Her Mother Confessed to Killing her, but later Recanted: The Disappearance of Marlena Danyele Childress

Fraulein Motte
10 min readNov 27, 2023

On April 16, 1987, Marlena Danyele Childress disappeared from her home in Union City, Tennessee. Weeks later, her mother Pamela Bailey confessed to killing the 4-year-old, but later recanted.

What happened to Marlena?

Marlena Danyele Childress

Marlena Danyele Childress was born to Pamela L. Bailey and Kevin M. Childress on February 17, 1983. Two years later, in 1985, Pam and Kevin divorced. Despite the divorce, Kevin remained actively involved in Marlena’s life, spending time with her every other weekend.

In January 1986, Pamela married Johnny L. Bailey. The newly formed family, consisting of Pamela, Johnny, and 3-year-old Marlena, relocated to Union City, Tennessee, to be closer to Johnny’s workplace. In February 1987, Marlena’s half-brother, Damon, was born.

The family resided in a modest brick home in the northern part of Union City. According to Pamela, Marlena cherished their small home and often played without supervision in the unfenced front yard.

Google Maps Image of the Baileys’ family home

On Thursday, April 16, 1987, at approximately 3:30 pm, Marlena was playing in the front yard while Pamela was inside washing dishes. Upon looking out the window to check on her daughter, Pamela realized Marlena was not in view. Perplexed, she went outside to search the yard, but Marlena was nowhere to be found. After scouring the neighborhood for about an hour, Pamela reported Marlena missing at around 4:30 pm.

Police officers promptly initiated a search of the surrounding area. The news of Marlena’s disappearance triggered a large-scale effort, with hundreds of volunteers, police officers, and firefighters combing through the area to find the 4-year-old. Despite Pamela’s belief that her daughter had been taken and had not simply wandered off, investigators emphasized that there was no evidence supporting this claim.

Around 8:30 pm, Kevin, Marlena’s father, received notification of her disappearance. He quickly arrived at the Bailey residence and joined the volunteers in their search efforts. Simultaneously…

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Fraulein Motte

I'm an independent journalist and writer based in Tennessee, USA. I specialize in covering true crime and other related topics.