The FBI has joined authorities in Panama in the search for clues into the disappearance of an American woman five months ago.
Yvonne Baldelli, then 41, was last heard from when she sent her mother an email late last November. She had moved to Bocas del Toro – a series of islands on Panama’s Caribbean coast- from Laguna San Miguel, California in September along with her boyfriend at the time, Brian Brimager.
Brimager, a former U.S. marine who played music in bars on the islands, rented a waterfront apartment with Baldelli in Casa del Sapo on Carenero Island. According to accounts from her family and friends, the two enjoyed a happy life.
Baldelli was recently divorced and had been laid off from her job at Proctor and Gamble before moving to Panama for a fresh start.
In early December Brimager left the island to return to California after he told acquaintances that Baldelli had allegedly broken up with him. His Facebook page noted that he left Bocas del Toro on December 10, passing through Costa Rica before laying over in Atlanta on December 12.
Baldelli’s family flew to Panama after she failed to respond to information about a January family reunion. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the local authorities have any record of her leaving the country.
“We are looking for any leads from the local community or anyone who has traveled through Bocas del Toro who may have met Yvonne or has any information,” a family source said, according to the Miami Herald.
A Panamanian authority said that the FBI is looking into Brimager in connection to Baldelli’s disappearance.
Brimager claimed Baldelli left Panama for Costa Rica with another man, but Baldelli's passport shows she never left the country. Also upon his return to the U.S., within weeks Brimager got engaged and married another woman.
Police allege that the two had a violent relationship while in Panama, and a crime of passion has not been ruled out. The FBI is also sending a team of divers to search the waters around Carenero Island.
Baldelli’s parents have set up a Facebook page to gather any leads and organized a search for clues on Wednesday. The family hopes to find a Tiffany & Co. Circle Lariat necklace that she always wore as well as her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, GeorgiaMae.
"What we want is to bring Yvonne home and show that she's loved and cared about,” James Faust, Baldelli's father, told CBS News.
In July of 2010, authorities in Panama uncovered the body of another missing American woman, Cheryl Lynn Hughes, who had been killed by William "Wild Bill" Datham Holbert in murder-for-property incident. Hughes was also the owner of the apartments where Baldelli and Brimager stayed.
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of islands in the Caribbean Sea in northwest Panama.