FARGO — Lynn Kartes said the day her daughter went missing was the day she also lost herself.
“The person I was before this happened will never be again,” she said. “Our whole world blew apart. Heartbreak? It’s an understatement.”
It’s been a year since 32-year-old Brenda Kay Kartes disappeared, and it remains Fargo’s only recent unsolved missing person case.
Brenda was addicted to methamphetamine and bipolar, her parents said. She was last seen leaving a Fargo drug treatment facility at 1:30 p.m. July 12, 2018.
“She basically disappeared into thin air,” Brenda’s mother said. “We don’t know where to go.”
There is no paper trail. No activity on her bank account or social media. No phone calls or texts or emails. Nothing. Brenda left behind all her belongings and her car, IDs, money, makeup and clothing.
Jessica Schindeldecker, a Fargo police spokeswoman, said the only other open missing person case is Kevin Mahoney, who disappeared in October 1993.
Police will not share any details on Brenda’s case, except that it’s still open and active, Schindeldecker said.
Lynn Kartes said her family believes there are three possibilities of what happened to Brenda.
“First, we thought she was taken with human trafficking because she was extremely vulnerable with her mental illness. Or we thought maybe someone did something to her, and she’s not with us anymore,” she said. “The third possibility we crossed out is witness protection. It gave us hope because it’s the only positive one. So we’re pretty much left with two negatives.”
But Lynn said she refuses to give up hope. She spends all her time outside of work on social media sharing information about Brenda with different Facebook groups for missing persons.
“It’s like working two full-time jobs,” she said.
Lynn and her husband, Dale, said before Brenda went missing, this was something they feared, that she would end up dead or “lost in a world where she may not know who she is .... end up gone forever and never know what happened to her.”
“I don’t want to be that parent. I don’t know how those people can do it, and unfortunately I’m finding out,” she said. “The wildest dreams you can ever imagine I’ve had. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”
The family has received a few tips from people claiming they have seen Brenda. One of those came out of Bismarck on May 13, with someone saying they saw Brenda in a park.
Lynn and Dale drove to Bismarck right away. They watched the park and searched until it was dark. When no one was found, they went to businesses handing out flyers and stopped by homeless shelters. But still nothing.
“We were warned right away that you’re going to get people claiming they see her,” Lynn Kartes said. “It sounded like a legit lead; the adrenaline was going high. On the way home, we discussed that this might’ve been a cruel hoax. It’s definitely taking a toll on us.”
The family initially focused its search efforts in Texas. Brenda’s last Facebook post the day before she went missing mentioned a new boyfriend there, but the family doesn’t think that’s what really happened.
In a recent meeting with the family, police said the case is still very active, Lynn Kartes said, adding that they get leads but realize most of them aren’t going to pan out.
“We want that one person to come forward who knows what happened to her. There’s gotta be somebody out there,” she said. “People talk, and we’re hoping someday it slips, and we get that phone call.”
Anyone with information regarding Brenda Kay Kartes is asked to call Fargo police at 701-241-1405.