A mother’s anguished wait for missing son

MONROE — Lori Bowling’s voice breaks when she talks about a funeral for her son.

The Monroe woman has waited almost five years to lay her boy to rest. She is certain he is dead, but she can’t bring herself to plan a funeral until he’s found.

“All I want to do is bring him home,” Bowling said.

Brock Holmes, 23, left his mom’s house on Old Owen Road on Oct. 7, 2009. His mom fussed over him before he headed out for the night. She was worried that he’d befriended some young men with questionable reputations. She wanted him to stay on track.

He seemed so happy and was enjoying his new job, Bowling said. He was a cashier at the Chevron gas station across from the Red Apple Market in Sultan. He’d been known to dance around the gas station, glad to be there. He was eagerly waiting on his new driver’s license.

“He told me not to worry, and he said, ‘I love you, mom,’” Bowling said.

Then he was gone.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Kelly Willoth was able to confirm that Holmes went into Sultan, where he and a group of people started out at Bubba’s Roadhouse Bar &Grill. They had a few beers and played pool. They moved across the highway to the Dutch Cup Restaurant.

Willoth was told that Holmes left the restaurant with some acquaintances, headed for their house in the 24700 block of Florence Acres Road. Those men said the last time they saw Holmes was around midnight. They reported that he was drunk and their mom offered to give him a ride home. Police were told that Holmes turned down the ride and said he’d called a friend to pick him up.

That’s where the trail goes cold.

“It’s almost like he vanished,” Willoth said.

Except the detective believes that someone knows what happened to Holmes. Someone can end a mother’s agonizing wait.

Bowling went to work the next morning. She later called the gas station to talk with Holmes. His boss said he hadn’t shown up for work. Holmes was usually early to his shift. Bowling called home and when no one picked up she began to panic. Her boss let her go home early.

The house was empty. Bowling ended up calling 911, convinced immediately that something was wrong.

The search began.

Bowling, her teenage daughter and her friends looked for Holmes.

Willoth and other detectives, with the assistance of dogs, also searched: private property, woods, roadways and ditches. Willoth investigated possible sightings and chased after rumors about the man’s last hours, including stories that he was hit by a car.

His cell phone was last used at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7, 2009, the evening he disappeared. Police never recovered the phone.

Bowling also heard rumors. They have sent her searching for her son in remote areas in east Snohomish County. She heard that he was shot. Someone else said it was an accident. Several months after her son went missing she took a late night call from a woman who relayed a detailed story about Holmes’ disappearance. The woman later recanted when Willoth questioned her.

“There’ve been so many different stories. They never pan out. No one really wants to talk,” Bowling said.

Willoth has run up against the silence. Some people were more willing to post rumors on the Internet than to talk to police. A six-inch white binder is filled with notes and reports from Willoth’s nearly five-year search.

She wonders if with the passage of time someone is ready to step forward.

“We’re still looking for him,” Willoth said.

Bowling thinks about her son every day. He moved back with her five months before he disappeared. Mother and son spent a lot of time together during those months. There were lots of laughs.

Holmes lived most of his childhood in the Sky Valley, attending elementary school in Monroe and middle school in Sultan. He went to live with his dad in Skagit County just as he was entering high school.

“As a boy he was feisty, a real spitfire,” Bowling said. “He was so freaking cute.”

She holds on to the good memories.

Bowling and her daughter, KayLee, now 19, have since moved to a new home. Bowling avoids the old neighborhood as much as she can. It’s too hard to be there.

“We’ve done our best to move on, but we can’t completely move on,” Bowling said. “I just want someone to come forward and give us information. I just want to bring him home.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com

Brock Holmes was wearing a blue shirt with white stripes on the sleeves, blue jeans, brown Skechers brand shoes and a baseball cap when he disappeared Oct. 7, 2009. Anyone with information about Holmes is asked to call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tipline at 425-388-3845. Tipsters are encouraged to leave a return phone number.

Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound is offering up to $1,000 for information about Holmes’ whereabouts. Tips can be left at 800-222-8477.

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