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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Family remembers talents, smile of Shawnee's homeless homicide victim

  • Family members of the homeless Arkansas man found murdered under the South Beard Street bridge in Shawnee are remembering him as a talented artist, a free spirit and the relative who would show up for surprise visits with a grin on his face.


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  • Family members of the homeless Arkansas man found murdered under the South Beard Street bridge in Shawnee are remembering him as a talented artist, a free spirit and the relative who would show up for surprise visits with a grin on his face.
    Alan Wade Branscum, 54, was living homeless in the Shawnee area when his body was found under the bridge on the morning of Aug. 6.
    The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled cause of death as multiple injuries caused by blunt force trauma, with manner of death ruled a homicide.
    “Our family has been without contact with him for over a year, but we never stopped loving him or worrying about him,” his niece, Leah Branscum, said. “I have several uncles, but he was always one of my favorites growing up.”
    The family now awaits further word on the homicide investigation; Branscum has many relatives, with most living in Arkansas.
    Nephew Greg Branscum said his uncle started living as a homeless man and ventured to many areas.
    “It saddened me to learn of his murder...I hope they find and bring his executor to justice,” he said.
    Branscum’s former sister-in-law, Shelley Branscum, said he had many jobs in life and spent time in the U.S. Army in his younger years.
    “Whenever someone would ask him what he did in the Army, he would wink and grin and say, ‘I jumped out of airplanes’,” she said.
    He was known as a good photographer and talented painter, she said, and he learned to make wrought iron pieces that were both functional and artistic; he also did beautiful leatherwork. Branscum also enjoyed rodeoing, she said.
    “He was an excellent bull rider because he was small, wiry and very strong,” Shelley said.
    In more recent years, Shelley said Branscum began to have some health problems that limited his ability to do the things he had always enjoyed. She said he had a motorcycle that he loved to ride and would often be gone for long periods of time, camping and exploring. Branscum’s father died in April, Shelley said, but the family had no idea how to find him to let him know.
    “He had a strong independent spirit and was never happy being still or doing the same thing every day,” she said. “How he ended up in Shawnee I do not know, but my guess would be that he was out riding his beloved motorcycle and just stopped to see what was there.”
    While Shelley said many people may view the homeless as drunks, drug users or people too lazy to work, none of those things were ever true of Branscum.
    “He was a very hard worker until health problems slowed him down,” she said. “Some of life’s hard knocks dampened his enthusiasm and zest for life. As a result, he preferred to be alone.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Branscum would always show up for visits unexpectedly “with a big grin on his face” and sometimes had stories to tell, Shelley said.
    After hearing about her uncle’s death, Leah sent a note thanking Glenn Blankenship and the Shawnee Rescue Mission for anything and everything he and the program did to help Branscum.
    She said her uncle was a talented artist who was skilled in iron-works, painting, drawing and masonry. He also broke wild horses with her father many years ago, Leah said, and she remembers his smile, his talents and his spirit, adding he never stayed in one place too long. Greg said his uncle also enjoyed singing and playing music.
    Despite the loss of contact, “He was never forgotten and will always be loved,” Leah said.
    “What happened to him was atrocious,” his niece added.
    In the hours and days at the beginning of the probe, police investigating the case interviewed Shawnee’s homeless population to find out more about Branscum, who apparently camped under the Beard Street bridge.
    Branscum’s body was discovered about 10:46 a.m. Aug. 6 after a passerby reported smoke in the area. Firefighters and police responded to that area and located a campfire under the bridge, then noticed a body about 30 feet away.
    Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation technicians collected evidence at the scene. Results from many of those tests are being awaited by police.
    The homicide investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to called CrimeStoppers at 405-273-0989.

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