappearance still leave so many questions.
Joey Lynn Offutt, 33, was last seen at her home in the 90 block of Fugate Drive in Sykesville. Sykesville is a small town of fewer than 1,500 people in the borough of Jefferson County, about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. It is not the type of town where a double murder takes place.
At 4:00 a.m. on July 12, 2007, neighbors heard a loud explosion at Joey’s home and discovered the house was on fire. After firefighters extinguished the flames, they found the body of Joey’s infant son, in the bathtub of the home.
The coroner's office could not determine the six-week-old child’s cause of death, but they did determine the baby had been dead and placed in the second-floor bathtub prior to the fire.
Investigators determined that an accelerant was used to start the fire and deemed it an arson. Reports say a gas can was found inside the residence.
Joey’s purse and identification were found in the burned debris. Police knew that time was of the essence and foul play was likely involved.
Raw hamburger meat was found on her kitchen counter with maggots in it and tests revealed the meat had been out since July 3-5.
Joey had two other children, aged two and nine years old that were not home at the time of the house fire.
Joey’s car was missing from the house and found two days later outside the Nittany Garden Apartments in State College, Pennsylvania, where Joey had previously lived. State College is a little over an hour's drive southwest Sykesville.
When her car was discovered, there was no sign that she had been there and no one at the apartment complex remembers seeing her. Her car was parked very neatly, backed into a parking space. Joey’s family told police that Joey was not a good driver and could not have parked it that way.
Before the Disappearance
According to the Charley Project, friends and family describe Joey as very religious, trusting, and naïve. A very loving mother, she never would have left her children intentionally.
Joey suffered from a noticeable speech impediment and developmental disabilities. Several years prior to her death, a psychologist had said Joey had the mind of a 14-year-old.
Joey had been attending Shepherd University in West Virginia but dropped out after a year of attendance. In addition, her family said she had trouble keeping jobs and relationships.
The father of Joey’s two youngest children was Alexis Brolin Jr. who lived about 30 minutes away in Clearfield. The two had a rocky relationship and were not ready to live together, so Joey and the children lived in a home her mother had bought her, while he lived in Clearfield.
During early July, Joey had wanted to spend some time with her newborn son, Alexis Alfred Brolin III. She called him Lex. She had her oldest daughter visit family in Virginia while her younger daughter stayed with her father in Clearfield.
According to Unresolved Mysteries, the following timeline is the last account of time leading up to Joey’s disappearance.
July 3: Alexis told authorities he had been at Joey’s house and got into an argument because he did not like her giving the baby a bath in a dirty sink. He claims he proceeded to leave.
July 4: Alexis made several calls to Joey’s house that were not answered, and messages never returned. He said Joey had a problem with handling any sort of critique and would shut down after arguments. He figured she was just giving him the “silent treatment” when he could not reach her.
July 5: Alexis returned to Joey’s house but found no answer at the door. The same day, a neighbor thought he saw her walking in the neighborhood with a stroller. The neighbor told authorities that he greeted her, but she ignored him and kept walking. This was the last sighting of Joey.
July 6: Alexis received a call from a nurse from the state home health agency, who had made an appointment with Joey to examine Lex at her home that day. The nurse told Alexis that she had knocked on the door but received no answer, and Joey’s car was in the driveway. She peeked inside and could see Lex’s baby carrier and diaper bag inside the home.
July 7: Alexis goes by Joey’s house and finds no activity and claims her vehicle was no longer in the driveway.
July 8: Alexis visited the house again, claiming the car was there again but he still received no answer. He left Joey a note.
July 9-10: Alexis and Joey’s mother continue to make continual calls to the house.
July 11: Alexis receives another call from the home health nurse telling him Joey had missed another scheduled appointment. Alexis meets her at Joey’s home, where mail sat at the front door, and Lex’s car seat and diaper bag were still in the same place inside the house. Alexis leaves another note indicating he is calling the police if he does not hear from her.
July 12: Alexis makes a missing person report with the police. Neighbors tell police Joey’s car was in the driveway at 3:00 a.m., one hour before the fire occurred.
The only lead authorities had was prior to her disappearance, Joey had been frequently meeting with people she met on the Internet.
In 2006, Joey’s mother had discovered her daughter was talking to a man online who wanted her to pose as a model and film some pornography. Sherry feared Joey might be endangering her children’s safety and went to discuss the matter with her daughter.
Joey threw a fit when she was threatened that the children would stay with their grandmother. Police responded and Joey was led out of the home in handcuffs.
Joey was court-ordered to undergo counseling before she could get custody of her children again.
After Joey went missing, police found posts on an Internet group for single mothers that she had made dating back to 2005. In the posts, she said Alexis was a former drug addict and felon and that she had filed a “protection order” against him.
Police were unable to determine if her online activity was related to her disappearance.
Despite years of investigation, police are no closer to solving this mystery and a case that has gone cold.
America’s Most Wanted and the Pennsylvania State Police partnered together to spotlight Joey’s case in 2008.
“This is a murder mystery out of Pennsylvania,” the national show correspondent told the Daily Collegian. “This is something we need to figure out. Number one, what happened to this little baby and two, where is his mother?”
America’s Most Wanted generated several leads from the show, but none led them closer to what happened to Joey and her baby.
Pennsylvania State Police also reached out to the National Center for Missing Adults, who entered Joey on a national website and generated fliers to be distributed throughout the country.
A video of the Reynoldsville firefighters responding and putting out the three-alarm fire was also disseminated on YouTube.
The family has done all they could do to promote a $25,000 reward for information. Still nothing.
Keeping Joey's Memory Alive
In July 2022, on the 15-year anniversary of Joey’s disappearance, Joey's sister posted on Facebook (edited for clarity):
"This week marks 15 years since the disappearance of Joey, the death of her six-week-old infant son, and the fire that destroyed her home. Her daughters (then 2 and 8) were unharmed. I cannot begin to describe the manner in which this has devastated my family. Time has not healed the pain of losing Joey and baby Lex. It's hardest for Joey's girls and my mother, who cannot begin to heal without closure, who cannot have closure without answers. With no 'proof of life' and all leads exhausted, or only hope of getting answers is with your help!"
Joey’s family had her declared legally deceased on June 27, 2016, but continue to ask the public for any information regarding her disappearance and death of her son.
To keep Joey in the public eye, her family set up a website Find Joey and Help Find Joey Offutt on Facebook and pray someone eventually comes forward to provide the answer as to the fate of Joey Lynn Offutt.
If you have any information about the disappearance of Joey Lynn Offutt, please contact the Pennsylvania State Police at 814-371-4652.
© 2020 Kym L Pasqualini