THE BRONX — It's been more than two weeks since a missing California man James Michael Brannon was found dead in a crate at a Bronx marina, but still no one knows how he got there.
"How in God's name could he have ended up in this box? That's the thing that bothers me the most. What a shame. But that's sometimes the way life is," said Brannon's only surviving brother, Thomas Brannon, 80.
James Brannon, who would've been 60, was found Sept. 20 at Hammond's Cove marina in Throgs Neck, 12 years after his older brother reported him missing.
The older Brannon, a retired special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, had tried to track down his brother years ago, through west coast hamlets to mountain towns in Colorado.
And the discovery of his brother's body has only raised more questions about the disappearance.
DNAinfo New York has pieced together a timeline of what's known about James Brannon's movements over the years before he went missing.
'THEN THERE WAS NOBODY'
The Brannon family was rocked by tragedy over a three-year period in the 1980s that started in 1983 with the death of the brothers' grandmother followed by their father, relatives said.
Then one of their older brothers, an Army veteran named John, died in 1984. Thomas provided investigators a photo of James taken at the funeral in Glendale, California.
Then their mother died of cancer in 1985, leaving Jimmy everything, including the family's home.
And then the oldest of the Brannon brothers, a Marine named Don died, relatives said.
"As long as Donny was there, he kinda kept tabs on Jimmy. After Donny died, then there was nobody," said Beverly Brannon, Thomas' wife and an author.
"Once Jimmy sold the house and moved away, I don't think any of the family had any contact with him," she added.
From there, he "bummed around" the world, stopping in Hawaii, Colorado and as far away as Australia, family said.
Brannon may have received an Oregon driver's license in 1992. New York investigators found an Oregon state ID on him that expired in 2000, his brother said. Oregon licenses expire after eight years, according to the state's DMV.
He later passed through Bozeman, Montana, at some point in 1997, officials there said.
In 1998, he had some interaction with police in North Bend, Oregon, but the call had simply been for "police assistance" and there were no arrests in the incident, an official for the North Bend Police Department said.
But he'd vanished by 2004, prompting his older brother to report him missing while trying to track him down using the law enforcement sources he developed over his long career as a Naval investigator.
"Tom kept trying to locate him because he was the only brother he had left. He did everything he could to find him," Beverly Brannon said.
Thomas Brannon thinks his brother may have passed through Ione, California, in 2006 or 2007, but a friend of his who visited there wasn't able to turn up anything definitive.
"[Our friend] went there to the address and told Tom it was a really bad neighborhood and couldn't get any info," Beverly Brannon said.
Accounts differ on when the crate where his body was found even arrived at the marina. Staff there said it had been sitting there near a dry-docked sailboat since about 2009.
The city's Medical Examiner said Brannon's body may have been in the box since roughly that same time, his brother said.
The man who owned the boat, Michael Szewczyk, died in February 2015, records show. But a friend of his said he visited the boat in June 2016 and saw no crate.
Records show that Szewczyk had lived with a longtime girlfriend in Jackson Heights, who could potentially shed some light on Brannon's final resting place.
When reporters recently visited their Jackson Heights home, a woman refused to answer questions and threatened to call the police. She didn't say who she was.
But Thomas Brannon hopes she relents and potentially uncovers the truth about his brother's death.
"She's the key to this whole thing," he said.
As the investigation continues, Thomas Brannon hopes to cremate his brother's remains and bury them in the 110-year-old Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, the final resting place for their parents and many Hollywood luminaries.
"My mother and father are buried there and my wife's family is buried there. That's the least I could do for the kid," Thomas Brannon said.
"I never thought it'd come to this."
With reporting by Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska.
Read more about James Michael Brannon's mysterious death:
► Whodunnit: How Did a Crate With a Man’s Body Inside End Up at Bronx Marina?
► Man Found Dead in Crate May Have Been There for 10 Years, Brother Says
► California Man Missing Since 2004 Found Dead in Crate at Marina: Officials