For three full days this week, sheriff's investigators, using their hands, tools and even a backhoe, have searched a 10-acre property in Earlsboro in hopes of finding the remains of a local woman missing since 1983.
For three full day this week, sheriff's investigators, using their hands, tools and even a backhoe, have searched a 10-acre property in Earlsboro in hopes of finding the remains of a local woman missing since 1983.
That woman, Melody (Garton) Jones, was 19 years old when she disappeared in 1983, while her husband, Paul Jones, 20, was found dead in the couple's home.
And now — 34 years later — the homicide and missing person cases remains unsolved.
Pottawatomie County Undersheriff Travis Palmer has been actively working the cold case in hopes of bringing closure to the families.
New information that surfaced about a ruby ring — a possible connection to Melody — being found under a cedar tree years ago resulted in investigators obtaining a search warrant to look for other possible evidence. That search warrant commenced at 22383 Davis Drive, Palmer said, which is located south of SH 9 in Earlsboro.
The property is also about four miles away from the home that Melody and Paul shared back in 1983, Palmer said.
The intensive search involved a heavily wooded area, mostly covered in cedar trees.
“We searched by hand,” Palmer said, adding they crawled on their hands and knees in many areas and under many trees, while using a rake on cedar tree needles in many areas just to dig.
“We found several bones,” he said, which were all determined by the medical examiner to be non-human remains.
For the first two days, the tedious search netted nothing else so investigators brought in a dog to check the area as well. On the final day, Palmer said District 3 County Commissioner Eddie Stackhouse provided a backhoe to help in the search, so the dig continued as they looked for anything that could have belonged to Melody. Again, nothing was found.
The house on the property has been vacant for some time, Palmer said, and has changed owners many times since 1983. Still, investigators used every resource to conduct a search. Palmer said a neighbor near the search warrant property also gave consent to search that property as well, with nothing found there either.
Palmer, who took over this case seven years ago, was disappointed. He and all of the sheriff's office investigators, and even an attorney general's investigator, were part of the process and hoped it would be the lead they needed to solve this case.
After days of relentless searching and still finding nothing, Palmer admitted is was difficult to call off the search and leave.
“It was hard to drive away,” he said. “It was hard for all of us.”
But Palmer said they aren't giving up and promised this will remain an open case as long as Mike Booth is sheriff of Pottawatomie County.
“This case is still solvable,” he said. “There is still somebody about there who knows something.”
Their focus, he said, is to solve Paul's homicide and find out what happened to Melody.
“We still don't know what happened,” Palmer said, other than Paul was murdered and Melody is believed to be a victim of abduction.
And while some stories have theorized that Melody is still alive, Palmer said he believes they are looking for her remains.
“No evidence is taking us in any other direction,” the undersheriff said, adding, “1983 to now is a long time to hide...there is no evidence she is alive.”
While Melody's mother died many years ago, her siblings and other relatives have met with investigators concerning these latest developments.
Melody's sister, Rebbecca Cox, who was 11 years old in 1983, said the family also was disappointed nothing was found, but they are also ecstatic just knowing deputies are still working to solve this case and she hopes Melody's remains will be found someday. She said the family has a place of burial for Melody next to their mother when that time comes.
“We need closure...we need answers,” she said.
According to news archives, on May 4, 1983, Melody (Garton) Jones spent the day fishing with her family. Her 18-year-old brother gave her a ride home and dropped her off at the rural Earlsboro home she shared with her husband. He reportedly saw the door ajar with lights on inside.
On the morning of May 5, 1983, Melody didn’t show up for work at the Dairy Queen in Seminole. Her mother, now deceased, went to Melody’s home and discovered her son-in-law’s body. Melody wasn’t there, but all of her personal belongings, including her purse and eyeglasses, were found inside. The couple’s car was parked in the driveway.
The home, which has long since burned down following a grass fire, was in an area about one-half mile west of SH 9A on Benson Park Road.
At that time, Paul Abel was the sheriff of Pottawatomie County. His office, along with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, probed the case as a murder and kidnapping, news archives show. Deputies searched the area around the home on foot and horseback, covering 160 acres, while a search by helicopter covered a 6-square-mile area. They found no sign of Melody or any clues.
In recent years, remains found as far away as Kentucky have been ruled out as possibly belonging to Melody, Palmer said.
Palmer said they will continue to investigate and follow leads until this case is solved. He still believes someone out there has information that could complete the missing pieces of this puzzle.
“My job is to take me where the evidence takes me,” he said.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact Palmer, 405-273-1727.