Yvonne Baldelli: FBI Joins Search For American Woman Missing In Panama
(NEW YORK) -- The FBI has joined the search for an American woman who disappeared from an island paradise in Panama as her ex-boyfriend is called a person of interest.
Yvonne Baldelli, 42, and her dog, Georgie Mae, were last seen on Nov. 26, 2011 in Isla Carenero. The town of 450 people, mostly foreigners, is part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago off the coast of Panama.
The FBI will join authorities from Panama and Costa Rica who have been searching for the missing woman.
Neighbors reported hearing an argument come from the home Baldelli shared with her boyfriend, Brian Brimager, 36. People who heard the skirmish told authorities the sounds of yelling, screaming and breaking glass emanated from the couple's home, the English language news site Panama-Guide reported.
Brimager, who is a former Marine, was termed a person of interest by Panamanian investigators, the Panama-Guide reported. Brimager returned to the United States in December and has since married another woman, according to reports. ABCNews.com was unable to reach him.
The couple moved to Panama in September 2011 after Baldelli, who was divorced, was laid off from her job at Proctor & Gamble.
"She came to Panama because she wanted to have a new life. She wanted to have a beautiful place, beautiful surroundings," Baldelli's sister, Michelle Faust, told ABCNews.com. "She wanted to continue her happy, fun life here. She said, 'I'll see what happens, let me sew some bikinis, sell them to tourists.'"
Faust said her sister communicated with the family via email at least once a week and also called her mother weekly. The family heard from Baldelli shortly before she disappeared, she said.
"After the first week [without communication], you get nervous, but as a grown woman you don't necessarily know," Faust said. "You send emails and wait for responses. You call. We heard she was coming home, so we didn't overly concern ourselves with it."
When Baldelli did not show up for a family reunion in January, her parents alerted the U.S. embassy and flew to Panama. They have been in Panama almost constantly since then, looking for their daughter.
Relatives and family friends have also joined in the search for the "happy-go-lucky" woman who had previously lived in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
"We trudged through raw sewage, jungle, [got] mosquito bites, looking for any trace of Yvonne we could find," Faust said.
On Tuesday, the Panamanian equivalent of the FBI, the Departamento del Investigación Judicial, announced a $3,000 reward for the recovery of Baldelli.
When asked Tuesday if the case could be a crime of passion, Alexis Muñoz, deputy director of DIJ, said "that would be a hypothesis."
Michelle Faust and her parents had never met Brimager, she said, although she noted other family members had met him.
While authorities take a closer look at Brimager, Faust said she prefers to keep the focus on finding her sister.
"She is a beautiful woman, so happy, with a radiant, gorgeous smile," she said. "We just want to see that smile again."
The family asks anyone with information to contact them via their Facebook page.
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