As the sun set at Salt Creek beach in Dana Point, about 50 people gathered in somber silence to remember a beloved family member and dear friend.
Baldelli, 42, was last seen Nov. 26 in Isla Carenero, one of several islands in the province of Bocas del Toro on Panama's Caribbean coast. She previously lived in Dana Point and Laguna Niguel, according to family members.
The group marched up Salt Creek beach and onto Pacific Coast Highway holding signs about justice and returned to hold a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Baldelli.
“We want to keep her name alive so she isn’t forgotten or the case isn’t forgotten,” said Lillian Faust, Baldelli’s mother. “She was taken away from her family and friends. We want women to get help if they are in an abusive situation.”
Friends and family members were talking to beach-goers and dodging traffic to hand out flyers about their case, and how to protect against violence in abusive relationships.
On May 18, the case changed to homicide when Panamanian investigators found traces of blood in her Caribbean home she shared with Ex-Marine boyfriend Brian Brimager. Although authorities have not released any information about the case’s suspects, Brimager has been named “a person of interest.”
“He was seen hitting her in public in Panama at a bar,” said Michelle Valenzuela, Baldelli’s sister. “The neighbors overheard breaking glass and fighting.”
Brimager, who has since married Kristin Werkhoven in December 2011, has not reached out to the family or the media to comment. He and his wife are planning a destination wedding to Cabo San Lucas, according to a post on their wedding registry, said Valenzuela.
Throughout the candlelight vigil, friends and family reminisced about Baldelli her bubbly personality, her love for friends and family, and love for the beach.
“Yvonne was a very happy, energetic and creative person,” said Russell Coventry, a friend. “The last time I saw her, it was at a fundraising benefit for a charity. She ran up to me with a big smile and gave me a hug.”
Lauren Beyer, Baldelli's niece, remembered her aunt as one whose smile could light up a room. She would visit her aunt at Salt Creek beach, one of Baldelli's favorite spots to run with her dog, Georgia Mae.
“I’ve been working so hard to be an advocate for her, but there’s moments where I’m alone and I feel like her niece and I fall apart,” Beyer said. “We are keeping in close contact with U.S. and Panama law enforcement. Justice and answers will never come fast enough for us.”
Family and friends urge anyone who has any information about the case to contact authorities. Anyone who wishes to make donations to the family, visit findyvonnebaldelli.com.