BIG SPRING, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – It’s been 20 years since a Big Spring man went missing without a trace. With no leads, no suspects, and contaminated evidence, the family of Arlin Bynum has been left with no answers on where their loved one is.
“I was a police officer for 25 years and this is the only unsolved issue I have, or had. It’s very frustrating because you want to take care of these families but you keep hitting a brick wall,” said Former Texas Ranger for Howard County, Don Williams.
The story of Arlin Bynum’s disappearance began on August 14th, 2003.
Arlin was out with a couple of friends at the San Franciscan Bar and Restaurant on East 3rd Street in downtown Big Spring.
He hasn’t been heard from since that night…..
Rumors circulated that Arlin left the bar with another man, but to this day no one has identified who that is.
His truck was found parked across the street from the bar two days later, still in the same spot.
Arlin has not used his cell phone, credit cards, or accessed his bank account since.
“I went to all the bars and talked to waitresses and bartenders right after all this happened, nothing ever came out of it,” said Arlin’s Mother, Deanna Hartford.
“Rumors flew for years, usually the same names are involved, still involved today,” said Melody Phillips, Arlin’s best friend.
“Yes we did polygraphs, there were two people that failed, one of them I believe knows something about the case,” echoes Williams.
Don Williams is a retired Texas Ranger in West Texas. He worked on Arlin’s case for 5 years.
“I don’t know if they’re scared of the people that really did it, or if they just decided to go to their graves with it, but I’d hate to be the type of person that goes to their grave with this kind of thing,” said Williams.
His family also believes his sexuality may have played a role in his disappearance.
“He was ashamed of it, he didn’t want to be that way, he kept saying ‘Mother why did it have to be me?’ I had no answer for him,” said Hartford.
“I think he was looking to be accepted and make friends, and either it was a hate crime because he was gay, or it was drug-related because he did like to party, or maybe he just owed somebody some money. I don’t know but I do believe someone murdered him,” said Arlin’s Sister, Lorrie Bynum McCampbell.
Investigators even searched Arlin’s apartment and found no blood stains after an illuminant search. Reports also show whatever evidence, if any found was compromised by the local lab and was unusable.
The man who lives there now says he is familiar with the case.
“I am familiar he’s been missing for 20 years, I know there are suspects possibly, but beyond that, I just hope they can find him. I hope it gets solved, it would be sad if not. I believe in justice, and with justice comes getting caught and paying the consequences for it,” said Edwin Vela, who has lived in Arlin’s old apartment for the last 15 years.
Reports show investigators combed through nearby fields and pastures.. Even emptied an oilfield battery, But have yet to turn up any solid leads.
The Texas DPS aircraft looked at several areas in the county, along with using four-wheelers.
Detective Jim Rider who was assigned to the case at the time interviewed more than 100 people looking for answers.
But there was one constant rumor involving Arlin’s suspected death…
“Is that Arlin’s remains were hidden in an abandoned well. We don’t know if it was a water well, a gas well, or an oil well. There was one that they actually took the cadaver dogs out and excavated it or pumped it and didn’t find anything,” said McCampbell.
It remains a mystery what happened that night, but everyone does have their own theories.
“Part of the reason is I think Arlin is probably buried somewhere, otherwise hunters or someone would’ve found his remains,” said Retired Ranger Williams.
“I always have hope that we’re going to find him one day, but I don’t get my hopes up when they bring in the cadaver dogs or the digging equipment,” said McCampbell.
“I’ve talked to the people that know, I just don’t know why these people would keep that kind of information to themselves, especially 20 years later,” said Williams.
Arlin’s court-ordered death certificate was made on May 15th, 2008. An interesting point to the family because a cause of death is listed. But with no evidence or remains found, how were investigators or those involved in filing this, sure of the way Arlin died. The date of death is listed as August 12th, but the date of injury is August 15th…. Adding another question to the minds of Arlin’s loved ones.
“We just want to give him a proper burial,” said Arlin’s Mother.
Arlin’s father died with no answers. His mother is hoping to bring her baby home to get closure herself.
“Please please tell us where Arlin is so we can bring him home and put him to rest before I die, I am not a well lady right now, and I would like to see my baby boy put to rest before anything happens to me,” said Hartford.
Many people in the community don’t want Arlin’s case to be forgotten.
“We thought after 20 years whoever knew something or was withholding something, would feel more comfortable this far in the future,” said Williams.
“20 years ago money was really tight, and there was a big reward, my family put up $10,000 dollars. Nobody spoke up. That to me says that they are scared,” said Arlin’s Sister.
“I think the only thing you can do is go back and start interviewing those people again, maybe take direction on who we thought knew something,” said Williams.
The family hired Tom Finley Investigations to conduct a private investigator on Arlin’s case. They refused an interview with us.
We also reached out to each person listed as a suspect in any report on Arlin’s disappearance.
The only response we received was from a local man who at one point Howard County deputies searched his family’s property for any sign of Arlin, but ended instead in firearms charges.
He sent a statement saying quote, ‘Police continue to harass me and my family once again about a person we never knew in this town. My condolences to the family of that guy, I’ve prayed numerous times that they figure this out so the family can have some closure’.
We reached out to Big Spring Police as well, who also declined to speak with us about this case.
If you have any information on this case, you will stay completely anonymous, and reach out to crime stoppers or Big Spring Police directly.
There is a reward available as well.