TULARE CO., Calif. (KFSN) -- A kind sister, a loving daughter and a doting mother are how family described 36-year-old Brittney Steenbergen.
They had been bracing for the worst since she and her estranged boyfriend Adel Hussein, vanished on New Year's Eve. And on Friday, the search for the South Valley woman came to a tragic end.
"Everyone had a feeling that this was going to end bad," says Brian Steenbergen, her brother.
Days after her disappearance, Steenbergen's body was found in a rural area in Imperial County, close to the Mexican border.
The Toyota Rav 4 investigators were also searching for was located. It was abandoned in El Centro with no sign of Hussein.
One of Steenbergen's children reported his mother and Hussein missing.
Brian says he knew something was wrong when he learned his sister had disappeared.
"The deputy told me there was some blood that was found," Brian said. "Apparently, all the children were scared to death of Adel. They were scared to call the cops."
Deputies believe Hussein is now the main suspect in the homicide, and family members say the couple has a history of domestic violence.
"This guy has been abusing her for quite a while," says Rick Steenbergen, her father." "Two years ago, this guy broke her arm and shaved her head."
"My sister denied most of it," Brian said. "I talked to her about it several times and she would make up excuses for it."
The Steenbergen family is at a loss for words, heartbroken by the mother and daughter taken too soon.
"I never thought this would happen," says Vera Steenbergen, her mother. "I'm angry that someone could do something like that to someone they love."
Five children are now left without a mother, and the family is begging for justice.
"It's not fair to take someone's mother away from them," Brian said.
Four of Brittney's children are with Child Protective Services they range from 14 years old down to just a year old. The fifth child is with a family member out of the area.
Investigators say an autopsy is being done that will determine the time of her death, and that will determine whether the investigation will take place in Imperial or Tulare Co.
The family has set up a GoFundMe for the funeral arrangements.
Family of missing Tulare Co. mother found dead speaks out after tragedy
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