Private Investigator responsible for finding missing girl in Tennessee woods shares story


A private investigator in Tennessee, who was also abducted as a young child, is sharing the miraculous journey of finding a missing Minnesota girl at a campsite in Monroe County.

Claire Cooney, just 6 years old, was found Sunday night, thanks in large part to Private Investigator Renee Brewer.

In an interview with Fox 17, Brewer said she was contacted on March 2 by Claire’s grandmother who said that her granddaughter might be abducted and in Dickson, Tennessee.

Brewer said she was tipped off about a possible location after someone called 911 and said they spotted Claire, her mother Miranda Cooney and her mother’s boyfriend, Jonathan Broman, in Monroe County. The 911 caller said they had bought a bunch of camping gear.

Brewer set out the to the area, and with the help of one other volunteer, several hundred fliers were hung up in the area.

Background checks done by Brewer revealed that the trio might have family ties in Athens, Tennessee. Brewer traveled there and spent 10 day searching the area and handing out more fliers.

The first sighting of Claire came in at Tellico Plains along Highway 68. Brewer said she then ran into a biker who confirmed the second sighting at a Hardee’s in Ducktown.

Ducktown was 20 miles away from Brewer’s location, but the mountainous terrain made it a 40-minute drive with no cell phone service.

Brewer stopped at several businesses in the area, one of which was William’s Deli where she spoke for a while with the owners. Along her journey, Brewer spoke with a “lady at a pizza parlor” who said she saw a 6-year-old boy camping in the woods. Brewer thought this may have been Claire, who was eventually found to have her blonde hair dyed black and cut short.

Brewer said she received a message from a psychic, whom she had provided maps for, which said the trio was camping in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee near the North Carolina border. Brewer said she had just gathered all the free maps she could. One of these stops included the Coker Creek Welcome Center, where she said, it wasn’t known at the time, but Claire, Cooney and Broman were only 200 feet away.

Ducktown was the next stop for Brewer. At this time she had a good feeling that Claire was close, so she told businesses to take down the fliers in fear that Cooney and Broman would see them and run.

On Sunday, an owner at William’s Deli spotted Claire, Cooney and Broman walking down Highway 68 and alerted police and Brewer. Brewer had warrants faxed to the sheriff’s office and gathered paperwork so she could take custody of Claire while awaiting Claire’s father’s arrival in Middle Tennessee.

Brewer picked up Claire from the sheriff’s office and headed to the hotel. Along the way, the two stopped for a bathroom break, at which time Brewer said Claire couldn’t believe their was an actual toilet.

“When you live in the mountains, you have to go to the restroom in a bucket,” Claire told Brewer.

Brewer said Claire told her about the snow and stormy weather while hiding out in the mountains. A vehicle was found full of firewood at the campsite where Claire and the two adults were found, leaving no room for shelter from the storms.

Brewer and Claire stayed in a Nashville hotel. Brewer said Claire sat on every sofa in the lobby, before the pair went up to the room and ordered a pizza. Claire was also a big fan of the hotel’s “fancy” robes.

The private investigator responsible for finding Claire had a similar story growing up. Brewer said when she was young her parents got divorced. She, along with her two younger siblings, were abducted by their father. Brewer said her dad dropped the kids off at a California apartment and told their mother had been hit by a train.

Brewer said her father only stopped by the apartment once a week to drop off a case of Coca-Cola, bologna, bread, milk and macaroni and cheese. An accidental shooting at the neighbor’s house actually led to the kids’ reunion with their mother. When Brewer told her father that police wanted to speak with him, he packed up the kids and brought them back to their mother, who was very frail at the time.

As to why she does what she does, Brewer said, “I get a little obsessive, but I don’t like to see people hurting kids.”

Claire will be reunited with her father at 8:15 p.m. Monday at a Nashville hotel. Fox 17 News will have live coverage.

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