In 2007, 33-year old Joey Lynn Offutt lived in Sykesville, Pennsylvania in a house purchased by her mother, Sherry Hallet. She had three children: two daughters, aged nine and two, and a six-week old newborn son named Alexis Alfred Brolin III, a.k.a. “Lex”. The father of Joey’s youngest two children was her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Alexis Brolin Jr., who lived 30 minutes away in Clearfield. Even though Joey and Alexis had a rocky relationship and were not ready to live together again, they were hoping to get married sometime in the future. Joey suffered from developmental disabilities, as a psychologist once diagnosed her as having the mind of a 14-year old, so she had trouble holding down jobs and maintaining long-term relationships. For the first part of July, Joey wanted to spend some time alone with her newborn son, so she made arrangements for her oldest daughter to visit family in Virginia while her youngest daughter stayed with Alexis in Clearfield.
At approximately 4:00 AM on July 12, Joey’s neighbourhood was awakened by a loud explosion and her house was discovered to be on fire. When the fire department arrived and put out the blaze, they found Lex’s burned body in the bathtub. Joey and her 1994 Saturn Coupe were missing, though her purse and identification were left behind. The medical examiner was unable to determine Lex’s exact cause of death, though it was ruled he was likely already dead before the fire started. It turned out the fire was arson, as a gas can was found in the house. Raw hamburger meat was discovered on the kitchen counter with maggots on it and tests determined that the meat had likely been sitting there since sometime between July 3-5. On July 15, Joey’s Saturn Coupe was discovered over 60 miles away in State College. It was parked at the Nittany Gardens Apartments, a location where Joey and Alexis had lived together in 2003. Joey’s family did not believe she abandoned the vehicle herself since she was known for being a terrible driver and the Saturn was neatly backed into its parking space while the position of the driver’s seat suggested someone larger than Joey had been behind the wheel. It turned out that no one could actually confirm having seen Joey in the week prior to her disappearance. Here’s the confusing timeline…
-July 3: Alexis claimed he was at Joey’s house and they got into argument because he did not like her giving Lex a bath inside a dirty sink. When Alexis left, this turned out to be the last time he saw Joey or Lex
-July 4: Alexis made repeated phone calls to Joey’s house which were not answered or returned. Since Joey had trouble handling criticism and would often shut down following an argument, Alexis figured she was giving him the silent treatment
-July 5: Alexis went back to Joey’s house, but there was no answer at the front door. That same day, a neighbour claimed he passed by Joey on the sidewalk pushing a stroller. The neighbour said Joey ignored him when he greeted her and he could not even be certain a baby was inside the stroller. This would turn out to be the last confirmed sighting of Joey
-July 6: Alexis received a phone call from a nurse at a state home health agency, who had a scheduled appointment to see Lex at Joey’s house that day. The nurse claimed there was no answer, even though Joey’s Saturn Coupe was parked outside. There was also mail piled up at the front door and when she peeked in through the window, she could see a baby seat and diaper bag inside
-July 7: Alexis visited Joey’s house and there was no answer at the door, but claimed that her Saturn Coupe was no longer parked outside
-July 8: Alexis visited the house again and even though the Saturn had returned, there was still no answer at the door, so he left Joey a note
-July 9-10: Alexis and Joey’s mother, Sherry, continued making repeated phone calls to Joey’s house which went unanswered
-July 11: Alexis hears from the nurse from the home health agency, who tells him that Joey missed another scheduled appointment. Alexis meets the nurse at the house, where mail is still piled up at the front door and Lex’s baby seat and diaper bag appear to be in the same place. The big difference is that Joey’s Saturn Coupe is missing again. Lex leaves another note for Joey, informing her that he will contact the police if she does not call him by tomorrow
-July 12: witnesses tell police they saw Joey’s Saturn parked outside her house again at 3:00 AM, one hour before the fire. Later that day, Alexis finally goes to the police station to fill out a missing persons report and is informed about Joey’s disappearance and the death of his son
Due to her naivety and immaturity, there was speculation that Joey might have fallen prey to someone she met on the Internet. In 2006, Sherry was granted temporary custody of Joey’s children after it was discovered Joey had been corresponding online with a man from California, who told her he was a photographer and wanted her to pose as a model and do some pornography. There was fear that Joey was communicating with a sexual predator and potentially jeopardizing her children’s safety and after learning that her children would be turned out to her mother, Joey threw a violent fit and had to be escorted from her home in handcuffs by the police. She had to undergo counselling before she was allowed to regain custody of her kids. A few weeks before she went missing, the Internet service in Joey’s house was turned off due to non-payment, so investigators could not find anything on her computer to suggest her Internet activity played a role in her disappearance. They did uncover some interesting posts Joey had been making in an Internet group for single mothers since 2005. She said a number of unsavoury things about Alexis, including that he was a felon and former drug addict and she had filed a “protection from abuse” order against him. Joey even claimed that Alexis’ son from a previous relationship had been sexually abusing her daughter, which led to her being removed from their home.
However, it’s worth mentioning that I’ve been unable to find any official corroboration for Joey’s claims about Alexis. When this case was featured on an episode of “Disappeared” in 2012, Alexis was interviewed and none of these allegations were mentioned at all. In fact, Joey’s mother and sister were also interviewed on the show and they seemed to get along with Alexis. The only mention of Joey having her children taken away was because of her online correspondence with the man from California. Even though he turned down one request for a polygraph test, police have stated that Alexis was otherwise very cooperative in the investigation and they have never considered him a suspect. Joey has since been declared legally dead by her family and investigators believe she was a victim of foul play.
I cover this case on this week’s episode of “The Trail Went Cold” podcast:
https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/usedtobedoe/offutt-joey-lynn-07-12-2007-t12393.html#p76582 (this post contains the details about Joey’s accusations against Alexis in her Internet group)