When Mrs. Francis Branson of Montross went missing, the community came together with positive thoughts, prayers and search efforts. Branson, an 85-year-old black female, went missing on Wednesday, February 26. According to Westmoreland County Sheriff C.O. Balderson, they got a call at 6:49 p.m. on Wednesday that there was a missing person, but they are unsure of the exact time she went missing. One individual who was interviewed thought they had seen a person fitting her description at 3 p.m. near the 116 Unruh Lane address, however they were unsure if it was Branson.
Branson, also known as ‘Beyonce,’ suffered from dementia. She was only five feet tall and approximately 100 lbs, and was wearing only blue jean capris and a shirt when she went missing.
The search and rescue operation for Branson began upon the report of her having gone missing, and those assisting worked diligently through the early hours of Thursday morning and they resumed a full-scale search at 7 a.m. Thursday morning. According to Balderson, they scaled down the search at 1 a.m. because they had exhausted their efforts and available resources at that point in the night/morning, and there wasn’t anything else they could do until additional volunteers/resources arrived.
Assisting with the search and rescue were the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office, King George Sheriff’s Office, Stafford/Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office, Westmoreland, Oak Grove, Colonial Beach and Cople Fire Departments, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Colonial Beach and Montross Rescue Squads, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Corrections and Westmoreland EMS. There were also members of the community who volunteered their time and effort. For both days, the searches included foot units, K9 units, and Virginia State Police Helicopters.