25 years later, they still hope to find their daughter’s body

For her parents, detectives and prosecutors, it’s less a whodunit than a question: Where’s Tracey Brazzel?

Tracey Brazzel (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

Tracey Brazzel (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

EVERETT — From states far away, their minds were drawn back to Snohomish County and a time that will always haunt them.

It was somewhere between Everett and Keeler’s Corner in north Lynnwood their daughter disappeared a quarter century ago this week.

Tracey Brazzel was a 22-year-old hair stylist when she went missing the night of May 26 after a visit to a pub. Her parents, detectives and prosecutors believe she was killed. For them, it’s not so much a whodunit. They think they know. The more urgent question as her mom and dad get older is: Where’s Tracey? Her body has not been found.

“It’s hard,” said Peggy Brady, 73, who moved to Pennsylvania a couple years back. “It’s really hard. You never adjust to it. Even after all these years, it will always be there.”

Brady marked the 25-year date of her daughter’s disappearance by thinking about Tracey.

In New Jersey, Bill Brazzel is writing a book about his daughter under the working title: “Missing Without a Trace-y.”

“I do think about her all the time,” the retired insurance broker said. “We’re just trying to find her body. That is the one goal.”

Tracey Brazzel’s parents believe a convicted killer serving a long prison term knows where their daughter is. Danny Giles is serving more than 47 years in prison for the 1995 killing of Patti Berry, a 26-year-old mother with a toddler at home. Her body was found in a wooded area near the Everett Mall.

Both Berry and Brazzel disappeared months apart and within blocks of each other. Because of the similarity between the victims, location and nature of the crimes, Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives believed them to be committed by the same suspect. At the time, detectives collected evidence from various locations and conducted an extensive investigation into Brazzel’s disappearance and Berry’s murder. They sent evidence, including DNA samples, to the Washington State Crime Lab.

Both cases went cold for many years.

In 2008, detectives were alerted by the crime lab that the DNA samples from the Berry case matched the DNA profile of Giles, a prison inmate at the time. In 2010, Giles was also linked to Brazzel’s disappearance from DNA evidence that had been collected from her home. Giles denied having anything to do with her disappearance. He later wrote a jailhouse letter that contained descriptions of being in her apartment and car, supposedly to purchase drugs. At the time, detectives convinced Giles there was substantially more physical evidence.

A judge later severed the Berry and Brazzel charges for trial. He held that it would have been prejudicial to Giles for a single jury to hear evidence in both murder cases.

After Giles was convicted in 2014 for Berry’s killing, lawyers on both sides agreed to dismiss the Brazzel murder charge, without prejudice, meaning charges could be filed again later. That was done in anticipation of being able to pursue the case again if Brazzel’s body was ever found.

Giles, 52, has been in and out of prison since being convicted of a 1987 Lynnwood rape. His DNA profile was added to a forensic database after he went to prison for felony indecent exposure in 2005.

Jim Scharf, a veteran cold case detective with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, stays in touch with Tracey’s parents.

“We haven’t given up on trying to find Tracey’s body,” Scharf said. “I would love to be able to find her and return her to her family.”

Detectives believe the body is within 12 miles of Keeler’s Corner. That’s where her car was found, not far from her apartment complex. The odometer indicated that the car had been driven 25 miles since refueling.

Bill Brazzel fondly remembers that his daughter was an early reader and how much she devoured Arthurian legends and Greek mythology.

Brady, her mother, recalls donating to the library boxloads of books she took from her daughter’s apartment.

“She could go through books like you wouldn’t believe,” she said.

Brady also recalls how her daughter earned her GED certificate a year before she would have graduated from high school so she could pursue a career in hairstyling, including training through Gene Juarez salons.

Now in their 70s, they say they mainly want to be able put their daughter to rest.

Given his druthers, Bill Brazzel said he would tell the man he believes killed his daughter that he would not ask for any more prison time, if the killer disclosed where his daughter is.

“I just want my daughter back,” he said. “That is all.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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