The Mysterious Deaths of the Jamison Family
This episode we take a look at the disappearance and eventual reappearance of the Jamison family. A mother, father and daughter trio who mysteriously went missing in the remote wilderness of Red Oak, Oklahoma only for the bodies to be found four years later.
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The Mysterious Deaths of the Jamison Family
From the outside looking in, the Jamisons would have seemed to be a perfectly normal, happy family. Recently married, they had had a child and now six years later, were planning on buying a plot of land in a more remote location where they could build a house and get away from it all. This description would be truly selective, however, as scratch the surface and the Jamisons were a family suffering from all manner of problems. The mother, Sherilyn struggled with Bipolar disorder, her husband Bobby had had an unfortunate car accident which left him in chronic pain daily and Madyson, their six-year-old daughter would apparently speak with spirits which according to both parents lived on their property.
In 2009, the family disappeared whilst visiting a plot of land they were planning on purchasing in Red Oak, Oklahoma, their truck left abandoned. They had walked off into the woods leaving few clues as to how, or why. Their bodies were not to be found for another four years.
This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
The Jamison Family
Sherilyn and Bobby Jamison met in 2002 and immediately hit it off. They had a relatively short relationship before Shierlyn gave birth to Madyson in August 2003.What should have been a period of celebration and joy for the new family turned somewhat sour when in November, Bobby was involved in a traffic accident that saw two other vehicles slamming into his own. Bobby survived the accident but suffered injuries that would leave him with severe back pain plaguing him for the years to come. There were days where he would find it difficult to get out of bed and this had the knock-on effect of making it increasingly difficult for him to work. Eventually, his only source of income was from the state in the form of welfare benefits. Regardless, the family kept their head up and 11 months later, in July 2004. Bobby and Sherilyn were married in Hot Springs Arizona. They lived in a large lakefront home in Eufaula, Oklahoma which was surrounded by a large garden.
Life should have settled down for the Jamisons, but over the following years, a series of difficult events and circumstances led them down a turbulent path.
In 2007, Sherrilyn’s sister passed away due to an unfortunate reaction to a bee sting and in 2008, Bobby’s parents, Bobby Sr and Star Jamison divorced, leading to a severe dispute between Bobby and his father. The fallout was not gentle and after several arguments, physical confrontations, an attempt by Bobby Sr to run over Bobby Jr and numerous, continued threats, court cases were filed by several family members to gain protective orders from Bobby’s father. In a statement put forth during the case, Bobby wrote:
“My entire family is scared for their lives. I am in fear at all times.”
Throughout the court procedures, Bobby also claimed that his father was deeply involved in prostitution, meth and the Mexican mafia, though there is no real evidence supporting this. After a bit of back and forth and a court process, a protective order was initially issued, however, for one reason or another, it was later dismissed after a hearing.
During his parent’s divorce, Bobby Sr had also taken it upon himself to write his son out of his will entirely, leaving his estate instead to Bobby Jr’s daughter Madyson. This lead to a further dispute in regards to a gas station that was owned by Bobby Sr. A previous deal had seen Bobby Jr. owed half of the station, but his share was never received, this saw Bobby Jr filing another legal suit, this time against his father to receive the money he was owed from the deal. The suit was successful and the profits of $64,000 were split equally between the pair.
2009 was another particularly trying year for the family. Their daughter Madyson was hit in the face by a swing at school that knocked out her two front teeth. Bobby and Sherilynn reacted, perhaps extremely, by removing Madyson from school entirely and instead, they prepared to homeschool her, whilst they also filed a lawsuit against the school. By this time, one might assume that the Jamison’s were quite comfortable with the court process.
In July a handyman and family friend named Kenneth Bellows had moved into their home to help out with home maintenance, as Bobby was still suffering from chronic back pain after his accident that now left him taking pain medication on a daily basis. Just months after, however, in August 2009, upon finding out that Sherrilyn had Native American heritage, Bellows white supremacist leanings were uncovered. Arguments between the two broke out that resulted in Sherrilyn firing a .22 calibre pistol into the ground by his feet. Naturally, their relationship broke down permanently.
Also In July of 2009, Sherrilyn’s ex-husband from her first marriage took custody of their son, Colton and in September, Sherrilyn was hospitalised following a failed suicide attempt, her condition was apparently destabilising fairly rapidly, with friends commenting on her weight loss and general emaciated appearance. During the custody hearing, which passed without incident, Colton being over the age of 12 had a large say in who he would prefer to live with and he gave a statement about his mother, claiming that she had seemed “Very depressed” and that she often “acted strangely”. This was all no doubt a culmination of the rollercoaster of previous events combined with Sherrilynn’s documented trouble with Bipolar and severe depression, however, even outside of this, it is also true that both she and her husband Bobby had been acting very strangely indeed.
The Jamisons were a fairly religious family and Bobby had reportedly visited his pastor Gary Brandon to enquire on whether it was possible to buy bullets which could be used in “spiritual warfare”. This strange request was explained by Bobby when he admitted that he needed to fight spirits that he routinely saw on the roof of their house, one of which bore wings. This was a notion backed up by Sherrilyn, who claimed that there were 3-4 spirits in their home, making up a family who were apparently named Michael and Emily and their daughter who spoke to Madyson. The pair obviously found the spirits to be an unsettling presence in the household and Bobby had even gone so far as to have bought a satanic bible, that he misguidedly planned to use to “exorcise the spirits”. Reports are varied on whether or not they thought the spirits themselves to be malicious, but Sherilyn began leaving small notes around the house with scribblings on such as “get out Satan”.
Sherrilynn had also begun to bandy the idea around that she was practising witchcraft, though her close friends said she never took it seriously and it was rather a tongue in cheek exercise which she used to keep people she didn’t want in her life at arm’s length. If this is true, however, she took this to fairly extreme lengths as she spray paint religious slogans and confusing phrases on various items in their yard, including a beaten up old car and a large storage container with musings such as “Only God”, “Gossip is Sin” and the most out there, “3 cats killed to date buy people in this area… Witches don’t like there black cats killed.” The reference to cats was apparently concerning the death of the families cats, which she believed to have been poisoned by someone in the neighbourhood.
The pair had apparently slipped into a state of some paranoia and through all of this, Bobby and Sherrilynn’s marriage invariably suffered. By how much and for which reason is not known exactly, it could have been a combination of everything or one particular aspect, but the couple were noticeably struggling. Later on, after the discovery of Sherrilynn’s journal, police would find entries that clearly showed Sherilyn as unhappy with her marital situation and close friends of the couple mentioned that they had been having a hard time for many years, however contrary to this, relatives later made statements that despite all of their arguments, the couple were very much in love. Either way, the marriage was certainly not idyllic.
It was in this difficult martial climate that the family packed their truck to leave Eufaula and visit a 40-acre plot of land that they planned to buy in Red Oak, a somewhat mountainous and wooded area set in the wilderness, 30 miles south of the family home. After the years of earlier chaos, it appeared as though the Jamison’s were seeking a quieter life, off the grid and away from the trappings of the past. They planned to purchase the land and move into the storage container that Sherilyn had previously graffiti’d whilst they could convert it into a new home, maintaining the Eufaula home as a rental. On October 7th of 2009, they visited the area for the first time, witnesses told of how the family seemed to be in good spirits and the following day, they once again set out to the remote area. This time, however, they would not return.
On October 8, 2009, the couple packed their large pickup truck and along with their daughter and Maizy, the family dog, headed towards Red Oak to again visit and inquire about the land they were looking to purchase. In CCTV footage filmed from a security camera purchased during the dispute with Bobby’s father, the Jamison’s are shown, busily and wordlessly walking too and fro from the house loading boxes of their possessions into the truck. Soon, they were back on the road to Red Oak.
After the 30 mile drive to the base of the Santa Bois Mountains where the land was located, Bobby and Sherilyn visited an associate of the landowner and when the meeting was done, through later piecing together of evidence like pieces of a puzzle we know that the family parked up and went for a short walk for around fifteen minutes. They made sure to take their GPS unit and found a quiet spot on a hillside. After they returned to their vehicle, they drove a little further and then, with the truck left locked in the middle of a dirt track, they were simply gone.
During their initial absence, none of their friends and family felt any cause for concern. Bobby and Sherilyn were known to fall off the radar from time to time and Madyson had already been pulled out of school. So it was that the Jamison family quietly disappeared, never to be seen alive again.
Truck found, initial investigation
On Saturday, October 17th, 2009, hunters on dirt bikes ran across the Jamisons abandoned truck and called police to report the vehicle. Initially, the police assumed the vehicle to have been stolen as the report suggested the truck to have only been on the roadside for a few hours, though later that day, the same hunter called back to confirm to police that he had seen it there, abandoned for a number of days.
The Latimer County Sheriff Israel Beauchamp, undersheriff Matt Bohn and several other officers headed out to the truck, which they found locked and parked across the dirt track. When they discovered the Jamisons dog Maizy was alive and inside the vehicle, they smashed the window, releasing her and found that by now, she had almost starved to death. As they begun taking inventory, they found that the Jamisons had left behind all their coats and warm clothing, Bobby had left his wallet and Sherilynn her purse. They had also left behind their phone and the GPS unit which one might assume to be of critical importance when spending time in an unfamiliar wilderness area. Curiously they also found, among several piles of garbage that was littered throughout the truck, an eleven-page document written by Sherrilyn that amounted to a hate letter, expressing all of her grievances and hatred for Bobby and in a brown bank bag, stuffed below the passenger seat, $32,000 in cash.
during their initial investigations, no signs of a struggle were found, there was no blood, no broken glass and no signs of scuffle on the soft ground around the truck. A search was organised and over the coming days and weeks would eventually consist of over 400 volunteers, horses, mules, ATVs, 16 teams of cadaver dogs and an unmanned drone, though volunteers were asked not to attend at first due to the remote location.
“We don’t want a search party for three missing people to turn into a search for others,” said sergeant Chuck Wells in a press conference.
During the searches, the cadaver dog teams repeatedly found suspicion with a nearby water tower, which was promptly drained, though no evidence concerning the Jamison’s could be found.
Meanwhile, McIntosh County Sheriff Joe Hogan had had his deputies search the Jamison family home in Eufaula, where they discovered several key facts. Their first important discovery was that of the security footage of the Jamisons packing the vehicle which allowed them to cross-check the inventory of the truck. Upon doing so, they found that a large brown briefcase or satchel had been loaded into the truck, but now could not be found anywhere back in Red Oak or inside the truck. They also took note of a missing .22 calibre pistol belonging to Sherilyn that could not be found in their home and was confirmed by friends and family to be carried in the truck, however, it also could not be found in Red Oak. When police checked the phone records of the mobile phone found in the truck, they found that curiously, it had made an outgoing call to voicemail on the 12th, though it would have been locked inside the abandoned truck at the time. They also found a photo of Madyson, taken upon the hill and through a combination of following the GPS unit and using the photo as reference, found it to be just 200 yards away from the abandoned truck.
The case was becoming increasingly webbed and Beauchamp told reporters in a press conference that:
“A lot of investigators would love to have as many leads as we do. The problem is they point in so many different directions.”
Eventually, with the hunting season on the horizon and searches becoming less fruitful and more dangerous by the day, the search for the Jamisons was abandoned and information on the case fell silent. Until, one day in November, over four years later, a grim discovery would reignite the search for the eventual fate of the family who appeared to have parked up their truck and walk off the face of the planet.
In November 16th, 2013, four years after their disappearances, three bodies, two adults and a young child were found lying face down, in a line by a deer hunter in the Smokestack Hollow area of Panola Mountain, 2.7 miles from where the Jamison truck was found. The area was miles from any paved roads and extremely remote. The three bodies were severely decomposed and the remains consisted of three skulls, an undocumented number of bones and bone fragments, the victim’s shoes and some scraps of clothing. It took over 8 months for the police to formally confirm what most people had by that point, long assumed. That the bodies were those of the Jamison family.
When questioned why the initial searches had found nothing, despite their scale, Assistant special agent of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation told reporters, somewhat dismissively, that “Falling leaves potentially obscured the bodies”.
Due to the extensive decomposition that had occurred in the four years since their disappearance, it was deemed impossible to determine a cause of death, though one of the skulls, that of Bobby, had a small hole which was initially suspected as being a bullet wound. Later the police dropped this line of enquiry, but the hunters who found the bodies disagreed.
Initially, Sheriff Beauchamp had thought that foul play was involved, but four years had passed and Beauchamp had since left the service. The incoming Sheriff Jesse James told press when asked about the line of enquiry the case was following simply stated:
“It’s a very strange deal, you know, the way this case has unfolded. We’re looking at a lot of things. A lot of things have crossed my mind.”
And so it remains today, After enlisting the help of 12 FBI agents, 3 OSBI agents, Oklahoma highway patrols Troop Z, PIs and eventually even psychics, the case is now utterly cold. Facts are laid out but nothing leads to anything concrete. Later, after leaving the police force, Beauchamp spoke in a documentary on the case, stating that:
“Normally, you can go through an investigation, and one by one, start to eliminate certain scenarios, we haven’t been able to do that in this case. With this family, everything seems possible.”
The theories that do surround the Madison Family case range from sound to utterly bizarre. The cold nature of the case has allowed speculation to run wild and whilst some lean heavily on the facts, there are other theories which are less inclined. The following theories are not exhaustive but instead a general overview of the some of the more enduring.
One theory, heavily disputed by relatives of Bobby and Sherilyn is that of murder-suicide. On the surface, this theory mainly gains traction by concerning itself with both the mental state of Sherilynn and the Chronic back pain od Bobby, leading both to have a somewhat plausible motive. Several of Sherilynns friends commented on her deteriorating mental health and she would sporadically take herself off of her prescription meds. Her manic episodes were also known to be spiteful and often angry and with the events leading up to their disappearance, she was in a very low and dark space.
In the case of Bobby, he was known to struggle with back pain. He walked with a slouch and his being unable to work had left him depressed. Low morale and severe pain on a daily basis are difficult things to live with for anyone and Bobby had shown sign of unusual behaviour, specifically asking his pastor about spiritual warfare. Both Bobby and Sherilyn were known to have been on a large amount of prescription medication at the time of their disappearance for depression.
Then, of course, there is the long 11-page letter which detailed how much Sherilyn disliked her husband. It is theorised that either the letter is a form of suicide note, or possibly a motive for Bobby, did Sherilynn write it as an explanation for her actions or did Bobby find it and snap? However, Sherilyn’s friend Niki, spoke of the letter, explaining it away as Sherilyn form of therapy.
“She would write things down when they came into her mind, but then she would move on. She loved Bobby.” She said.
Murder-suicide, would however seemingly explain why the gun was not left in the truck, however, it does beg the question, where is the gun now? And what of the brown briefcase that had too, apparently vanished? The families relatives maintain that the move to the wilderness was the family trying to turn a corner and put the past behind them, that they were very much in love and firmly disagree with any theory involving suicide or murder-suicide.
The theory that the Jamison family was murdered is one of the more convincing but heavily speculated theories and ranges from disgruntled locals after the outsiders, B-Movie style, to Mexican drug cartels and beyond.
Bobby’s Father was a suspect for a very short period. Despite their ongoing disputes and the alleged threats towards the family, Bobby Sr. was sixty-seven years old and at the time of the families disappearance, was living in a care home. In fact, 2 months on from their disappearance, he himself passed away. These facts generally knock him firmly from the list of suspects.
But what of Kenneth, the family friend who turned out to be a white supremacist? He too was briefly a suspect in the case, but as it happened, was found to be in jail at the time of their disappearance and so, he too can be struck off the list.
Sherilynns mother Connie Kokotan herself believes murder to be the most likely scenario in the deaths of the family:
“There’s no way they just wandered off and got lost.” She said, “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.”
If murder truly was the fate of the Jamisons it might explain the missing briefcase and gun, but it asks one rather large question which simply has no answer. What would have been the motive for killing a family in the middle of nowhere, who was simply out looking to buy a plot of land?
There has been much speculation of the Jamison being addicted to, or involved in Meth. Meth is known to have been a problem in the area of Oklahoma that they lived in and has to lead some to speculate that this had deeply affected the Jamison and their fate either directly or indirectly.
First is the theory that the Jamison’s were involved in taking Meth themselves. The couples emaciated appearance in the security video alongside their actions during packing, of stopping and staring into the distance or generally acting spaced out are the main drivers. Some even speculate that the brown briefcase was a drug case they used to store their drugs and paraphernalia, away from Madyson. The sheriff himself stated about the security video:
“On the video they would just stop and stare, it was strange.”
If they were users, the theory goes, then perhaps they were in a dark place indeed and this possibly leads to murder-suicide or happening upon a local who caught them abusing in the woods. As far-fetched as these sound, there is one other theory concerning drugs that suggests that whilst not users themselves, the Jamisons were attempting to arrange a one time Meth deal to alleviate their financial difficulties and the deal had turned sour. Again, the brown briefcase comes to play, with most exponents of this theory suggesting that it was either full of drugs to be sold or money to exchange. This theory does, however, ignore that the Jamison’s did, in fact, have several timeshares as well as the $32,000 in cash that was found in the truck. The money in the truck is most likely a share of the $64,000 recently split between Bobby and his father and further, when the house and truck were searched, no evidence of drugs was found in either.
Connie Kokotan stated when asked if they had been known to take drugs that:
“They were not taking meth, there is no way. 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.”
One of the more out there theories involves a cult going by the name of the United White Knights. Shierlynns friend Nikki had launched a campaign to try to find out more information concerning the fate of the Jamisons when she was contacted by an anonymous woman who told her that she had been involved in the group and that Sherilynn and Bobby had been named on a “hit list” that they maintained.
Whilst Niki herself holds little stock in the claim, she did hold reservations, stating that:
“I went up to those mountains about a year later 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 gunshots. 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.”
Who, what or why, however, is rarely approached in such theories and there is little stock outside of the fact that in the remote location of the foot of the mountains, cults could operate in secret. It does all seem rather far-fetched. Why would such a group maintain a hit list in the first place?
One of the theories that attempts to handwave away much of the evidence to the case is that The Jamisons simply perished after getting lost in the wilderness. Whilst there have certainly been cases of people quickly getting lost in even small distances, this theory doesn’t quite fit. If it was the case that they got out of the truck and went for a walk, firstly you would be excused for asking why? More pressingly, why would they have left the dog and all of their phones, coats and importantly, the GPS unit in the car? Especially when walking out into a rather secluded patch of wilderness on a day that is known to have been cold. Pressingly, a GPS unit would surely be high on your list of priorities for things to take along? Despite this, it is not impossible and certainly more plausible than some other theories.
In the end, the case of the Jamisons leaves much room for speculation and in the vacuum of a cold case, gives little chance for much else. The case lies discarded and the fate of the Jamisons is unlikely to be uncovered short of anyone coming forward with new and concrete information. Throughout the life of the case, there were never any arrests made by police and nor were there any solid suspects. And so it stays, a case with more questions than answers, a web of confusion and speculation. What did happen to the Jamisons at the foot of the mountains and who, if anyone is guilty?