In the late 1990s, Austin Eugene Bryant and his biological brother Edward moved in with Edward Eugene Bryant and Linda Kay Bryant. They were once foster children, but in March 2000, they were taken in by the Bryants. Austin was 4 years old and Edward was 7 at the time. They were considered children with special needs, so the El Paso County Department of Human Services gave the Bryants more than $1,700 a month to care for them.
The couple took in a total of nine children, including Austin and Edward’s younger biological brother. One of Linda’s biological children also took in foster children. There are pictures of Linda and Edward Eugene next to this summary of the case. From 1999 to 2005, they lived in the 18000 block of Granite Circle in Monument, Colorado.
In January 2011, it was reported to the police that Austin had not been seen since between 2003 and 2005. When they looked into it, they found that Edward was also missing and had not been seen since 2001. It was against the rules for the other kids in the family to talk about them.
When asked, Linda said at first that the children lived with her, then that they had gone to Oklahoma to see their real mother, and then that they hadn’t lived with her in years.
Linda and Edward Eugene both said that both boys had run away from home, but they gave different dates. Linda said they both ran away in May 2003, while Edward Eugene said Edward ran away in 2001 and Austin in 2005. Their new parents never said that they were missing.
Someone put Edward on Medicaid in December 2003, even though he was supposed to be gone. Investigators found that Austin went to Monument Academy Charter School until August 2003, when he was taken out of school so that he could be homeschooled. After 2003, they couldn’t find any school or medical records for Edward or Austin.
Once the children were adopted, the state could no longer send social workers to check on them. This made it easier to hide their absence. Linda did things to make it look like Austin and Edward were still living with her. For example, she printed pictures of other kids from the internet, put them up in her house, and said they were Austin and Edward.
In early 2011, Austin’s disappearance was reported by James Bryant, the boys’ adopted brother, and Ricky and Bryan Pennington, both foster children of Linda’s daughter. James says that Austin was beaten, deprived of food several times a week, and locked in the garage for days at a time.
Bryan said that Austin had told him that he had been locked in a trunk and shocked with a taser, but Bryan admitted that he had not seen these things happen himself. He said that Austin was so tightly wrapped in blankets that he couldn’t move. James said that he thought it was possible that his adoptive parents had killed Austin. He said he had never met Edward and had heard that the boy had been sent to live with relatives in Arizona.
In 2005, the Bryants moved to Texas. After that, they broke up. In 2007, they filed for bankruptcy and said that adoption benefits worth $126,125 were part of their income. Austin and Edward were among the eight children they listed as dependents. In 2011, they were still taking care of five children. A sixth child was in prison, and James was a soldier stationed in Kentucky.
In February 2011, the Bryants were arrested and charged with theft, conspiracy, forgery, and trying to get a public official to do something. After the children moved out, they got about $175,000 in payments from the government to help pay for their care.
Edward Eugene said that he didn’t know that the family was getting help for the kids. Linda said that she had lied about where they were because she wanted to keep getting paid.
Linda was charged with 148 counts of felony, and Edward Eugene was charged with 13 counts of felony. None of the charges have anything to do with where the children went or what is said to have happened to them. Linda and Edward Eugene have said that they did not hurt or kill Austin or Edward. The state of Texas now takes care of their other five young children.
Linda pleaded guilty to 54 felonies in January 2012. These included four counts of theft, two counts of planning to steal, and 48 counts of trying to get a public servant to do what she wanted. In March, she was given a prison sentence of 42 years. Edward Eugene pleaded guilty in April to five similar counts of felony. Nineteen other counts were dropped. He was given a 30-year prison sentence.
Authorities in Colorado are worried that Austin and Edward may be dead because they have looked everywhere for them and found nothing. Their cases haven’t been solved yet.