The Unsolved Disappearance of Brandon Lawson

In today’s society, where practically everyone owns a cell phone and a social media account that is relevant to news happening at any precise moment, it’s hard to contemplate modern crimes going unresolved, especially when it involves someone disappearing. Sadly, unexplained mysteries still occur. One such baffling mystery that has perplexed many online web sleuths is Brandon Lawson–a name that is synonymous with many words: Blue collared. Hard worker. Loving father. Family man. Loyal Husband. Missing.

Brandon Lawson and Ladessa

Brandon Lawson grew up in Crowley, Texas. When he was 16-years-old in high school, he met 15-year-old Ladessa Lofton. As soon as they met, they seemed destined for each other and have been together ever since, but like many relationships, there were rough patches. Nevertheless, the two always managed to work through the issues.

After high school, the couple lived in Fort Worth, Texas until early 2012 when they transitioned to San Angelo, Texas to start anew with their four children. By August 2013, life for the family had been going well, though they were dealing with normal eustress. They were still adjusting to their new living arrangments, and in order to provide for the family, Brandon proudly worked as an oil field worker for Renegade Oil Services–often performing arduous overtime hours. This was only temporary, however, as Brandon had recently passed a drug test for a new job he had lined up and would be starting soon, which excited him and Ladessa because the job was more stable with accommodating work hours.

Brandon Lawson Job

On the evening of Thursday, August 8, 2013, things were going seemingly well. Brandon had been away for the majority of the afternoon, but once he returned home he and Ladessa got into an argument — a typical spout most couples have at one point; brought upon by raising four children, one of whom was a newborn baby battling an ear infection, money, bills, and because Brandon didn’t come home the previous night. Staying out all night put a lot of worry and stress on Ladessa because she thought Brandon may have partaken in drugs — something he had trouble with in the past and dealt with a recent relapse.

After the quarrel, Brandon grabbed his keys, wallet, cell-phone, and wall-charger and decided to leave home at approximately 11:53 p.m. Although being low on gas, he called his father asking if he could stay with him for the night, despite his residence being three hours away in Crowley, Texas. His father, Brad, obliged but urged Brandon to reconsider and return home to mend things with Ladessa since it was late and a long exhausting drive. From that point forward, everything turns muddled (with a confusing timeline that doesn’t entirely make sense).

Seven minutes after Brandon left home, Ladessa called him to reconcile their differences. It’s unclear on what exactly was exchanged during the conversation, but Ladessa suggested that if he was still angry and didn’t want to come home, he should go to his brother’s home, who only lived five minutes away with his girlfriend Audrey and 4-year-old son, and spend the night there until everything had smoothed over. The discussion seemingly didn’t go as planned, because ten minutes later Ladessa called Brandon’s brother, Kyle, concerned for Brandon’s wellbeing, implying Brandon refused her notion.

Kyle Lawson.jpgAt 12:10 a.m. Kyle proceeded to drive to Brandon’s home to check on Ladessa and the children. Things had simmered down by then and after a brief talk, Kyle returned home. Brandon placed two phone calls to Ladessa approximately twenty minutes later at 12:34 a.m. and 12:36 a.m. but she didn’t answer.

Two minutes later at 12:38 a.m. Brandon called his brother. He stated that his truck ran out of gas on Highway 277 near Bronte, Texas, and he needed assistance. A few minutes later Kyle called Ladessa and told her about the situation unfolding. She replied she would leave a gas can on the front porch for him to pick up because she was going to let her phone charge in her vehicle and to take a bath.

Subsequently, both Kyle and Audrey drive over to retrieve the gas can for Brandon at 12:45 a.m. Initially, Kyle planned to purchase the gas for him, but his paycheck hadn’t transferred into his bank account yet so the plan was to meet up and carhop to the nearest gas station, the Stripes Convenience Store, roughly five miles away from Brandon’s location. This is where things take a very confounding and unexpected turn that has yet to be explained.

At 12:48 a.m. Brandon attempted to call Ladessa for the third time but she doesn’t respond. Six minutes later at 12:54 a.m. a nursing home located in Robert Lee, Texas, receives a frantic .43 seconds long 911 Emergency phone call from Brandon.

Side note: Throughout the course of the conversation, there are several pieces of dialogue that are incoherent. Many people have attempted to piece together the missing links. Here is a transcript of the phone call with additional side notes to help unravel things more clearly.

Operator: 911 Emergency.

Brandon: Yes, I’m in the middle of a field [Unintelligable – Escaped? We?] just pushed some guys over. We’re out here going towards Abilene on both sides. My truck ran out of gas. There’s one car here. A guy’s [chasing me?] through the woods. Please hurry!

Operator: Okay. Now run that by me one more …

Brandon: [Talking over the operator]: There’ll be no talking to ’em. I accidentally ran into ’em.

Operator: Oh, you ran into them? Okay.

[Background noise: Detective?]

Brandon: [Unintelligable – Shot?] the first guy.

[Background noise: Gunshots?]

Operator: Do you need an ambulance?

[Background noise: Unintelligable]

Brandon: Yeah! No, I need the cops.

Operator: Okay. Is anybody hurt?

Brandon: [Unintelligable – Crap?]

Operator: Hello? Hello? Hello?

From this point onward, Brandon doesn’t respond to the operator, but the background noise seems to get closer to the phone. It’s unknown what truly transpired, but things only continue to grow more baffling.

Four minutes after the phone call, a passing truck driver notices an abandoned pick-up truck with the license plate 76L-SY8 parked haphazardly on the highway and informs 911 about the issue.

When Kyle and Audrey arrive at Brandon’s pickup truck on the desolate stretch of highway twelve minutes later at 1:10 a.m., they are surprised to see Deputy Neal from the Coke County Sheriff’s Office, who arrived at the same time from the opposite direction for unbeknownst reasons to them. Both parties didn’t see any vehicles or suspicious activity on the highway on their way to Brandon’s truck.

At the time, Kyle and Audrey had no reason to be concerned for Brandon’s safety. They initially assumed he was hiding in nearby bushes because he had an outstanding warrant for an old drug charge for possession with the intent to deliver in Johnson County that resulted in a hefty fine that Brandon and Ladessa were saving up money to pay. As a result, they made several attempts to contact Brandon and finally managed to get ahold of him, unknowingly to Deputy Neal. Brandon promptly mentioned he was ten minutes away in a field and bleeding, and requested to get to him quickly. The signal soon faded away and the phone call ended. Immediately afterward at 1:19 a.m. Audrey texted Brandon saying, “Hey, bro, the cops are at your truck,” but he never responded. Believing things were still okay, Kyle told Deputy Neal he was on his way to deliver a gas can for Brandon because his truck ran out of gas, but wasn’t certain where Brandon had gone.

Meanwhile, Deputy Neal does a quick search of Brandon’s pick-up truck. Despite the odd positioning, there had been no damage dealt on the exterior, and all the doors were unlocked. Inside, the truck seats were empty, along with the keys and Brandon’s wallet. Due to the truck being parked unsafely, Neal turned on Brandon’s hazard lights, locked the doors, and ordered a tow to pick up the truck at 8:00 a.m. and proceeded to leave the scene without running Brandon’s license plate.

Once Deputy Neal was out of view, Kyle and Audrey tried contacting Brandon via cell phone but he never responded. Their worries started growing as they walked around shouting his name and drove slowly up and down the highway hoping to see him. Kyle eventually called a few acquaintances from work to help look for him but to no avail. They called off the search at 3:00 a.m. because Brandon’s cell phone had completely stopped ringing — indicating it had been shut off or had no battery power. Before leaving for home, Kyle put the gas can in the bed of Brandon’s truck just in case Brandon returned but he intended to return once the sun rose and his paycheck cleared.

On the way home, Kyle called Ladessa to inform her he couldn’t locate Brandon, but she didn’t get the message until 4:30 a.m. when she finally retrieved her phone from her vehicle. It was at that moment she noticed several missed phone calls from Brandon and Kyle. The fear began to sink in and she called the local police station at 5:00 a.m. to see if any updates had been made but there hadn’t been. Two hours later at 7:00 a.m. Kyle’s paycheck finally entered his bank account and he returned to Brandon’s truck to fill it up with gas. By 8:30 a.m. the truck was towed off, and since there hadn’t been any word from Brandon, Deputy Neal went back to Brandon’s last known whereabouts that afternoon to check nearby homes and land for possible signs of someone being in the area but he was unable to recover anything.

With a lack of contact from Brandon — something very uncharacteristic of him regardless of the circumstances — his family started to grow increasingly worried. Stricken with guilt, Kyle contacted the authorities and mentions the phone call Brandon made claiming he was bleeding while they were present with Deputy Neal. Notwithstanding, Brandon’s family were still unaware Brandon placed a distressed 911 phone call fifteen minutes before Kyle, Audrey, and Deputy Neal arrive at the scene.

Two days later on August 11, 2013, a small search was conducted for four hours without any signs of Brandon. With a lack of any pivotal updates, the consensus amongst Texas Rangers was that Brandon, if alive, is no longer in Coke County. According to Deputy Neal, he’s of the mindset that Brandon made his way back to the highway and got picked up by a passing motorist. These statements, along with other misleading information, were published in the local media publication, “The Observer Enterprise” by Melinda McCutchen, the wife of Sheriff Wayne McCutchen. It’s unclear whether or not these misconceptions are simply a minor error or if they are deliberate, but the information being told to the public can lead to possible muddled tips and leads, and family members of Brandon have shown their disdain for such publishings.

The following day on August 12, 2013, Ladessa was able to retrieve Brandon’s phone records. While she was combing through them, hoping to find some clue or epiphany to where Brandon may be, it was made evident that he placed a 911 phone call shortly before vanishing. Rightfully so, she and her family made their contempt and dissatisfaction known for law enforcement concealing this fact.

After several days had gone by without any contact or update on Brandon, Ladessa filed Brandon Lawson Missing Postera missing person’s report on Tuesday, August 13, 2013, and used the very little money she had to hire private investigator Paula Boudreaux and Texas Ranger Nick Hanna to perform a private aerial search for Brandon. The search also included a handful of friends and family to walk around the vast area where Brandon’s truck was abandoned but the results turned up empty.

Multiple subsequent searches were attempted near the private property where the truck was located but the landowners only permitted limited access which was inadequate for a thorough search, though Ladessa made it abundantly clear that if she was not granted access she would use a helicopter to continue searching above anyway.

One week after Brandon mysteriously disappeared, an official search was conducted by law enforcement on Tuesday, August 16, 2013. The search consisted of aerial coverage with infrared lights, search dogs, and more, but nothing was gleaned. Another search was performed two weeks later on Thursday, August 29, 2013 — this time with large investigative units including the Coke County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, Highway Patrol, Search and Rescue. They covered over 2,500 acres, but once again nothing was discovered during this extensive search.

After the second official search, Ladessa quit her job and relocated with the children back to Fort Worth, Texas, closer to her relatives because money was an issue and the lease for her home was up, so her family wanted to help her with the children and get back on solid ground through the difficult circumstances.

Nonetheless, despite the turmoil and the long move back home, she continues to be highly persistent in pursuing answers to her husband’s whereabouts. Though she hasn’t been able to assist with boots on the ground searches — with subsequent searches occurring two months later on Thursday, October 24, 2013, and three more in the early months of 2014, where no answers were uncovered — she has created a “Help Find Brandon Lawson” Facebook page to help garnish attention and spread awareness, along with a website ran by family members titled “Missing Brandon Lawson,” where all the information you need to know can be located there.

A few months after Brandon disappeared, Kyle Lawson was considered a suspect and was brought in for questioning. He was asked if he and his brother got into an argument, and whether or not he had injured Brandon in some fashion or had given him a lift to somewhere. Knowing where the investigators were heading in their questions, Kyle willingly asked for a polygraph test. Unsurprisingly, he passed with flying colors.

Since then, no updates have been made since Brandon’s initial disappearance. Many in law enforcement are still adamant that Brandon Lawson is not in Coke County, because if he was in the vicinity to where he disappeared he would have been located. At the time, the rough terrain was suffering from a drought and the water in the river had been very low. All of this, combined with the technology and equipment provided for multiple searches, leaves them believing Brandon is elsewhere.

Brandon’s family aren’t satisfied with law enforcement’s conclusion, but they are all left with one question that remains unanswered: Is he alive or deceased, and if so, where? What is known is that there has been no activity from Brandon’s Motorola Droid Razr cell phone or his bank account. They don’t believe that he would voluntarily disappear and start fresh; it’s simply not characteristic of him to abandon his family, especially his children, because even though some facets of his life at the time were darkened, there were many visible positives just around the corner.

Regardless of the lack of answers and updates, Brandon Lawson’s case is one that has attracted many various resources in the true crime genre on the Internet, including web sleuths, Redditors, podcasters, and blogs. People of these communities have rallied together to support the Lawson family and to share the case with others in order to perpetuate new eyes and ears.

Brandon Lawson CrossThe journey hasn’t gotten easier even five years later for Ladessa and her children. Each birthday and Christmas, the kids ask for their father, and every passing year without updates is another heartbreak. Nonetheless, Brandon Mason Lawson’s memory still lives on with his infectious smile and goofy attitude emanating from his children. Though he has been absent for a long time, there is a red and white cross placed in the ground where his truck was last seen, not to represent despair; rather a memorial of hope that one day Brandon will return home safe and sound.

Sources

Missing Brandon Lawson

Brandon Lawson – Five Years Later

Help Find Brandon Lawson Facebook

Author’s note: I’ve been quiet for nearly two months since my last blog post. I needed to take a step back for a while. For the last couple of years I haven’t spent much time hanging out with friends or even doing fun activities during the summer months. It’s been five years since I’ve last gone swimming, hiking or camping (I’m not exaggerating). Due to that, I wanted to simply get away from the Internet and enjoy the outdoors — to recharge my batteries, so to speak. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon with more material in a much more consisent timeframe. 

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The Mysterious Disappearance of the Fort Worth Three

How can someone vanish without a trace? That’s a question that’s difficult to fathom. On the week of Christmas in Fort Worth, Texas, three young women disappeared while shopping at the local mall. What should have been a joyous time to relax and spend the winter break with friends and family, three families spent their holiday desperately searching for their loved ones and praying for a miracle, yet with every passing day, their hope diminished. The whereabouts of the three women are still unknown. This is the enthralling unsolved disappearance of Rachel Trlica, Lisa Wilson, and Julie Moseley.

FortWorthTrio

Mary Rachel Trlica was a 17-year-old senior in high school. She was a middle child and had an 11-year-old brother, Rusty Arnold and an older sister, 19-year-old, Debra Arnold. Though she was young, Rachel was married to 21-year-old Thomas Trlica and was living with him and his two-year-old son from a prior relationship.

Bizarrely, Thomas had been previously engaged to Rachel’s older sister, of whom was living with the couple due to a strained relationship with her then current boyfriend she had been residing with. Though the oddity of the personal relationships between them seemed uncomfortable from an outsider’s perspective, there was reportedly no awkward tension amongst them and they all got along well.

On the cold Monday morning on December 23, 1974, Rachel was planning on finishing up some last minute Christmas shopping. Not wanting to spend the afternoon alone, she asked Debra if she would like to come with her, but she declined. Rachel decided to contact her friend, 14-year-old Lisa Wilson and asked if she would like to join her. Lisa happily accepted the offer but inclined that she needed to be home by 4:00 p.m. because she had plans to attend a dinner party with her new boyfriend, Terry Moseley.

Terry Moseley was 15-years-old and had a younger sister, 9-year-old Julie Moseley. He lived adjacent to Lisa’s grandmother’s home, where she often visited when her mother was working at the dry cleaner’s. Moments before Rachel’s phone call to Lisa, Terry gained the courage to ask Lisa to be his girlfriend — whom she had a crush on for a long time — and was ecstatic when he offered a promise ring to promote his commitment.

Lisa asked if he would like to accompany them for the afternoon. He declined because he had prearranged plans, but he was excited to spend time with her at the party later that evening. Terry’s sister, Julie Moseley, asked if she could go with Rachel and Lisa because she didn’t want to spend all day alone at home. At the time, Rachel and Julie hadn’t known one another and due to this, Rayanne Moseley — Julie’s mother — was hesitant but since she trusted Lisa, she gave her consent after persistent nagging.

Rachel set out in her Oldsmobile 95 to pick Lisa and Julie up and the trio left the neighborhood at midday. Their first stop was to the local Army/Navy Surplus store so Rachel could pay off a few layaway items. Afterward, they visited Seminary South Shopping Center, where Rachel parked her vehicle on the upper-level near the Sears department. Unknowingly to them, this would be their final stop and their whereabouts are unknown.

When the three girls didn’t arrive home at the designated time, family members grew worried. Two hours later panic seeped in further and they decided to go to the mall themselves to search for them. They managed to find Rachel’s vehicle, but the girls were nowhere in sight despite extensive scouring throughout the mall’s interior and exterior layout.

The evidence suggested they had done quite a bit of shopping and made it back to the vehicle safe because Rachel’s car was locked numerous Christmas presents in shopping bags with receipts inside. Several family members continued searching for their loved ones at other varying locations while others remained at the shopping center with the hope of the girls returning, but they never arrived.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. they contacted Fort Worth Police Department to file a missing person(s) report. Law enforcement originally presumed two scenarios — either the girls had met up with acquaintances and would soon turn up or their disappearance was a purposeful runaway case despite no viable motive and the unfamiliarity between Rachel and Julie. With this determination, the investigation wasn’t properly handled, and they released Rachel’s car to her husband–neglecting to examine it for evidence and made no attempts to dust for fingerprints.

The following morning Rachel’s husband discovered a peculiar envelope with a letter in his mailbox that provided a glimmer of hope and sheer confusion. The return address couldn’t be determined because the zip code was smeared. From what was evident, the numbers seemed to spell out “76083,” but the number “3” was written backward. Family members assumed the “3” was actually an “8” which would lead to Weatherford, Texas, thirty-five minutes away. The other possibility was the zip code “76483” that would pinpoint Throckmorton, Texas — a small town two-hours away with a population of less than a thousand people.

Thomas Trlica letter
Image Source: Websleuths

As for the contents of the letter, the message was written in childish handwriting and stated, “I know I’m going to catch it, but we just had to get away. We’re going to Houston. See you in about a week. The car is in Sear’s upper lot. Love Rachel.” Rachel’s family members adamantly believe[d] the author was not Rachel for numerous reasons. First of all, her name had been misspelled and the writer seemingly tried fixing the error. Secondly, the family suggested the letter was too formal. It had been addressed to “Thomas A. Trlica,” but anyone acquainted with him always referred to him as “Tommy.” Lastly, handwriting experts inspected the letter and other writings produced by Rachel and the results were inconclusive. Years later when forensic science became more advanced, DNA was uncovered from the letter that did not belong to Rachel, Lisa, or Julie, and it’s unknown who’s it belongs to.

Once the disappearances were made known from local media outlets, eyewitnesses spoke with law enforcement claiming to have seen the girls in the mall throughout the afternoon. Multiple store clerks stated they appeared to be in a joyous mood. Other testimonies provided conflicting reports, however. In one particular account, a woman mentioned seeing several adult men luring the girls into a pickup truck on the upper-level parking lot. An additional witness asserted spotting the girls in a security patrol car that was making the rounds on the exterior of the shopping center near the Sears department. Other reports began trickling in from all over Texas; with people phoning in tips saying they witnessed the girls at various convenient and grocery shopping stores.

All of the latest testimonies presented contrary deductions law enforcement initially thought and valuable time evaporated. In turn, all of these potential leads were fully investigated but nothing tangible was able to be obtained.

Family members were progressively becoming infuriated with what they felt was inadequate police work, so in 1975 they hired a private investigator named Jon Swaim. With Swaim’s tenacity, he received many anonymous tips — one of which was in March of 1976 that took him five hours away to a bayou in Port Lavaca, Texas, where he was told he would locate the girls’ remains. An extensive search was conducted for multiple days but the effort proved fruitless and nothing of substantial worth was gleaned.

A few months later, Fort Worth Police Department received a phone call from a female psychic living in Hawaii. She told them they could find the girls’ remains at an oil well. Sadly, she didn’t specify where and for five years authorities were chasing their own tails until 1981 when an employee working at an oil company in Houston, Texas, unearthed three sets of skeletal remains. Hoping for a big break in the case, medical examiners performed rigorous testing and they concluded the remains did not belong to the missing women.

In 1979, hired investigator Jon Swaim passed away. The cause of death was ruled a suicide by a drug overdose, believed to be initiated by an awful divorce he was dealing with. Upon request via Swaim’s will, all of his research, discoveries, sources, and contacts were discarded. It’s unknown what kind of information he was able to procure during his three-year investigation.

Seven years after the girls disappeared, a new male witness came forward. He told law enforcement he observed an adult male pushing a [lone] girl into a van on the upper-level parking lot of the shopping center. Out of concern, he confronted the unidentified male and was promptly told to mind his own business because it was merely a family dispute. Law enforcement was unable to corroborate the validity of the story, but they did note the similarities from initial eyewitnesses.

Time continued to flow on, as well as the years, and throughout this time the Fort Worth Police Department received a fluctuation of tips and leads from locals, anonymous callers, and even psychics, but they were either unreliable or investigated exhaustively with no pivotal outcome. As a result, the case began to turn cold and remained stagnant for a long time.

Twenty years later in 1995, Rachel’s younger brother, Rusty Arnold — who was only 11-years-old at the time of his sister’s disappearance — communicated with private investigator Dan James to hire him for his service. This would be a decision that created turmoil amongst family members because it separated an already broken family further.

Interestingly, Dan had known about the case for a long time beforehand and had been conducting independent research prior to being contacted. James declined to accept any payment for any additional work because he was investigating purely out of kindheartedness; even offering a $25,000.00 reward of his own money to anyone who could provide pertinent information that would bring resolution to the case.

Throughout the years Rusty and James worked together they managed to unearth shocking information from sources they deemed credible. According to what they were told, Rachel was astonishingly alive and well; and has been purposefully kept away from Fort Worth, but manages to visit every Christmas since her mysterious disappearance, with the latest visit occurring in 1998. Additionally, the source(s) also shared the sentiment that Lisa Wilson and Julie Moseley had been murdered, though they didn’t how and who was involved.

Rusty and James pursued this appalling lead but they were unable to substantiate the claims, but this avenue led to family issues unraveling. According to Rusty, he believes his older sister Debra wrote the strange letter Thomas received the following morning when the girls disappeared and have more answers than she seems to suggest because she was uncooperative throughout the investigation and refused to take a polygraph test. This allegation was shared by some law enforcement officials and private investigator Dan James, of whom Rusty’s mother, Fran Langston, believes is tampering with Rusty’s mind.

Nevertheless, Debra maintained her innocence and in January of 2000, she spoke with Fort Worth’s newspaper, the Star-Telegram, and proclaimed she had nothing to hide. Debra’s public statement caused Rusty, Rayanne Moseley — Julie’s mother — and Lisa’s parents, Judy and Richard Wilson, to respond with a formal letter saying:

Dear Debra,

We read your statement in the Fort Worth’s Star Telegram on January 9, 2000. You indicated that you ‘had nothing to hide.’ If your statement is true, we beg and plead with you to fully cooperate with the Fort Worth Police Department and the FBI. Please complete the polygraph testing and answer all questions.

Debra, please keep in mind you also have a sister missing.

Respectfully,

Rayanne Moseley
Rusty Arnold
Judy Wilson
Richard Wilson

A resurgence in the case occurred in 2001 when detective Tom Boetcher took over the case. After holding a press conference, another witness named Bill Hutchins came forward detailing an interesting encounter he had with a security guard in a pickup truck as he was leaving the mall at 11:30 p.m. He and the guard conversed briefly, and while doing so he noticed three girls occupying the front seat of his vehicle. From his perspective, they were in good spirits — laughing and joking around with one another.

Law enforcement was skeptical of his testimony and asked why he didn’t report this sooner. Bill told the authorities he did notify them about the incident days after they disappeared but they didn’t follow up with him. Likewise, officers managed to locate the security guard, who denied all allegations pertaining to Bill’s story, though it was consistent with other witnesses at the time.

Subsequently, not an entire lot of substantial information has been released publically. It’s now been over forty years and though the case has seen its gloomy days, new progress is being made that allows hope for optimism. The main consensus amongst law enforcement is that whoever abducted Rachel Trlica, Lisa Wilson, and Julie Moseley — if that indeed is the case — were more than likely acquainted with one of them.

Over time, Rusty has mended the broken relationship he had with Debra, concluding she hadn’t any involvement in her sister’s disappearance. He continues to reside in the town he grew up in and works as a local roofing contractor, all the while admirably seeking answers, closure, and ultimately justice on a daily basis. Only time can tell, but Rusty believes the case will be solved.