History is rife with unsolved murders and mysterious deaths with secrets that continue to elude us. In some cases these may seem straightforward enough, cases of clear murder or foul play even if the perpetrators evade us. Yet in other cases things seem to spiral out beyond mere unsolved crimes to become a bizarre web of oddities and puzzles, even stepping out beyond the confines of our reality as we know it. One such case comes to us from the U.S. state of Oklahoma, where a whole family disappeared only for their bodies to be found years later under mysterious circumstances that would quickly become firmly mired in the world of the weird. It is a case which starts strange and then never lets up, taking a trip straight down the dark road into the unknown. From mysterious vanishings, to haunted houses, to the sinister world of the occult and the paranormal, the case of the Jamison family deaths is one of those truly weird cases in which the more we know about it the less we understand, and it remains of of the most bizarre unsolved crimes in United States history.
The Jamison family, from Eufaula, Oklahoma, consisted of the father, Bobby Dale Jamison, 44, mother Sherilyn Leighann Jamison, 40, and their 6-year old daughter Madyson Stormy Star Jamison. The family had had plans to buy a 40-acre plot of land near Red Oak, Oklahoma in the secluded Sans Bois Mountains, only around 30 miles from their lakefront Eufula home. The family had dreams to relocate to the wilderness and lead a peaceful life away from civilization and as they made preparations to buy the land it looked like their dreams were starting to come true. But then tragedy would strike, and the first steps into weird. The case starts off oddly enough. On October 8, 2009, the Jamison family loaded up their truck and set out into the mountains to go finalize the purchase. They were never seen alive again.
For eight days there was no word from the Jamison family, and friends and family began to worry. It seemed as if they had just vanished, and hundreds of volunteers along with dozens of law enforcement officers scoured the area for any sign of them. Their truck was then found abandoned and locked by the side of the road. Inside the truck were the family’s small dog, which was nearly dead from starvation, their wallets, cell phones and IDs, a GPS system, and $32,000 in cash. Sensing something was awry, Latimer Country Sheriff Israel Beauchamp immediately launched a massive search for the family, which included drones, tracker dogs, and hundreds of police and volunteers, some on horseback, all of which turned up absolutely nothing at all. It was as if the family had simply stepped off the face of the earth. Police suspected some sort of foul play, but there wasn’t much information to go on. Over the next 8 months there would be one of the most extensive manhunts in Oklahoma history, leading to the tracking down of numerous leads and interviews of scores of potential suspects, all of which turned up absolutely nothing.
It would not be until 4 years later when the family would at last be found, although in a state far from living. In November of 2013, deer hunters came across the skeletal remains of two adults and a child, which were laying side by side face down in the dirt in a rugged, isolated area 2.7 miles from where the abandoned truck had been found. The remains would later be positively identified through anthropological and forensic pathological testing as those of the Jamison family, although they were so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be ascertained.
Already very strange considering that the manhunt had failed to uncover the family so close to the vehicle, the finding of the bodies led to all sorts of initial speculation. In addition to the theories that they had gotten lost in the wilderness or died of hypothermia, one of the first ideas was that considering the large amount of cash found in their vehicle, they had been part of a drug deal gone bad. This is somewhat supported by the fact that in the days leading up to the family’s fateful trek out into the wilderness, neighbors say that both Bobby and Shrilyn Jamison had been acting strangely and looked shockingly gaunt and emaciated. This led to speculation they could have been using drugs heavily, specifically crystal meth, a drug which just so happens seems to be flourishing in the mountainous area where the family had disappeared, with meth labs apparently all over the place. Additionally, video footage taken of the couple on the security camera they had outside of their house from the day of their final departure seems to depict them in a sort of trance-like state or daze, and not speaking to each other as they silently, robotically make dozens of trips back and forth from the house to the truck packing for their trip, perhaps indicating they were strung out on something. However, the truck and additional searches of the house turned up no evidence of drug use and friends and family insisted they had been clean, albeit in financial dire straits. It is thought that even if the family wasn’t directly involved in a botched drug deal, then they might have stumbled across one of the many secret meth labs in the remote, mountainous region and upset the proprietors with fatal consequences.
Another popular theory at the time was that it had been cold-blooded murder, pure and simple. One reason could be that Bobby Jamison had had a vicious ongoing feud with his father, Bob Jamison, whom the family had apparently sued over property he was owed after working at the family business. Bobby Jamison had apparently been owed half of the proceeds of the sale of a gas station they co-owned and his father had reneged on the deal. When Bobby’s father had twice threatened to kill them, the family had put into effect a protective order against him, and indeed it was because of these altercations that the family had installed the security camera at their house. Things had apparently come to a frightening head, and it was even rumored that Bob Jamison had ties with the Mexican mafia. Shrilyn Jamison’s mother, Connie Kokotan, would say of the situation:
Sherilyn and Bobby were scared of Bob. 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.
Although Bobby Jamison’s father, Bob, had an alibi in that he had been sick and hospitalized at the time of the disappearances, could this grudge have been behind the killings somehow? Had Bob Jamison put out a hit on his own son and his family? Bob Jamison was never considered a serious suspect or questioned in any great depth, so it is hard to say. Other theories pointing to murder are that the family was killed by white supremacists linked to another man with a grudge whom Sherilyn had threatened one time with a gun. In the incident, a man who had been renting a room with the family began slinging racial epithets and insults at the woman, who was part Native American. Sherilyn had taken a pistol and ordered him off of the property, and this was seen as enough motive for the police to actually go and apprehend him for questioning, seemingly a break in the case and the first real suspect. However, in the end the man’s alibi held up and he was released. Whoever was behind it, the mother of Sherilyn Jamison insisted that it was certainly murder, stating:
There’s no way they just wandered off and got lost. 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.
It has also been suggested that the deaths may not have been caused by outsiders, but were actually the result of a murder-suicide within the family. There is certainly circumstantial evidence pointing to this, as both of the adult Jamisons had at various times suffered from severe depression, an issue which was only intensified with the freak tragic death of Sherylin’s sister, Martha, from a bee sting on the tongue, as well as the constant pain Bobby was in due to a traffic accident he had been in. Further supporting this was an 11-page, hateful letter written by Sherilyn directed at her husband which was found in the car, and a .22 caliber pistol which the family had kept in the truck had been missing. A coroner had also claimed to have found a small hole in the back of Bobby Jamison’s skull, suggesting he was shot, but whether this was caused by a bullet or something else remains unknown. Did Sherilyn murder her family and then kill herself? Considering the other bodies had no such holes and the .22 was never found, it seems like we may never know. The family of the victims for their part insist that the Jamisons were a loving family devoted to each other and none of them would have ever done such an evil thing.
Further information that would come up pointed to stranger possibilities, and this is where things take a turn for the truly bizarre, entering the realm of witchcraft, the occult, and the paranormal. The Jamison family pastor, Gary Brandon, came forward with many odd statements concerning the family. He claimed that in the days leading up to the disappearance, the family had told him that they believed their house to be haunted and that they were involved in what he referred to as “spiritual warfare.” The family had apparently frantically claimed that they had made contact with the spirits of a dead family in their house and that their daughter, Madyson, had been regularly talking with the ghost family’s child. Two of the ghosts were allegedly called Emily and Michael, and one of them was reported to have wings like an angel. According to these claims, Bobby Jamison had become so upset by the hauntings that he had specifically requested “special bullets” with which to shoot the intruding entities, and his wife Sherilyn had begun to investigate whether the house was built on an old Indian burial ground. A so-called “Satanic Bible” had been supposedly obtained in order to rid the house of the presences, and this is somewhat backed up by the finding of a “witch’s bible” within the house. This certainly puts a decidedly bizarre slant on some cryptic messages that had been found by investigators on the Jamison family property. Scrawled on the side of a storage container were the mysterious words:
3 cats killed to date buy people in this area . . . Witches don’t like there black cat killed.
Police never figured out just who had written the ominous message. Adding to all of this bizarreness is the fact that it was claimed that a friend of Sherilyn Jamison was a witch and that several of the family’s cats had been poisoned by neighbors. Apparently, belief in spirits and witches was rampant around the Jamison household. Sherilyn Jamison’s best friend, Niki Shenold, 41, would go on to claim:
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. It was her way of dealing with things.
This all takes the case further down the rabbit hole of weird, and to top it all off, Sherilyn’s mother later went on to state that she believed that her daughter had been the target of some sort of cult and had ended up on their “hit list.” At the time, she would not elaborate on which cult it could be or exactly why her daughter was being targeted, but she did say that several major cults were operating the remote mountains there. It s a claim somewhat bolstered by an article on cult activities in the newspaper The Oklahoman in 1993, around the same time as the whole David Koresh and the Branch Davidian cult compound near Waco, Texas affair, in which a U.S. Marshall stated that “some cults have found a home in eastern Oklahoma and some of them are extreme.” This all puts a somewhat sinister spin on the security camera footage of the doomed couple in a trance before vanishing, with some claiming the strange behavior displayed could have been due to some sort of spiritual possession or the influence of some occult spell. What were they under the influence of in that footage? Was it drugs or something more? No one has been able to come to a concrete conclusion and it remains just one weirder piece of the puzzle.
The weirdness of the case does not stop there. Sherilyn’s best friend Nicki, claimed that she was contacted by an anonymous woman who claimed that Sherilyn had been involved with a cult called the United White Knights, who had vowed to kill her. Making this claim spookier was the talk of an abandoned wreck of a car found near the Jamison vehicle which had long been used for shooting practice and for the writing of various venomous satanic messages scrawled all over it, over which Sherilyn had allegedly written messages such as “God Love You” and “Peace.” Although the anonymous tipster seemed to be saying empty threats at the time, Nicki would speak of strange occurrences which happened in the aftermath of these messages, saying:
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 license 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.
Another odd finding is the final photo of Madyson found on Bobby Jamison’s cell phone, which appears to have been taken up in the mountains on the day of the disappearances. In the photo, Madyson appears to be looking away from the camera with an unhappy look on her face and her arms crossed. Sherylin’s mother has insisted that Madyson loved to have her photo taken and if things had been normal she would not have looked like that. What was going on in that photograph? Is there any clue to be gained from it? So far, no. It only poses more questions.
This is all strange enough on its own, but let’s consider this case’s possible link with yet even more strangeness. All of this has a certain spooky synchronicity with the phenomenon known as the “35th degree latitude,” or as some have dubbed it, “The Line of Tragedy.” It is along the 35th degree latitude that a whole string of brutal murders have occurred, including the shocking case of Andrea Pia Kennedy Yates, a Houston woman suffering from postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis who on June 20, 2001, murdered all five of her children by drowning them in a bathtub. Another famous murder that occurred along this line was the horrific murder of Pastor Carol Daniels, whose mutilated corpse was found propped up behind the church altar in a crucifix position, a murder that was widely believed to be tied to satanic activity. At the time is was such a sadistic and brutal crime that District Attorney Bret Burns and several law enforcement officers involved with the case said it was the most horrible crime they had ever seen. The 35th degree latitude was also where Timothy McVeigh carried out the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, which killed 168 people and injured nearly 700 hundred others. Where did the Jamisons disappear? You guessed it, the 35th degree latitude.
In addition to these murders, another disappearance eerily similar to that of the Jamison family and occurring along the 35th degree latitude as well was the mysterious vanishing of Tommy Raymond Eastep. After visiting Eufaula, which you may recognize as the very same town where the Jamison family had been living, he proceeded to disappear, and police would later find his abandoned truck at a highway crossroads near Wetumka, Oklahoma, lying on the 35th degree north latitude. The case most certainly echoes the Jamison disappearances and the other links make it rather odd indeed. Is this all mere coincidence, or is there something more sinister at work?
The Jamison case has never been solved, and with no new leads, and no further suspects or evidence, it is a cold case that with all of the strangeness surrounding it has gone on to become one of the most perplexing and bizarre in United States history. It is still not known why they disappeared, if there was any foul play involved at all, or even how they died. The case remains a total enigma. What happened to the Jamisons? Did they just get lost and die from the elements not 3 miles from their vehicle? Was this murder, perhaps the result of a vendetta against them? Were they murdered by a cult or drug dealers? Or were there other mysterious forces beyond our comprehension at work here? These are questions to which the answers remain in the murk, beyond our abilities to find them. We can only wonder and hope that maybe at some point we will get some new shred of evidence to cast light into the shadows surrounding the case. Until then, it seems the case of the Jamison family deaths will remain just as inscrutable and confounding as it has always been.