“WHAT HAPPENED TO THE JAMISON FAMILY?” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: (Dark Archive episode from November 10, 2018) *** It’s one of the most-enigmatic unsolved cases of the 21st Century. A family of three goes missing in 2009, and despite an abundance of evidence, law enforcement is no closer to solving this mystery today. In fact, it could even be said that the more clues that are uncovered only result in additional questions. What happened to the Jamison family?
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If you have any information that might be of use in this unsolved case, please contact the Latimer County Sheriff’s Department at 918-465-4012, or go to latimercountysheriff.com to provide an anonymous tip.
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
Bobby Jamison met his sweetheart, Sherilyn, in the summer of 2002, and it was love at first sight for the pair of free spirits. Two years later, they were married, and daughter Madyson was born soon after.
They made their home on an idyllic lakefront property in Eufaula, Oklahoma, and life was perfect, at least at first. In 2003, Bobby was maneuvering his vehicle around a blind curve when he was struck by on either side by other drivers, injuring his back and afflicting him with chronic pain that rendered him unable to work.
But the family endured, though the couple were gradually growing disillusioned with life in Eufaula. Bobby had always wanted to live in a more rural setting, away from people, to live simply and peacefully. And eventually, Sherilyn would come to agree. It seems that several of her cats had died mysteriously, and she suspected neighbors of poisoning them.
In 2009, the nature-loving couple began making preparations to pull up their roots in Eufaula and find a nice 40-acre plot of land in the mountains. They took 6-year-old Madyson out of school, in favor of homeschooling, and began scouring the internet for a little slice of paradise that would fit the bill for starting a new life. In the fall of 2009, Bobby found the perfect spot.
On Oct. 7 at around 10 a.m., the family hopped into Bobby’s truck and made the 30-mile trek to Panola Mountain in southeastern Oklahoma to check out the available property in person. As they drove up the mountain, everything seemed ideal: The area was sparsely-populated by a seemingly like-minded, self-sufficient community.
But because the area is so off-the-grid, Bobby had difficulty finding the parcel the family was interested in purchasing. As they made their way along a rustic, single-lane road, they came across a man working outside, and stopped for directions.
Bobby explains to the man that they’re thinking about buying land in the area, and asks for advice about what it takes to survive in an with no electricity or sewer system. The man provides them with directions to the parcel, but by now it’s getting pretty late in the day, so they decide to return home to Eufaula, and return in the morning.
That next morning, they loaded up the truck again, and made their way back up the mountain, this time guided by a GPS unit, to look for the parcel they hoped they could start a new life on.
Eight days later in Red Oak, hunters traveling the gravel mountain road on ATV’s reported an abandoned vehicle—Bobby’s truck—with the family’s emaciated dog locked inside. The Latimer County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene, and rescued the dog after breaking a window.
From there, law enforcement began taking an inventory of the truck’s contents to try to determine who had left the truck there. The Jamisons’ coats, cell phones, wallet and purse had all been left inside, and then-Sheriff Israel Beauchamp determined that the family must be lost somewhere in the rugged wilderness.
A search by half-a-dozen deputies for the family was conducted, but turned up nothing. The sheriff felt that, because nights were growing increasingly cold, and the family was without their coats, time was of the essence.
Meantime, no one had reported the Jamisons missing. Because they were known to be very private people, it was not all that unusual for them to just pick up and get away for days on end without telling anyone. So, having been gone for eight days was no real reason for friends and family to be alarmed. And although locals on Panola Mountain had seen the truck parked on the side of the road, they’d all assumed it belonged to workers from one of the many oil and gas wells in the area.
On Oct. 17, the day after Bobby’s abandoned truck had been reported to police, sheriff’s deputies accessed the Jamisons’ cell phones in order to try to piece together what had led up to their disappearance. GPS records led them to a nearby hill, where they found footprints, including tiny ones belonging to young Madyson. Retracing GPS coordinates and footprints, police discovered the family had spent 15 or 20 minutes just up the hill from their truck.
An eerie final photo of Madyson was also retrieved from the Blackberry, and deputies located the exact spot at which it was taken. When Sherilyn’s best friend, Niki Shenold, later saw the photo, she was convinced the picture had not been taken by either parent. Based on Madyson’s uneasy, forced smile, and the defensive crossing of her arms in the photo, Shenold is confident someone else was there on the bluff with the Jamisons. Family members agree that Madyson normally loved having her picture taken, and that she did not appear to be at ease in the haunting image.
After the photo had been taken, authorities believe the Jamisons made their way back down the hill to their truck. Beyond that, whatever happened next is unknown. Deputies continued searching the truck for clues, and came up with big one. A bank bagged stuffed with $32,000 in cash was retrieved from beneath the driver’s seat. Given the fact that clothing, phones, their dog and other belongings—not to mention $32,000—had been left in the truck unattended, Sheriff
Beauchamp’s concern escalated, and he immediately declared it a crime scene, and the area around the truck was taped off.
Clearly, the family wouldn’t leave all these valuable unattended for any length of time, and loved ones said young Madyson barely let their dog out of her sight, so everyone felt that something had gone seriously wrong.
Sheriff Beauchamp theorized that the family had been driving back down the mountain when someone, or something, interrupted them.
Beauchamp explained: “It seemed to me like they were leaving, and that someone came up that one-way road, and they stopped. Maybe they knew ‘em. Maybe not well. They stopped, talked to the person. From there, obviously, I don’t know what happened.”
Locals said, because the area is so sparsely populated, it would be extremely rare for two vehicles to meet on that road. Did someone with bad intentions know the Jamisons would be there? Could it have been the man who gave them directions the day before?
Investigators found no signs of a struggle around the truck, and many believe this indicates the family was taken elsewhere, against their will, at gunpoint.
A more thorough investigation of the clutter in the truck’s cab yielded an 11-page letter, penned by Sherilyn, that vented hostility toward Bobby.
Sheriff Beauchamp recalled: “It was just hate and discontent. The years of fighting. She felt that he wanted to be a loner, and didn’t really need a family. And other than that, I mean, it was just a lot of hate.”
Those who knew the Jamisons were aware that their marriage had been stressed for months, and that they were considering a divorce. But Niki Shenold, Sherilyn’s best friend, argued that the letter was most likely just a journal entry meant to be therapeutic for Sherilyn, and that she probably never intended to actually share the letter with Bobby.
But why was it in the truck? Had Bobby discovered the journal entry, and planned to confront Sherilyn about it? Or could Sherilyn have left it in the truck as a letter to be discovered following a murder-suicide?
Compounding this theory, family members reached out to police, asking if they’d located a .22- caliber pistol that Sherilyn kept in the vehicle. The sheriff’s department had not found the pistol in the truck, and the family couldn’t find it in the Jamisons’ Eufaula home. Sheriff Beauchamp’s theory now leaned more toward the possibility of a murder-suicide. And if that was true, the bodies should be nearby.
A massive search was launched the same day. EMS and forestry personnel from throughout Latimer County, along with tracking and cadaver dogs, and local volunteers on four-wheelers, mules and horseback, aided in the search. But despite their efforts and the use of drones, helicopters and planes overhead, no sign of the missing family could be found.
The challenging topography of the area made it all the more difficult for authorities to coordinate an effective, thorough search, but the dogs who’d sniffed the Jamisons’ belongings did seem to take interest in one location on the top of the mountain where a water tank sat. Authorities suspected the bodies may be inside, and the tank was drained, but no bodies were found in it.
If there had been a murder-suicide, the killer certainly could have concealed the murder victims, but it would be awfully difficult to hide one’s own body. With no bodies found inside the water tank, the focus shifted away from this possibility.
Law enforcement and volunteers plastered southeastern Oklahoma with missing-persons flyers, hoping someone had seen the Jamisons, and that they’d come forward with information.
As police talked more with friends and family, they learned the Jamisons—especially Sherilyn— were interested in spirituality. Sherilyn had allegedly claimed to be witch, going as far as spray painting “Witches don’t like their black cat killed” onto the side of a shipping container the Jamisons planned to live in once they’d purchased their mountain property. But Niki Shenold, Sherilyn’s best friend, said the witchcraft angle was simply an attempt to scare away neighbors that Sherilyn believed had killed her cats. Shenold added that Sherilyn often said that if you want someone to go away, just make them think you’re crazy.
Weeks before their disappearance, however, Bobby and Sherilyn had been attending prayer meetings hosted by local pastor, Gary Brandon, who claimed the Jamisons were in the midst of “spiritual warfare.” Pastor Brandon later told authorities the Jamisons claimed to have been having trouble with several ghosts in their Eufaula home. Sherilyn had reportedly seen winged children, named Emily and Michael, interacting with 6-year-old Madyson.
Starlet Jamison, Bobby’s mother, had also heard this claim from Sherilyn, but had dismissed the notion as simply being the imaginary friends of a child who needed a coping mechanism to deal with the struggles in her parents’ marriage. Sherilyn’s friend Niki, however, concurred with the Jamisons’ belief that their home was haunted after having reportedly witnessed paranormal activity in the house.
Pastor Brandon also reported that Bobby said he’d been seeing spirits on the roof of the Jamison home, and had asked the pastor if there was some kind of “special bullet” that could make the spirits go away. Though family members were familiar with Sherilyn’s belief there were spirits in the house, it came as a shock to them that Bobby had also allegedly felt that way.
Typically in law enforcement, the more evidence you recover, and the more you learn about the victims, the more scenarios you’re able to rule out. But not in this case. Things only grew stranger.
Case in point, a new lead was discovered on Oct. 23, but it only led to more questions. Authorities noticed the Jamisons had security cameras pointed at their driveway, and officers were able to review a recording of the family as they packed for their mountain visit on the morning of the 8th. The eerie video shows Bobby and Sherilyn making as many as 20 trips back and forth between the house and truck, even changing clothes during that time. And they appeared to be in what’s been called a “trance-like state.”
Describing the recording, then-Sheriff Israel Beauchamp would later say: “We found it odd that they had to go back and forth so many times. …They never acknowledged each other as they were walking back and forth from the vehicle. …It’s like they were the only persons in the world.”
Could the use of drugs account for their strange behavior on the video? Given the prevalence of methamphetamines in Latimer County, Sheriff Beauchamp called in psychologists to review the footage, and they agreed the Jamisons must have been on drugs. Friends and family strongly maintained, however, that Bobby and Sherilyn were not drug users, and police found no evidence of drugs in their home or truck.
Even if the Jamisons were not drug users, could they have been involved in drug trafficking? Given their recent financial struggles, is it possible they may have been embarking on a one-off drug deal the morning of Oct. 8 as a means to make a down payment on the parcel of land in the mountains?
As authorities continued to review the surveillance video, they began taking an inventory of everything the Jamisons loaded into their truck. When compared to the inventory taken after the truck was discovered abandoned, only one object was missing—a brown briefcase.
Could drugs have been in the briefcase, and exchanged for the $32,000 recovered from Bobby’s pickup? But if the disappearance of the Jamisons had been a drug-deal-gone-bad, wouldn’t the person or persons making the purchase have retrieved the cash from Bobby’s truck?
Those who favored a drug-related angle to the family’s disappearance questioned the need for security cameras at the Jamison home. Bobby’s mother said the cameras had nothing to do with drugs, however, and that she’d had them installed for the Jamisons after her allegedly- abusive ex-husband, Bobby’s father, had made death threats against the family on at least two occasions. Bobby also claimed that his father had tried to run him over with a car. As a result, Bobby filed for an order of protection against his father about six months before the family disappeared. In his petition, Bobby stated that his father was involved with prostitutes, gangs and meth, and that his whole family feared for their lives. “I am in fear at all times,” he wrote.
A new lead? It turns out Bobby had also sued his father for money he believed he was entitled to after the sale of a gas station they co-owned. As a youngster, Bobby had said, he was often pulled from school by his father, and made to work at the station for free well into adulthood. They allegedly had made an arrangement to split the profits when the business was sold, but Bobby’s father had apparently reneged on the deal.
Bobby Sr. was rumored to have been involved in crime, including alleged ties to the Mexican mafia. Bobby’s father had been seriously ill at the time of the disappearance, and died two months after, but could this rift between father and son have been enough of a motive to contract a murder-for-hire? For now, we can only speculate.
What we do know is that, in addition to financial and marital stress in Jamisons’ relationship, both Bobby and Sherilyn suffered from depression. In Bobby’s case, the chronic pain that resulted in his inability to work was certainly a factor. And Sherilyn had suffered from bipolar disorder for years, resulting in bouts with depression. According to Bobby’s mother, it was during
these periods that Sherilyn would exhibit feelings of anger, hatred and self-loathing, which was often reflected in her journal entries.
Possibly compounding Sherilyn’s state of mind is that fact that her sister had died suddenly two years earlier after a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting.
Friends and family say that Sherilyn sometimes would go off her meds. Could this account for the hostility expressed in the 11-page letter that police found in the Jamisons’ truck? Maybe, but police didn’t believe Sherilyn’s bipolar disorder was related to the disappearances.
Regardless, purchasing a plot of land on Panola Mountain was clearly an attempt by the Jamisons at a new beginning for their marriage, and loved ones are certain they were still very much in love, despite their recent difficulties.
Meantime, despite an abundance of clues, law enforcement officials remained confounded. Israel Beauchamp, Latimer County Sheriff at the time, explained, “Most investigators would love to have the mount of evidence that we have, and the problem is that it leads us in every which direction.”
But then a new lead emerged: Police learned that the previous July, the Jamisons had taken in a man in order to help Bobby with work around the house. Sherilyn reported to her friend Niki that the hired hand made her uncomfortable whenever Bobby wasn’t around.
Relaying what Sherilyn had told her, Niki Shenold explained: “Bobby had left to go somewhere, and the man that was staying here sat down next to her, real close, and put his face right in her face and said, ‘You know I’m a white supremacist, and you keep talking about all this Indian blood you have, and I think anybody who’s not pure-white needs to die.’”
Feeling threatened, Sherilyn then reportedly scooped up Madyson, and took her to another room, and then emerged with a loaded handgun, ordering the man off the property and discharging several rounds at his feet.
Upon learning this new detail, constituting a possible retaliatory motive, police discovered that the handyman had an extensive police record, pushing him directly to the top of their suspect list. The FBI was called in to help locate the suspect after his name was retrieved from a prescription pill bottle that had been found in the Jamisons’ pickup truck at the crime scene.
U.S. Marshals tracked him down in Wilburton, Oklahoma, and he was brought in for questioning. During the interview, however, FBI agents discovered the man had an airtight alibi, and he was ruled out as a suspect. With this compelling new lead exhausted, still no bodies found, and media attention waning, the case had run cold again.
In November 2013, more than four years after the Jamison family had disappeared, deer hunters in Sans Bois Mountains stumbled upon the skeletal remains of two adults and one child, face down and side-by-side, less than three miles from where the family’s truck had been found.
And because of the severe deterioration of the remains, it wasn’t until the following Fourth of July that the bodies were positively identified as those of the Jamisons. The condition of the remains made it impossible to guess at a cause of death, though the medical examiner located
a small hole in the back of Bobby’s skull that could either have been a small-caliber bullet hole, or simply post-mortem animal predation.
So what happened? Let’s review some of the most viable theories.
First, a murder-suicide. In addition to recovering a pill bottle belonging to the Jamisons’ former boarder, several other prescription bottles were found in Bobby’s truck. Unfortunately, it’s uncertain what the prescriptions actually were, or whether the bottles were empty, full, or somewhere in between.
Could any of the pills had proved lethal if, for instance, they’d been ground up and put into food eaten by the family during, say, a picnic after a hike? And what about the missing gun? A holster was found in the glovebox. What if Sherilyn had taken the firearm along on the hike, and used it to shoot Bobby in the back of the head during the picnic, perhaps after having poisoned Madyson? She then would have had the opportunity to get rid of the gun, for whatever reason, and then poison herself beside her now-dead husband and daughter.
If Sherilyn’s spiteful 11-page letter was truly just a journal entry never meant to be seen by anyone but herself, why would it have been ripped from her journal, only to be found in the Jamisons’ truck after their disappearance? Is it possible it was meant to serve as an explanation behind a murder-suicide for police to discover after the fact?
And what about the missing briefcase? Could it actually have just been a small picnic set? Regardless, neither the pistol nor the briefcase have been found. If either could be located, it might amount to a huge break in the case.
Sometimes the simplest explanation can be the solution to a complex case. Though many believe it was unlikely Bobby would be up for hiking, given his chronic pain, maybe the family only intended to take a short walk, during which time they may have become lost in the dense forest, only to eventually succumb to the elements three miles away while trying in vain to locate a road. Given the fact that their dog and all their belongings were left in the pickup, they clearly didn’t intend to be gone for long.
Next theory: Drugs. In the weeks leading up to their disappearance, some say Bobby and Sherilyn had lost a lot of weight, possibly indicating drug use. Law enforcement, including Latimer County’s new sheriff, Jesse James, believe the Jamisons’ behavior in the security video seem to back up this theory. Given that meth is a big problem in Latimer County, it’s assumed that would be the Jamisons’ drug of choice. However, walking like zombies in a trance-like state, and not speaking to one another, doesn’t seem to point to the behavior one might expect from someone under the influence of a methamphetamine.
And do we know for sure that they weren’t talking to one another, as described by law enforcement? Were the surveillance cameras even capable of recording sound? On the contrary, there’s at least one clip from the security video that has aired on television in which Bobby and Sherilyn do face one another and appear to speak. Is this drug theory simply a way for police to reduce a demand for justice in the case by unfairly painting the Jamisons as drug users who simply got what was coming to anyone who dabbles in that world?
But then there are the issues of the missing briefcase and the bag with $32,000 in hundred- dollar bills. These certainly could point to the Jamisons possibly having been involved in a drug deal in which the briefcase, presumably containing drugs, was exchanged for the large sum of cash. But again, if this had been a deal-gone-bad, wouldn’t the double-crossers have retrieved the $32,000 from Bobby’s truck?
Perhaps there’s a number of compounding scenarios at play that have made the mystery so difficult to unravel. What if, somewhere between Eufaula and Panola Mountain, the Jamisons had successfully completed a one-off drug deal in order to obtain the means to make a down payment on the land they wanted to buy? This was during a time that Breaking Bad had become a smash-hit on TV after all. So, if we consider that the missing briefcase, and the large sum of money might not be related to the Jamisons’ deaths, the focus of the investigation could become a little less blurry.
And those who knew the Jamisons said they always preferred to deal in cash. Is it so difficult then to accept that people who wanted to live off-the-grid would also be distrusting of banks?
That leads us to another theory. Those who live on Panola Mountain likely share that distrust of financial institutions. These are people who, like the Jamisons, just want to be left alone. And though the man who’d provided them directions the day before they went missing is not considered a suspect by law enforcement, what if he simply didn’t like the idea of more people moving onto the mountain he calls home? He’s the only person known to have seen them there, and he obviously knew exactly where they were planning to look at property.
What else can be said about the sorts of people who might want to live far away from others? For one, Oklahoma is home to a number of known hate and separatist groups. Elohim City, for instance, is only 85 miles away from where the Jamisons disappeared. It’s a private, rural community of extremists with which Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh had direct ties.
And while the white supremacist who had once lived with the Jamisons was cleared as a suspect, it’s difficult to ignore that being chased off their property at gunpoint by a woman proud of her Native American ancestry could be a real motive. Is it possible this man knew of the family’s plans to purchase land on Panola Mountain? Though he personally had an alibi, could he have asked a fellow white supremacist to exact revenge on his behalf?
But he’s not the only one with a possible motive. If Bobby’s father had ties to crime groups, had tried to run Bobby over with a car, and had made death threats against his son’s family, resulting in the need for security cameras to be installed, what else might he have been capable of?
Because he was receiving constant medical care at the time of the disappearances, Bobby Sr. was not personally considered a suspect by law enforcement. But maybe he just couldn’t get over the fact that he was being sued by his own son, and called upon one of his criminal friends to make the problem go away.
What if the Jamisons had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time? We know that meth is a big problem in Latimer County. Is it possible the family stumbled upon a meth lab hidden in the wilderness of Panola Mountain the day they went missing?
There’s also been a lot of speculation about a demolished pickup truck nearby that had been spray-painted with satanic phrases and symbols. Someone had painted over them with Christian messages, and police have matched that writing to known samples of Sherilyn’s spray-painting on the family’s storage container. Did a satanist witness Sherilyn doing this, and not take kindly to it? Again, the wide-open space of Panola Mountain can attract all sorts of people—even cultists.
Sherilyn Jamison’s mother believes the family was killed because Sherilyn had wound up on the hit list of a cult. Adding some credence to the notion she’d been targeted by some group, Sherilyn’s friend, Niki, said an anonymous woman reached out to her, stating that Sherilyn had gotten mixed up with a group called the United White Knights, an arm of the Ku Klux Klan based in Texas. Could the Jamisons’ white-supremacist former roommate have been connected with this group?
About a year after their skeletal remains had been discovered, Niki returned to the area where their bodies had been found, and reported witnessing a number of vehicles with Texas license plates. As she lingered in the area, she heard what she described as warning shots being fired, and promptly fled as a result.
And it gets even more weird. Some believe there’s a phenomenon related to the 35th parallel, also referred to as “The Line of Tragedy.” Worldwide, this 35th degree runs through places like Hiroshima, Tibet, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s believed that an inordinate number of tragedies have occurred along this particular latitude, including the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A month before the Jamisons disappeared, in Anadarko, Oklahoma, also along the 35th parallel, the mutilated body of Pastor Carol Daniels was found behind her church’s altar, splayed in a manner mocking Christ’s crucifixion.
In a case eerily-similar to the Jamisons, a man named Tommy Raymond Eastep vanished in 2013 without a trace after—get this—he was last seen Eufaula, Oklahoma. His abandoned pickup truck was found at a crossroads in Hughes County, 40 miles away, and along the 35th parallel. His skeletal remains were discovered not far from where his abandoned truck was found more than three years earlier. And like the Jamison case, the area had previously been searched by authorities when the man first went missing.
But perhaps the most-overlooked theory is the possibility that a series of paranormal events may have led to the Jamisons’ demise. If it had only been the word of Bobby and Sherilyn to rely upon that their Eufaula home was haunted, it might be easy to dismiss. But Sherilyn’s friend, Niki, has corroborated their claim after having reported personally experiencing paranormal activity in their house. She claims to have witnessed a grey mist descending a staircase in the family’s home, and that she’d always felt a nasty presence there, which would leave her with feelings of depression.
And their pastor, who first reported this strange factor to authorities, gave no indication that he didn’t believe their claims. After all, he recognized that they were engaging in what he described as “spiritual warfare” in their home.
It’s also known that Sherilyn was very interested in her Native American ancestry. She believed their Eufaula home may have actually been built on a burial ground, which may have explained the unpleasant paranormal activity she, Bobby and Madyson had been experiencing.
Was this the real reason the family wanted to move so badly? Were they so desperate to get out of their beautiful lakeside house that they were willing to go live in a cargo container 30 miles away? If so, is it possible the vengeful spirit of a Native American whose rest had been disturbed might have followed them up the mountain?
Pointing back to the surveillance video from the morning the family disappeared, the Jamisons are described to have been in a trance-like state. Had something taken possession of them, later leading them deep into the woods of Panola Mountain? Sherilyn’s friend, Niki, told a reporter that Sherilyn said she’d seen Bobby’s eyes turn “completely dead and black, like he was possessed.” Niki also claims Sherilyn would often be heard to tell Satan to get out of their house.
Perhaps most curious is the manner in which the family’s remains were found—face down. In Native American culture, this detail is very telling. In this culture, it is believed that if the deceased is left face down, their spirit will remain trapped.
Is this positioning of the bodies indicative of an angry Native American spirit making sure he can resume a long rest without the Jamisons returning to a home built on top of his grave?
If not, it’s still difficult to ignore the importance of the symbolism of the three Jamisons being discovered face down. And it’s awfully unlikely that all three would have died of natural or environmental causes while in this position. If they’d been murdered, perhaps the perpetrator was a Native American who left the bodies in this manner in order to avoid being haunted by the spirits of those he’d killed.
Among states, Oklahoma ranks the second-highest in Native American population, with more than 321,000 residing there.
In the end, though, this multi-faceted mystery continues to baffle both law enforcement and amateur sleuths.
If you have any information that might be of use in this unsolved case, please contact the Latimer County Sheriff’s Department at 918-465-4012, or go to latimercountysheriff.com to provide an anonymous tip.