Melvin Owens disappeared on April 27, 2016, without a trace. Not a footprint, a drop of blood, a note or a phone call.
Fourteen months later, his family is still waiting to hear what happened to him.
“Our family cannot and will not rest until we find out what happened to our loved one,” niece Janice Hampton said in a recent letter to the Commonwealth.
“I am pleading with anyone who knows anything to PLEASE come forth. What if it was your child, brother, uncle or dad? How can you rest if you know what happened and won’t say anything?”
Melvin Owens, known by many as “Turkey,” was last seen in Cruger at a club owned by a family named Lee. He went there often. He lived in a trailer park on U.S. 49 in Leflore County, a straight shot down the road. To get home late at night, his sister Marlean Hampton said, he had to make just one turn.
But when Owens left the club on April 27, his car somehow ended up on a dirt road off County Road 75 in Carroll County, a place Marlean Hampton said he never would have gone voluntarily.
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks said Owens’ car went past a hunting club that night and video was captured by a security camera.
“We had the car on camera going into the field but nothing going out,” he said. “It’s a strange case.”
It was not clear from the video footage whether anyone else was in the car with Owens. Banks said no foot tracks were found at the scene where the car was found, a remote location he’s familiar with because he has fished at a nearby lake.
“It’s a lot of assumptions that there’s a lake there full of alligators that he might have wandered into,” Banks said. “I’ve fished it, and it is full of them.”
Banks said he considers the case open and just a few weeks ago he was given information by someone close to the case, but “couldn’t do anything with it.
“I don’t consider it a closed case, but based on the information we got, it happened in Carroll or Holmes County,” Banks said. “If he was kidnapped, it happened in Holmes County. But if he got killed in Carroll County, it would be Carroll’s case.
“The problem is we don’t have a body or anybody who will admit to anything. When a case gets that cold, it’s hard to do anything with it.”
Holmes County Sheriff Willie March said his department is calling Owens’ disappearance a cold case.
“We were hoping some deer hunters or somebody would come across remains or something like that, but nobody did,” March said.
March and his deputies knew Owens, who had worked at Egypt Plantation before getting injured in a car crash that left him disabled about a year before he disappeared.
“Somebody saw him leaving Cruger and going toward Greenwood in the car,” March said. “The story in Cruger is they saw him heading that way.”
Owens’ car, however, didn’t end up anywhere near Greenwood or his Leflore County home.
Carroll County Sheriff Clint Walker said his department still considers Owens’ disappearance an open investigation.
“We’ve had no progress in the case, no leads on it,” he said. “There’s no search still going on in that area. We had several days of helicopters flying over, several hundred people walking the land, canines and all. We exhausted every resource we had looking for him and found nothing.”
Walker said professionals who know more about wildlife than he does have said that with the number of alligators and wild hogs on that land, “if he was lost in those woods, no remains would be found.”
But Marlean Hampton doesn’t believe that her brother was lost or that he would have willingly driven onto that dark dirt road at night. She theorizes that Owens was paid, cashed a check the day he disappeared and was robbed.
Hampton’s daughter Janice agrees that something bad likely happened to her uncle at the hands of another person, not any alligator.
“I hate to say this, but I think something really bad had to have happened to him, to disappear with no communication,” she said. “That’s just not him.”
Marlean Hampton said her brother never liked dirt roads. She said he had a solid mind and didn’t just wander off.
Both Hampton women said they wanted only to be assured that law enforcement had not given up on finding out what happened to Owens.
“Somebody knows what happened to my brother,” Marlean Hampton said. “I want them to just show us that they care, that they want to find out what happened to him.
“How can you stop looking for someone that has disappeared from the face of the earth?”
Janice Hampton said she hoped anyone with information about Owens’ disappearance would come forward to give her family, including Owens’ son and daughter who live in Sidon, some peace and closure.
Walker said he wished he could do more to help the family.
“We do have sympathy for the family and wish they could have closure. We know that’s what they’re looking for,” he said. “If anyone has tips, I wish they would please call the sheriff’s office in any of these counties.”
Anyone with information regarding Melvin Owens’ disappearance should call the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department at 834-1511, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department at 237-9284, the Leflore County Sheriff’s Department at 453-5141, or Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
• Contact Kathryn Eastburn at 581-7235 or email@example.com.