July 8, 2004 -- Six years ago, Kenny Dunn says, he had one of the best nights of his young life. A high school sophomore, he was at the Sadie Hawkins dance with his first love, a mysterious girl named Brianna Stewart, and their romance was blossoming.
"I kissed her on the dance floor, and I told her I loved her," Dunn remembered. "And she told me she loved me, too. That was one of the greatest nights of my life. … Everything I felt for her was so wonderful, so pure."
Stewart had shown up in Vancouver, Wash., the year before, telling people she was a 15-year-old homeless runaway. She turned to a local church for help, and two members, Randy and Debbie Fisher, offered her a home.
The Fishers asked about Stewart's past, but she told them she had no personal records because she was a runaway. Administrators at Evergreen High School allowed her to enroll, even though she did not have an academic record.
In her girlish pigtails and trademark overalls, Stewart made friends at the school, who called her "Brie." She joined the tennis team and earned a part in the school play.
"I was so amazed by her because she had all these stories to tell about how she lived on the street and that she had trekked so far across the country," Dunn said. "I thought she was the most incredible thing."
Dogged by Questions About Their Past
However, some questions about her background continued to follow Stewart as she progressed at Evergreen High School. She told her friends dark stories about running away from a stepfather who was a satanic high priest and who had subjected her to ritual abuse, but remained vague on the details.
A visit to the dentist sparked some speculation that Stewart was older than she claimed. During a dental checkup, the dentist observed the healing of her gums over her wisdom teeth was so complete that he thought she was much older than 16, as she now claimed to be. He told Stewart's caseworker about his suspicions.
News of the dentist's suspicions traveled fast through the tight-knit Vancouver community that had been helping Stewart. Dunn learned about it from the Fishers and decided to confront her with the information.