Priscilla Brooten was 40 years old when she decided to uproot her life in the U.S and move to Australia for a fresh start. “I don’t want to get tied down here” she told her friends and family before relocating to Queensland. She spent her early years in Redcliffe, a beautiful and picturesque residential suburb on the coast, before moving over to Brisbane to stay with a boyfriend.
Brooten was a literature student and worked as a Zumba instructor and part time cleaner in Brisbane. The former American beauty queen had always been interested in dance and fitness and was enjoying her life on the sunshine coast. In her spare time she was an avid online gamer and when not indoors she’d be out enjoying everything Brisbane had to offer. A positive and outgoing individual, she found it easy to fit in and make friends both online and in real life.
In 2018 she began dating a fellow Zumba instructor, also in his forties, a local man named Mark Waden. The pair stayed together in Waden’s home in Bracken Ridge, Northern Brisbane.
They dated for over a year when in the summer of 2018, Priscilla Brooten mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Despite her sudden absence, Waden did not report her missing to the local authorities. The last official sighting of her was July 2018, in Bracken Ridge at 12:01AM.
Several months passed before her friends and family became worried by her sudden lack of contact and eventually contacted the Australian authorities in September. It would take another three months before the investigation officially began.
Posters circulated: “Priscilla Brooten, 160cm. Dark hair. Slim. Asian. Last seen Bracken Ridge, July 2018”, but no tips came in. It was as if she had vanished into thin air.
38,000 people go missing each year in Australia, but only 1,600 stay missing. Young people in their teens and early twenties are mostly likely to be reported, but usually show up again sooner or later. Those who do not resurface leave behind an endless barrage of questions and heartache. Brooten left behind a daughter, Caity Brooten, 22, who resides in California. Caity fired back at the Australian police whom she believes did not start the investigation quickly enough. A spokesperson for the force claims that a formal missing persons report was not filed until the end of 2018.
"I kind of suspected that it was going to be a murder case because my mother was a very beautiful woman and she had no other reason to go missing” she told the Brisbane times. [X]
The missing 46 year old's blue Volkswagen Golf, license plate 875 VXA, was found abandoned on Bunton Street in Scarborough, Queensland. Scarborough is just a 22 minute drive from the couple’s home in Brackenridge and sits on the coast of the Moreton Bay Region.
All activity on her phone, social media and bank accounts suddenly ceased. There have been no logins or transactions made on any of her accounts since.
Just days ago, investigators working on the case publically announced that the mysterious disappearance is now officially being investigated as a homicide.
Mark Waden, now 43, was taken in for questioning just three days ago, but has since been released from custody. The home he shared with Ms. Brooten in Bracken Ridge is currently being searched as part of the investigation. Photographs printed in online reports show investigators clad in white protective Tyvek suits excavating turf and earth from the front yard of Waden’s home. Blue tents break up the green lawn and cadaver dogs are pictured on the scene- a clear indication that officials are now searching for remains. So far their efforts have turned up “nothing of interest”, but police say they’re going to continue excavating the property until they find something or are satisfied that there is nothing there. According to a report in the Brisbane times the search warrant was issued after Waden's neighbors saw him digging in his garden and grew suspicious. [X]
Before she went missing, Priscilla is said to have mentioned to friends that she felt unsafe in an online gaming community she was part of. Police are reaching out to her friends in the online world for more information that may lead to the discovery of her whereabouts or remains. Those following the case speculate that she may have fallen victim to foul play at the hand of someone who knew her online. Currently Mark Waden appears to be the only possible suspect in the case, but is so far complying with authorities.
Waden’s profile on the zumba.com website is enthusiastic and friendly: “Hello! I'm Mark Waden, and I live in Brisbane, QLD. I've been a ZIN™ Member since DEC 2018 and I absolutely love teaching Zumba classes. The reason is simple: Every class feels like a party! I am currently licensed to teach Zumba. Come join me, I guarantee you will have a blast! Got questions, don't hesitate to drop me a message!” it reads.
He teaches regular Zumba classes at a local church on Chermside and it’s not a stretch of the imagination to speculate that this is likely where he met Priscilla Brooten. Other profiles state that he has taught dance and fitness internationally. So far Waden has not been charged for any crime, but police expect the excavation of his property and search of his abode to continue for another several days.