Post by Graveyardbride on Aug 10, 2014 8:31:18 GMT -5
What Happened to the Jamison Family?
Five years ago Bobby Jamison, Sherilyn Jamison (above) and their six-year-old daughter Madyson mysteriously vanished. It wasn’t until more than four years later that their skeletal remains were found on a remote Oklahoma mountainside, lying side-by-side, face down in the dirt, three miles from their abandoned truck.
On Saturday, July 19, 2014, their loved ones held a memorial for the family. The modest but emotional ceremony may have provided family and friends a scrap of comfort – but it did little to end their torment. They still have no real idea what happened to their loved ones in a case that has become one of America’s most bizarre murder mysteries.
The list of reasons why the Jamisons could have been killed is dizzying. Was the tragedy linked to witchcraft, a drug deal gone wrong, a relative with a grudge with ties to the Mexican mafia, or did they stumble upon a meth lab and pay the ultimate price? Or was it a brutal murder-suicide, brought on by Sherilyn’s crippling depression following the tragic death of her sister two years earlier? Others have said, more simply, they just wandered off, got lost and died of hypothermia. Police indicated they haven’t been able to “completely eliminate anything.” In early July, the medical examiner ruled the family members’ deaths inconclusive. Their bodies were found in November 2013.
In an interview, friends and family said they are sure of one thing – the deaths were not accidental. “There’s no way they just wandered off and got lost,” Sherilyn’s mother Connie Kokotan insisted. “What I truly believe is that they went up there, saw something they shouldn’t and were murdered by someone. Who that was, I just don’t know. The way their truck was left, it looks like it had been forced to stop by someone. Everyone round here knows there are lots of evil people up in those mountains. It’s where outlaws like Jesse James used to hide out. It’s so isolated; I’m scared to go up there.”
Sherilyn’s surviving son, Colton, 19, her best friend, Niki Shenold, and Bobby’s mother, Starlet, all agreed with Connie and believed the family was murdered.
They traveled up to the isolated Sans Bois Mountains from their home in nearby Eufaula in early October 2009, looking to buy a 40-acre plot of land. After a few years of living in their lakefront home, they wanted to make a fresh start and relocate to the wilderness. On their first trip into the mountains in search of a suitable piece of property, they spoke to a local man, who said the family seemed in good spirits. The next day they loaded up their truck again, but this time, they never returned. Eight days later, their white pickup was found abandoned on the side of the road. Bobby, 44, Sherilyn, 40, and little Madyson were nowhere to be found. The couple’s phones, car keys, GPS, $32,000 in cash and almost-dead dog were locked inside the truck.
Latimer Country Sheriff Israel Beauchamp at first thought the truck had been stolen, but quickly realized something far more sinister had taken place. He launched a search operation and scoured the area with around 100 men, some on horseback, dogs and a drone. They found nothing. His office and FBI agents spent months tracking down leads and questioning potential suspects but, agonizingly for the family, everything led to a dead end. Since the family’s disappearance, there have been no arrests connected to the case and there are no suspects. Sheriff Beauchamp summed it up, saying: “A lot of investigators would love to have as many leads as we do. The problem is they point in so many different directions.”
Following are several theories, some of which are wild, some compelling, but all unproven:
Witchcraft, ‘spiritual warfare’ and possession. The family’s pastor Gary Brandon gave a shocking statement to police during the initial investigation. He said the family had been involved in “spiritual warfare” and both Bobby and Sherilyn had told him they had seen spirits at their home. Sherilyn said the spirits of a long-dead family lived with them and that their daughter, Madyson, spoke with the youngest apparition. At one point, Bobby asked his pastor – who has since left the area and spoken to no one involved in the case – whether he could obtain “special bullets” to shoot the spirits. He later said he had consulted the Satanic Bible to rid the property of the evil presence. A “witch’s bible” was found in the house following the family’s disappearance and there were bizarre messages scrawled on the side of a container outside the house. One read: “3 cats killed to date buy people in this area … Witches don’t like there (sic) black cat killed.”
Niki, 41, who has placed her life on hold for the last five years to dedicate her time to the search effort, said Sherilyn’s neighbors had been poisoning their cats and wrote on the container to “scare them off.” According to Niki, Sherilyn “was interested in witches, we both were. Years before, we bought matching witch’s bibles. We put them on our coffee tables as a bit of a joke. That’s what the police found. But in all seriousness, that house was haunted. I don’t want to sound crazy, but whenever I went there I felt a horrible presence, I would leave feeling so down and depressed, it’s hard to describe. Once I was in the living room and this sort of grey mist descended down the stairs. It really scared me. She told me on a couple of occasions, Bobby – who was such a gentle man – would suddenly come at her and his eyes would be completely dead and black, like he was possessed.”
“Sherilyn would leave notes round the house, saying, ‘Get out Satan’ and stuff like that,” Niki, who doesn’t believe witchcraft was behind the deaths, added. “It was her way of dealing with things.”
Connie, 64, never took her daughter seriously when she called herself a “witch,” but admitted Sherilyn had told her the house was haunted. “She definitely started trying to find out whether it was built on an Indian burial ground. I do not know what she discovered.”
An abandoned wreck of a vehicle was discovered near the location where the family vanished. Locals used it for shooting practice and there were Satanic messages written on its shell. Niki claimed Sherilyn had written over the messages with phrases such as “God Love You” and “Peace,” adding “She obviously did it on the day they were up there. Maybe someone saw her and got really angry because she was writing over their messages? It wouldn’t surprise me up there.”
Drugs, meth labs and seeing too much. Bobby and Sherilyn were both incredibly thin and emaciated when they went missing leading some to speculate they were hooked on crystal meth. The two were caught on a security camera outside their home on the day they left in a “trance-like state.” They didn’t speak to each other as they made dozens of trips to and from the house to pack their truck. From their behavior on the video, police suspected they may have been on drugs. But searches of the house and property failed to turn up any evidence the Jamisons were taking meth or any other illegal substances. “They were not taking meth, there is no way,” Connie insisted. “How could they have looked after little Madyson if they were? They were good parents and they would not have been capable of that if they were on meth.”
Starlet and Niki were also certain Bobby and Sherilyn were clean at the time of their disappearance. But the bag of money found in the truck also led to suggestions the Jamisons, who were struggling financially, died in a drug deal gone wrong.
Niki admitted it was not inconceivable they had gotten mixed up in some sort of deal to ease their money worries. “A few months before they went missing, Sherilyn’s son Colton moved back to Oklahoma City to live with his dad,” she said. “Prior to that they had been getting child support payments, but they lost those, so they were struggling to keep up with the repayments on the house. It’s possible they thought they would do some kind of one off deal to get them back on track and maybe that’s what they were doing up there.”
When police went through the personal belongings the family left in the truck, they discovered Bobby’s phone on which they found the final picture of Madyson (above) taken up on the mountain. Neither Connie, Niki nor Starlet believed it was taken by Madyson’s parents. “In the picture,” Connie explained, “Madyson is looking away from the camera, she looks unhappy and she has her arms crossed. She loved having her picture taken and if that had been Bobby or Sherilyn behind the camera, she would not have looked like that.”
If they weren’t doing a drug deal, could the Jamisons have walked into one? The remote Sans Bois mountain range has a reputation for being a haven for meth labs, where criminals cook up the drug miles from prying eyes. “There are lots of them up there,” Starlet said. “It is well-known. Maybe they stumbled across one of them when they were there and someone came after them?”
“I don’t know all the details, but I can tell you Bobby had recently gone to police to report someone in the local area for running a meth lab. Obviously that person is going to be very upset,” Connie added.
Niki said after she launched her campaign to find out what happened to the Jamisons, she was contacted by an anonymous woman who made terrifying claims. The tipster told Niki she had been involved with a group called the United White Knights and that Bobby and Sherilyn were on their “hit list.” At first Niki was impressed by corroborating evidence, but later dismissed the claim. Yet, she had not completely ruled out that other groups or cults – that exploit the isolation of the mountains – could be to blame. “I went up to those mountains about a year later,” she said, “and near where the bodies were found, there was a line of cars parked with Texas licence plates. When we got near the actual spot there were a couple of gun shots. They sounded like warning shots to me. I don't scare easily, but that place really freaks me out. There is something not right about it.”
A family grudge and a link to the ‘Mexican Mafia.’ Bobby’s father Bob died of natural causes just two months after the Jamison’s disappeared. Prior to his passing at age 64, he had a long running feud with his son. It came to legal action when Bobby accused his father of reneging on an agreement to give him half the proceeds from the sale of a gas station he owned. “Bob used to get Bobby to work at the gas station,” Starlet explained. “He even used to pull him out of school so he could help out. It was always on the understanding Bobby would get half the money from any sale. That didn’t happen, so Bobby fought for his money and it all turned a bit ugly. I don't want to turn Bob into some kind of monster, but he did threaten the family. We had split up by that stage and I moved in with Bobby and Sherilyn for a bit. There were a few confrontations and we were worried, so I installed security cameras at the house.”
Connie also had concerns about Bob Sr. “Sherilyn and Bobby were scared of Bob,” she added. “He had a temper and he had money. There were also rumors he had connections to the Mexican Mafia. That’s what I had been told.”
Bobby’s father was not the only person who seemed to have a grudge against the family. Police thought they had a major breakthrough when they discovered, not long before the disappearance, that Sherilyn had pointed a gun at a man who lived with them as a boarder and forced him out of the house. “Sherilyn has Indian blood in her and this guy was saying he hated Indians and anyone who wasn’t white,” Connie said. “Sherilyn wanted to protect Madyson, so she got her gun and made this guy leave.”
Officers treated the man as their first real suspect, but when questioned, he was able to provide an alibi.
Did depression lead to a murder-suicide? Could Sherilyn and Bobby, who both suffered from severe depression throughout their lives, have taken their own lives and that of their daughter? Or did Sherilyn, who had bi-polar disorder and did not always take her prescribed medication, sink into one of her black moods and wipe out her family and then herself?
When police searched the abandoned pickup, they discovered an 11-page, spiteful letter written by Sherilyn to her husband, dripping with hate and resentment. On top of that, her .22 pistol was missing. “It was her form of therapy,” Nikki said in an attempt to explain away the letter. “She would write things down when they came into her mind, but then she would move on. She loved Bobby.”
Colton lived with his mother, Bobby and half-sister Madyson most of his life, moving in with his real father a few months before the family vanished. He noticed a dramatic decline in his mother’s frame of mind in the weeks before he moved out, saying she was “really down and moody” and would stay in her room a lot. “I did meet up with Mom a few weeks before they went missing, he added, “and she seemed a little better, like she was trying to turn things around. But the thing I find so strange is they never mentioned anything about moving out to the mountains to me. They didn’t say anything.”
Connie explained how her other daughter, Sherilyn’s sister, Marla, died in a freak accident in 2007 after she was stung on the tongue by a bee. “Marla was not just her sister, she was her best friend as well. Her death absolutely devastated Sherilyn. She would spend days up in her room. She was very depressed and had to take medication. It obviously caused a lot of strain on the marriage. They argued, but then all couples do.”
Starlet went farther, adding that Sherilyn was a completely different person when she was experiencing one of her manic episodes. “She became incredibly angry and spiteful sometimes. She was jealous of my relationship with Madyson and of my relationship with Bobby. The last time I actually spoke to Bobby was in April 2009 because she banned me from speaking to him on the phone,” she recalled. “Bobby loved her and he suffered because of her moods. There was a time when I tried to get him and Madyson to move away to Oklahoma City. But really, I would never have wanted to split them up. They had their difficulties, but they loved each other very much.” Bobby was not without his own problems – both physical and mental. He was in a terrible motor vehicle accident in 2003 in which he injured his back, leaving him in constant pain. “That and the problems with his dad left him depressed,” Starlet added.
Still, family members were convinced that moving into the mountains was a fresh start, a way of putting their troubles behind them.
Did they get lost? After the bodies were found last November, they were sent away for months of analysis to determine if they were, indeed, the remains of the Jamison family and to establish cause of death. Members of the family thought they would finally get some answers, but unfortunately, the remains were so deteriorated the results were inconclusive. Bobby had a large hole in the back of his skull, but it was impossible to determine what had caused it. Officials began to suggest the family may have wandered away from their truck, got lost in thick woodland and died of hypothermia. Colton disagreed: “That just doesn’t make any sense. Bobby grew up in the country and I mean proper country, he knew nature and he knew what he was doing out there. No way would he have got them lost like that.
“If that happened,” Connie added, “then why were they lying face down, all together like that? Also, why did they leave the dog in the car? Madyson loved that dog and didn’t go anywhere without it. She wouldn’t have just left her in the car.”
Starlet has desperately tried to accept the theory, but in her mind, it just defies logic. “Their bodies were found about three miles from the truck, but that’s as the crow flies,” she said. “When you’re going round and about and up and down it’s nearer to seven. No way could they have made it over that ground, especially with Bobby’s back.”
“Bobby would get in pain walking round the house,” Niki added, “let alone covering that kind of ground. I do not believe they left the truck by choice.”
Every life the Jamisons touched has been forever affected by whatever took place back in October 2009. But it isn’t just the loss of the mother, father and little girl that has caused so much family heartache. It is not knowing what happened. Even Israel Beachamp, the sheriff at the time of the disappearance, hasn’t been the same since. He left his position in 2011 and Niki claimed he told her he couldn’t stand the guilt he felt at not being able to find little Madyson. He now works overseas. The new Sheriff of Latimer County, Jesse James, was unavailable for comment, but it is believed law enforcement doesn’t have any new leads or avenues of investigation. The trail is dead.
Some of the theories as to what happened are wild, but a five-year investigation hasn’t provided any answers, so perhaps the truth really does lie in one of these outlandish ideas. For family members and friends, the speculation and torment continues. “I would give anything to find out the truth and I don’t think this is over,” Niki admitted. “But I have spent so much time searching, I just don’t know where else to look.”
Sources: Will Payne, The Daily Mail, July 22, 2014; Amanda Bland, Tulsa World, July 4, 2014; Mindy Ragan Wood, Red Dirt Report, July 3, 2014; and April Wood, June 14, 2013.