MENDOCINO Co., 3/19/18 — “If one girl reevaluates her life and domestic violence — if it touches one young lady and one young man and makes them reevaluate their position, then it won’t be for nothing,” said Laura Betts earlier this week in an interview. Betts is the aunt of Khadijah Britton, the young woman from Covelo who has been missing since February 7, 2018, though her friends and family remain hopeful. A reward of $50,000 is being offered from an anonymous donor, for any information that leads directly to finding Britton.
The primary suspect in Britton’s disappearance, Negie Fallis, 37 of Covelo, who previously dated Britton, was arrested Feb. 19. Britton was last seen on February 7 in the company of Fallis, who allegedly took her at gunpoint from a house in Covelo, and they were last seen leaving in a car together. Fallis pled not guilty to charges related to a January incident, in which he allegedly beat Britton. He was arraigned on March 9 and his preliminary hearing will take place Friday, March 23 at 10 a.m. in Mendocino Superior Court. Yet the search and rescue effort for Britton continues. The community is organizing searches and fundraisers to assist with the efforts to find her, while the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) continues the official investigation. The Mendocino Voice spoke with Britton’s aunt, Laura Betts, about the community’s efforts to search for Khadijah.
“I’m just really amazed and blown away by the support from the community — even really from across the United States — that have reached out to us, and our family,” said Betts. She explained that friends and family have been coordinating searches of the region on horseback, including some who never had ridden a horse before. Betts noted the search and rescue efforts have helped to bring together the community in Round Valley, and have healed old rifts between parts of community who previously were reluctant to work together or even talk.
“People are willing to step out of their comfort zone to go try to find her, it’s really touching our hearts to see these people going above and beyond — it’s so awesome to see that…People you wouldn’t even normally have spoken to, that’d you’d pass in the store, that you don’t even know, will stop us to say, ‘Our daughter went to school with your niece.’” She added, “All of us are working together for one big cause.”
Betts pointed to Britton’s time as a basketball player, and said even members of the teams she used to play against have offered to help put up flyers and spread the word. “She belongs on the court, not out there,” she said, referring to the uncertainty about Britton’s last known location.
Several large-scale search and rescue efforts have been organized by the MCSO, including a multi-agency search on March 11. Simultaneously, the family is continuing to conduct searches in the north county area. Hundreds of people have attended vigils held for Britton, and showed up at the Ukiah courthouse for Fallis’s various scheduled appearances.
This weekend, two fundraiser bake sales were held, one in Ukiah and one in Willits. A vigil and search of the Lake Mendocino area is planned for Wednesday, March 21, with another dinner fundraiser in the works to be held at the end of the month in Covelo. Organizers of this weekend’s bakesale said they were a success, with the one in Willits running out of baked goods early, and then being replenished by other volunteers. T-shirts and buttons are also being sold to raise funds. More information about the upcoming event is included at the end of the article.
Betts noted the publicity around Britton’s disappearance is, “Bringing total awareness to domestic violence.” Betts also pointed out that Fallis has a history of being violent towards Britton, and that she hoped that her disappearance would raise awareness of that problem. She said the previous incident of violence, for which Fallis is currently being held, had taken place when Britton had tried to leave him. “The whole thing with domestic violence its a control thing — when they try to leave, that’s when they are in the most danger.”
Betts said that since Britton’s disappearance, she has been approached by community members who say they know of other people who have gone missing in the area who have also not yet been found. “I guess then they took the wrong girl,” Betts said, referring to the ongoing community search efforts for Britton. “Even if she’s gone for years, we’ll keep looking.”
A multi-agency search including over a hundred trained rescuers and volunteers, a National Guard helicopter and search and rescue dogs took place March 11 and extended to about 25 miles beyond Round Valley, along many different roads. Betts said additional searches have occurred in the last week. Lt. Shannon Barney said in an interview that the MCSO is targeting search and rescue efforts based on leads about Britton’s whereabouts, including searching several properties with dogs as they receive tips.
Betts pointed out that Britton was a trusting person and since Covelo is a small community, she wasn’t necessarily raised to be aware of “stranger danger,” but also expressed concern that Britton was possibly hurt by people familiar to her. “She just loved everybody, she didn’t know any enemies…Most of the people she was with she grew up with, she didn’t know to be afraid of them or that they would hurt her,” she said. In response to statements made by people in the community, Betts emphasized that since Britton was a woman in her early 20s, her family may not have always agreed with her behaviour, but, “We always cared about her.” She urged young people to stay in communication with family members, and to, “Check in with someone, like your mom or dad, every day.”
- Anyone with information about Britton should contact the MCSO tip line at (707) 463- 4086 or the tip line (707) 234-2100.
- For our previous coverage of Britton’s disappearance, read our articles here.
- There is a Facebook group, Help Find Khadijah Britton, with more information, and a GoFundMe page.
- Information about the Lake Mendocino vigil and search here: Wednesday March 21st beginning at 10 a.m., meet at Marina Drive at Lake Mendocino lake, the entrance off Hwy 20. Yellow balloons or ribbons will lead the way to meeting spot.
- A comprehensive list of missing people in the Emerald Triangle, compiled by Redheaded Blackbelt, the North Coast Journal, and the Two Rivers Tribune, can be found here.
Kate B. Maxwell, email@example.com