For 9 years, this case has been heavily debated amongst Internet sleuths and throughout the true crime community. Even to this day, there is so much uncertainty surrounding it. There are so many questions that will likely never be answered. It’s just about as wacky and weird as they come.
The case I’m referring to is the disappearance of the three members of the Jamison family, Bobby (44), Sherilynn (40) and Madyson (6), from Panoloa Mountain, Oklahoma, in October, 2009. It was not until November 2013 that the remains of the three (by then badly decomposed and skeletonised) were discovered, side-by-side, facedown in the dirt.
Before the Disappearance
From what I could tell from reading about this case, was that the Jamisons were not ones to shy away from unconventionality. Shortly before they disappeared, they began researching area where they could buy land, which they would use as the foundation for building their new lives, escaping their home of Eufaula, Oklahoma. What they found was a 40-acre plot of land on Panola Mountain, OK.
The Jamison’s home life was in turmoil leading up to their disappearance. Bobby suffered from chronic back pain caused by a car accident in 2003, which badly affected his mood. Sherilynn had bipolar disorder, for which she was prescribed medication, but did not take regularly. This resulted in her lashing out at those around her and caused bouts of severe depression. For these reasons, Bobby and Sherilynn’s marriage was strained. It was believed that this was one of the main reasons for their plans to move away, have a fresh start, and hopefully another chance at happiness.
The Jamisons were extremely private. Often times even those closest to them did not know what was really going on in their lives. Both Bobby, and more Sherilynn, were very religious and heavily involved in spirituality. However, the two were paranoid that their home was being invaded by spirits. They became acquainted with the preacher, whom they confided in regarding their concerns. Sherilynn believed that spirits were coming in and talking to Madyson, as Madyson was talking regularly to somebody called Emily who was not there. However, this was likely a coping mechanism for Madyson do deal with the turmoil in her home life. Bobby had his own concerns over spirits, asking the preacher if he knew of somewhere he could purchase ‘special bullets’ to shoot the several spirits that were residing on the roof of their house. Bobby also owned a copy of the Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, which he planned to attempt to use to exorcise evil spirits from the home.
A storage container sat on the Eufaula property, which the Jamisons planned to bring with them when they started their new life; supposedly, the idea was that they would live in it until they had built their actual home on top of the mountain. The storage unit drew the attention of the Jamison’s neighbours in Eufaula, due to the graffiti Sherilynn has sprayed on it - Sherilynn believed she was a witch and told neighbours this. She also performed séances with her friend Niki Shenold, although Niki admitted that she herself did not really take the séances all that seriously, while Sherilynn, on the other hand, did. On the storage unit, Sherilynn had written strange ramblings about her ‘black cats being poinsoned’ and that ‘witches did not like it when their cats were killed’. She was convinced that someone from the neighbourhood had killed her cats, and did not hold back from letting people know about it. Unsurprisingly, this made neighbours very uncomfortable, and they did their best to avoid the family at all costs. In the end, this worked out well for Sherilynn, as she really just wanted to be left alone.
Several weeks before the disappearance of the family, the couple decided to take in a male boarder to help with heavy lifting around the house, given Bobby’s back pain. Soon after moving in, however, the boarder began to make Sherilynn increasingly tense. Sherilynn confided in Niki that while Bobby was out, the boarder had sat down next to her on the couch, got up close to her face, and told her that he was a white supremacist and was disgusted by her because of her Indian blood; Sherilynn was part Native American. Feeling extremely uncomfortable, Sherilynn fled to another room, where she retrieved a gun. On her return, she pointed it at the man’s head, telling him to “get off the property and never come back”. He refused to leave, which increasingly upset Sherilynn. To scare him off, she shot several rounds of bullets at his feet, eventually forcing him out. Sounds like a charmer, no? He sounds like someone who might hold a grudge and wish harm on the Jamisons, however, when the FBI managed to track him down and question him about the disappearance, he had a solid alibi, and was ruled out as a suspect. Go figure.
Disappearance of the Jamison Family
October 16th 2009. According to family and friends of the Jamisons, it was not uncommon for the them to disappear for several days without really notifying anyone. The Jamisons enjoyed solitude and nature, often breaking away from reality to seek it out. Which was why, when they had not been seen or heard from for several days, no one was particularly alarmed. On top of this, the family had informed Madyson’s school that they would be withdrawing her, as they were moving away, hence why the school never asked after her.
Eight days after anyone had last seen or heard from the Jamisons on the 8th, hunters reported an abandoned truck on the top of Panola Mountain and reported it to police, who determined that it belonged to the Jamisons. The truck was locked and it appeared that all of the family’s possessions, including their dog Maisy, were inside. Maisy was miraculously still alive, but extremely malnourished, having not eaten for a number of days. Authorities freed Maisy from the truck, bringing her to live with Bobby’s mother.
Police recovered a number of personal items, including their cell phones, Sherilynn’s purse and Bobby’s wallet from the truck. The police figured that the family must be lost somewhere in the woods, as the trees atop Panola Mountain are incredibly dense, the terrain uneven and difficult to navigate. Here, police used Bobby and Sherilynn’s cell phone GPS coordinates to map out the family’s movements. The GPS led them up a hill, where they discovered small footprints that clearly belonged to Madyson.
Once they arrived at the top of the hill, they discovered a picture on one of the cell phones that had been taken of Madyson. It is difficult to read her expression in the picture; opinions are somewhat divided regarding her emotions when the picture was taken. While some say she looks as though she’s about to start laughing, others say quite the opposite, that she’s about to cry. It is even believed by some that the photo was not taken by either of her parents, because she is not smiling in the photo, and the way her arms are positioned suggest she was uncomfortable. I personally don’t see the picture as a particularly strong piece of evidence, given that it’s pretty hard to tell from the photo what she’s thinking. I feel like if someone she was afraid of or felt threatened by was taking the picture, she would have looked downright scared. I just don’t think a six-year old girl would try to mask these kinds of emotions.
The police believed that the family spent around 15 minutes at the top of the mountain before making their way back down to the truck. However, this is where the mystery really begins, as no one knows what happened after that. The police conducted a massive search the next day, the 17th, involving search dogs, over 100 law enforcement and members of the public, on the ground and in helicopters. However, they failed to locate the family.
Police continued to search the truck for more clues as to what may have happened. They did, in fact, discover a number of promising leads. Under the front seat of the truck was a bag containing $32,000 in cash. They also discovered an extremely hostile and hateful 11-page long letter written by Sherilynn to Bobby. The letter expressed that Sherilynn felt that Bobby did not care for his family and did not need them, criticising Bobby for being a ‘hermit’.
November 16th 2013
About 3 miles away from the spot the truck was discovered, the bodies of Bobby, Sherilynn and Madyson were discovered. By now they were skeletons, and although people suspected right away that the bodies belonged to the family, this had to be confirmed by the Oklahoma medical examiner. In July 2014, the bodies were confirmed as being the Jamisons. They were so decomposed though, that the medical examiner was unable to confirm a causes of death. Bobby, however, was discovered to have a small hole in the back of his skull, which may well have been from a bullet.
What happened to the Jamison Family?
There are a number of theories out there as to what happened to the Jamisons. Here I’m just going to go over the most popular theories that continue to come up over and over again…
So, the best theory to start with is probably murder-suicide. Authorities began to consider this seriously when they discovered Sherilynn’s long and hate-filled letter to Bobby, and her volatile episodes that occurred to due her bipolar disorder. Another highly concerning thing is that Sherilynn was known to always carry a .22 pistol with her. However, there was no sign of the pistol in the truck when police searched for it. Nor was it anywhere to be found in the house. But if it was a murder suicide, what happened to the gun? It was not found near the bodies when they were discovered. Friends and family of the Jamisons are opposed to this theory, acknowledging that although Sherilynn and Bobby’s marriage was strained, they really did love each other and that Sherilynn could never do that to her family.
Friends and family, particularly Sherilynn’s friend Niki, supports the idea that the Jamisons were kidnapped. As there was no sign of a struggle of any kind around the truck, this may suggest that the Jamisons were led away from the truck at gunpoint. This theory is backed up the fact that the Jamisons left all their possessions in the car, even Maisy the dog, whom Madyson brought everywhere with her. The fact the Jamisons left their phones and wallets in the truck suggests they may have been forced to leave the truck in a hurry, not having time to gather any of their belongings. I think this is pretty plausible actually, given that, for the most part, people bring their phones and money everywhere with them, regardless of how long they plan to be gone. I feel like it would have had to have been a pretty desperate situation for them to leave all their personal possessions and Maisy in the car.
The Jamisons had surveillance cameras set up on the front of their house, which Bobby’s mother had had installed. The reason for this, as Bobby’s mother explained, was that she, Bobby and Sherilynn had been threatened by Bobby’s father, Bob, who was supposedly involved with drugs, gang activity and other sketchy stuff. Bobby filed for a protective order against his father, in order to protect he and his family. However, Bobby’s father was actually in a nursing home during the time of the disappearance…so in the end, it’s doubtful he personally had anything to do with their disappearance.
The surveillance cameras were used to record anyone who might have been trying to enter the house. Investigators looked at the video recorded from the day of the Jamison’s disappearance and discovered a video of the Jamisons packing their truck to leave, supposedly in a ‘trance-like state’. This brought about interest because of the number of times Bobby and Sherilynn went to and from the house carrying boxes back and fourth. They also never spoke to or acknowledged one another while packing the truck. This led people to wonder whether the ‘trance-like state’ may be drug induced, in this case meth, given how prominent the drug is in the area. I always thought that meth made a person hyperactive, more stimulated and aggressive, which appears to the opposite of how the Jamisons are acting in the video…on discovery of the video, the police searched the truck and the Jamison’s Eufaula home for traces of meth, of which they found none.
The $32,000 cash brings up, once again, the question of drugs. Was the money a part of a drug deal which went horribly wrong, resulting in the murder of the family? Again, a plausible theory I think. The Jamison’s friends and family said the family had no involvement with drugs, but given how private the family were, how well did anyone really know them?
There is also the suggestion that the Jamison’s may have been involved in a cult, or planned to move to the area to join a cult, but when they got there, perhaps they were the victims of some sort of cult ritual.
It’s all very strange and I feel like we’ll never really know what exactly happened to the Jamisons. Did anyone really know them at all? I think there was so much more to them than they ever revealed to their family or friends. Perhaps if they had been more open, their lives would not have ended in such a terrible and mysterious manner. Again, I just don’t know. I loved researching and writing about this case though. If anyone has any ideas or theories about what might have happened, please shoot them my way!
Also, some very good recommended listening for this episode:
Generation Why, Episode 217
Disappeared, ‘Paradise Lost’ – Season 2, Episode 10