Case of Hannibal mother found dead in fire remains unsolved 26 years later

Case of Hannibal mother found dead in fire remains unsolved 26 years later

KHQA investigates a Tri-State cold case, 26 years later in America's Hometown.

A mother found dead in a house fire.

Police classify the case as a homicide, but the case remains unsolved to this day.

Kara Brawley and her sister, Ashley, have never given up hope in finding out who killed their mother in May of 1991.

"Somebody should answer for it," Kara Brawley said.

Kara wants those answers to explain why she grew up without her biological mother.

Her mother, Bridgett Brawley Starner, was found dead in a house fire in the 800 block of South Main Street in Hannibal just two days after Kara turned 1-year-old.

The Missouri State Fire Marshal's Office classified the fire as arson.

"During the autopsy, it was uncovered that the victim had been deceased prior to the fire being ignited," HPD Lt. John Zerbonia explained. "It was investigated as a homicide."

Lt. Zerbonia said the case investigation is still open, but no one has ever been convicted for the crimes.

Kathy Needham worked in law enforcement for 17 years. The retired investigator says she's read the entire case file five times.

"I really think the person who did commit the murder is deceased," Neeham said. "If there was any one person that was involved with him, that one person is still alive."

Kara also has read the case file more than once.

"Try reading a story, any book that you ever read," Kara Brawley said. "You're playing a role in your head, reading it, seeing it and imagining it and all of the conflicting stories. It just doesn't make sense."

She and her sister have not let their mother's disturbing death stopped them from living out their lives as adults. However, they will never forget the woman who gave them the gift of life.

"She is a somebody, and she's important to us," Kara Brawley said. "I was hoping just maybe now that maybe people will come forward and talk about it, and the truth will come out, because there's just so many conflicting stories. We really don't know. There wouldn't be a reason why this would be weighing on me so heavily to do this."

If you have any information that could help the Hannibal Police Department solve this crime, you're asked to submit your crime tip to the department either through telephone or online. Tips will remain anonymous.

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