WESTCHESTER SQUARE, The Bronx (PIX11) — The family of a missing Illinois woman with several mental disorders drove more than 800 miles to Zerega Avenue in the Bronx after a cellphone belonging to Shamari Brantley, 22, was found in the Zerega Ave. subway station.
“New York is so big,” Brantley’s sister, Chanece Lewis, sobbed during an interview with PIX11 News. “We have no one out here but the family we brought to help us post flyers to find my sister!”
Shamari Brantley has been missing for more than a month and has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, multiple personalities, and bipolar disorder, according to her mother and sister.
“To stop her from hearing voices, she will use her phone, listen to music, and she’ll walk,” Brantley’s mother, Artimece Cotton, told PIX11 News. “I believe she hitched rides from truck drivers, and she ended up here in the Bronx.”
The mother said when her daughter left home in Wheaton, Illinois, in mid-August, she tried to report her missing with the Dupage County Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t think they believed me,” the mother said, “because she’s 22.”
When the mother retrieved her daughter’s cell phone records, she saw an unfamiliar number listed for a man in New York City.
Artimece Cotton said she reached the man in early September.
“He was calling her at like 2:30 in the morning. He said he saw her trying to charge her phone from a store light,” the mother recalled.
The mother said she didn’t believe the man’s story.
“I think somebody took her,” Cotton said.
The family became more alarmed when they learned Shamari’s cellphone was found at the Zerega Avenue subway station by the No. 6 train. A woman answered the phone when they kept calling Shamari’s number, and the phone was eventually turned over to the police.
“This is where her phone was found, so I know she’s here,” Brantley’s aunt, Kiaira Arrington, said outside the Zerega Avenue subway station Monday. “I know she’s somewhere here.”
The mother said authorities in Illinois finally acted when the cellphone turned up in New York City.
“That’s when they made the police report,” the mother said of the Wheaton, Illinois investigators. “And that was weeks after. I was telling them she was missing, and they didn’t believe me. And I’m telling them she has a mental disability.”
Earlier in September, the mother said she had met the man who communicated with her daughter when “Apollo” told her to meet him by Carpenter Avenue in the Bronx. The man said he didn’t know where Shamari Brantley was, according to the mother.
PIX11 News went to the Carpenter Avenue location Monday as the family was handing out flyers, and we tried to call the phone number the mystery man had used to call Shamari Brantley.
While we were on the phone with the man who answered, he sounded groggy. He said he had met Brantley on the No. 2 train. At one point, PIX11 News could hear banging on the man’s apartment door and some yelling. Brantley’s family later told PIX11 they went to the man’s door after people in the neighborhood told them what floor he lived on.
“I felt we should have been helped more,” Brantley’s sister said, “because we’re not from this state. We live in Illinois; we came here not knowing where to go. We got lost on the train.”
The family had been staying in a New Jersey motel because it was less expensive, but they’re running out of money.
They have started a GoFundMe page called “Help Bring Shamari Home.”
“We would like to find her while we’re here,” Brantley’s brother-in-law, Kevin Lewis, said. “So if you know anything or saw anything, please call.”
The mother said Illinois investigators learned Shamari Brantley was seen by police in Pennsylvania, apparently before she reached New York.
“Pennsylvania police, the highway police, used her phone and called and said they saw her walking,” Artimece Cotton told PIX11 News. “I said, ‘Why didn’t they hold her?'”
The mother said the Pennsylvania police apparently brought her daughter to another location.
“They said they picked her up and took her to the nearest gas station and left her there,” the worried mother said.
PIX11 News left a message for the Dupage County detective who’s handling the case.
The mother said the investigator told her he was receiving assistance from the NYPD Missing Persons Squad.
When we contacted the NYPD at Police Headquarters, a spokesperson with the public information division wrote:
“The NYPD is assisting with their investigation,” but asked us to “please be referred back to the local jurisdiction, as it is their missing persons case.”