Little Girl Lost?

Brittany Ann Corcoran, age seven, went "missing" for seven months. She resurfaced with a case of head lice, holes in her socks and nothing settled about what has been and what will become of her...

"She's a year behind in school," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "She didn't go for seven months."

Corcoran pulls a swinging door shut as he leaves the kitchen and heads back to the living room, which is dominated by black leather furniture. There are few family photos, just a couple of studio portraits of Brittany and Garrett. The house is immaculately clean and neat.

Corcoran says he wouldn't characterize his early relationship with Nikki Jones as a love affair. His boss at the time always used the same limousine service, and when Corcoran started traveling a lot for him, he used the service, too. He remembers Nikki Jones as cute, with long brown hair; pleasant and subtly flirtatious.

She was friendly, he says, and they soon started going out a few times a week. Corcoran says he was doing her a favor when he let Jones and Brandon, who was seven at the time, move into his one-bedroom townhouse.

"About five or six weeks later," Corcoran recalls, "she says to me, 'Well, Jim, we've done just about everything. What now?' I thought that was a weird thing to say. Two or three days later, she said she was moving to New York."

Jones said she'd stay through Corcoran's birthday, June 12. He was going on a five-week business trip to New Jersey on the 15th, so she planned to pack up and leave while he was gone. Before that, however, she visited Corcoran in New Jersey, where Brittany was conceived.

When Corcoran came back to town, Jones was still living in his townhouse. In late August, she told him she was pregnant --but that she still planned to move to New York.

"I was stunned when she said she was giving the child up for adoption," Corcoran says. "I wanted her to keep the child, and tried to convince her to do that."

Jones did go to New York, but she only stayed two or three weeks. Corcoran says he wanted to do the right thing, so he called her, said he thought a marriage might be possible and told her to come back and give it a try. Corcoran says she called from the airport the next day, and said, "I'm here; come get me."

They started looking at houses and furniture and, of course, talked about the wedding. But something wasn't right, Corcoran says. They were two days away from a trip to Las Vegas to get married when he backed out.

"You try to talk yourself into thinking that it'll work out," he explains, "but after awhile, you start seeing things."

Some of those things really bugged Corcoran. He disagreed with Jones over an affair she once had with a married man. He wanted her to denounce it; she wouldn't. She was secretive and never talked about her family. And he was confused by some of her beliefs --such as the "dissertation" she once delivered on how the expression "Thank you" is used too casually.

Once, Jones became angry when Corcoran invited a friend to visit them for a weekend. She was rude when he arrived, he says, and on Sunday, she left with Brandon and didn't return until the next day. He'd finally had enough the afternoon she was supposed to take him to the airport. Just before they were to leave, she took the car, saying she needed to pick up Brandon from school. Corcoran says he was forced to beg a ride from a neighbor.

Corcoran offered to get an apartment for Jones, he says, but she wouldn't leave. He started looking for excuses to be anywhere other than home.

"It became a living nightmare," he says. "I was uncomfortable, but I couldn't just throw them out. I felt very responsible.

"Then she started giving me articles cut out of newspapers, like how 40-year-old men with cats can never commit."

Jones finally moved out at the end of February 1990, when she was eight months pregnant. Corcoran received a form, asking him to relinquish his parental rights to the unborn child. Corcoran says it was "some generic adoption papers or something," and even though he didn't want the baby put up for adoption, he signed them and mailed them back.

"But I purposely didn't get it notarized," he recalls. "I wanted more information. I thought the adoption agency would contact me, and I could find out more."

Two months later, Corcoran got a call from Jones, who wanted to get together for lunch and introduce him to his daughter. He says he was "deliriously happy" to be a father, and "ecstatic" that Jones had decided not to put the girl up for adoption. Lunch was pleasant for a change, and when Corcoran got home, he sent Jones a check for $1,000.

After that, Corcoran says he was rarely allowed to see Brittany. Jones had also told him, he says, not to send any more money. Then one morning, in the fall of 1990, Corcoran says he got a call from Jones, who wanted to meet at Sunset Park, near the Menil Collection, at 8:20 a.m.

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