One year ago, on what was a hot Saturday morning, the lifeless body of a homeless man living in Shawnee was found under the Beard Street bridge.
Alan Branscum, 54, who was originally from Arkansas, was living homeless in the Shawnee area when he was killed.
His body was found in downtown Shawnee on the morning of Aug. 6, 2011.?
Shawnee police detectives, who have followed many leads as part of the case, canvassed the area in the hours, days and weeks following the murder. They’ve since interviewed countless homeless residents to find tips, and also have formally interviewed many at police headquarters.
But Brancsum’s death — ruled a homicide from blunt force trauma — remains unsolved.
As police continue their probe, family members who live in Arkansas await word on some progress in the case in hopes of bringing closure and healing to their family.
Branscum’s sister-in-law, Linda Branscum, said she has fond memories of him playing his guitar and singing.
“He was a sweet and kind man who would not hesitate to help anyone who needed help,” she said. “It's hard to think about what he went through before he died.”
While she said the family knows he was alone, they wonder if he suffered at the hands of his killer.
“I pray that God took him quickly — it is so hard for me to understand how someone could do that to another human being,” she said. “There has to be someone out there that knows something. I pray it is someone that will finally decide they can't live with knowing who did this and will come forward.”
Police detectives have said a possible motive in this case could have been robbery as they believe Branscum may have had money from cashing a social security check.
Sondra Gammill Cownie, one of Branscum’s first cousins, said they were close in age and played a lot together as children.
“To think that he was robbed and murdered the way he was is almost more than a family member who knew and loved him can comprehend,” Cownie said. “Knowing Alan the way I did, I am sure that whoever did this cowardly, hideous deed was probably first befriended by Alan. Alan was more than likely trusting of this person or persons, and he was taken advantage of. That thought is hard to bear.”
Cownie, who said the family hopes the case can be solved, said, “Alan was one of the nicest, most giving people anyone would ever meet — he had a witty personality and an easy smile.”
And while Branscum was homeless, Mark Gammill, also a cousin to Branscum, said he deserves justice.
“I know that as a homeless man, it would be easy for Alan to just become a statistic and easily forgotten about since he lived as he did,” Gammill said. “Each time I hear of the death or murder of a homeless person, I think of Alan…they are not nameless or faceless people of no value.”
Gammill said it’s been the prayer of Branscum’s family that his killer or killers would have been caught and brought to justice by now.
“I am grateful for all the work that law enforcement has done trying to solve this case and would ask on behalf of the family that they would continue to do so,” he said.
Cownie said they try to remember the good memories and hope that police leave no stone unturned.
“Alan was a real person. He had kids. He has a family that grieves for his loss and the senseless and violent ending to his life,” Cownie said. “He didn't deserve it, and I hope that the case doesn't go cold….the only thing left we can do for Alan is be his voice.”
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz said Branscum’s case remains an open investigation and detectives continue to follow any leads in the case.
“There’s been nothing solid at this point,” Frantz said.
Gammill hopes that anyone in the community with knowledge of what happened to Branscum will contact police and help them solve this case.
Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers, 405-273-0989.