KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City teen disappeared, then two months later, a mushroom hunter found her dead in the woods in Cass County.
But the county sheriff hasn’t forgotten the case nearly a year later. His department is still searching for answers.
Sheriff Jeff Weber said there were no red flags, no signs of anything to worry about. Eighteen-year-old Vernece Brown just vanished.
Back in February 2018, Vernece was going out on a date. Her mom helped her get ready on Valentine’s Day last year. Her family said Vernece went out with a man she’d just met that day on social media -- but she never came back.
“My heart is telling me that that she’s in harm’s way because any time you go from being on any kind of social media to zilch and there’s nothing active about you, that worries me," Kimberly Travis said.
Travis didn’t know it then, but her worries about her daughter were justified.
“It was approximately two months later that a mushroom hunter in rural Cass County came upon the remains of a body,” Weber said.
The sheriff said she was found on narrow strip of heavily wooded land next to train tracks. Police ruled her death a homicide last May, and they’ve been looking for clues about her murder ever since.
Weber said there’s nothing that ties Vernece to that area.
"Mopac Road where we located the victim is not a well-traveled road," he said. "I don’t want to say it’s really remote, but you almost have to be looking for that road to drive down it. Someone knew where they were at, and that makes us believe that they were familiar with the area."
Police know more than they’re publicly saying, but for good reason.
“We don’t want to tip our hand as to anything we may have so we could potentially use that evidence later on to get a conviction to find the person or persons responsible about this,” Weber said.
"Vernece, she was like a sunflower. She was bubbly. She was energetic," said Alicia Hyler, Vernece's aunt. "She led a lot of people in a positive direction. She had a lot of friends. She was a fashionista."
As her family learns to live without her, Weber will continue to keep Vernece’s case open and close.
“In talking to families that have lost a child or not known what happened to a child, that pain never goes away," he said. "We feel that. We’re all human. We have kids.”
Weber said police have not identified who Vernece went out with that night. That man isn't a suspect, but they do want to talk to him to put together a timeline.
If you have information that can help police in this case, please call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477. You can also submit a tip online here.