The Unexplained Disappearance Of Gerald Leroy Bingham

The Unexplained Disappearance Of Gerald Leroy Bingham

Fort Smith, Arkansas, resident Gerald Bingham was just over one month shy of his 70th birthday the last time neighbors saw him alive.

A Trip To Talahina, Oklahoma

A slight rain hung in the air as Gerald's neighbors watched him climb into his maroon 1998 Buick Regal. It was 2am. The 69 year old had advised that he was making a 70 mile trip to Talahina, Oklahoma, and would return by 5:30am that same morning. Bingham never eluded to the purpose for his trip and left a trail of mysteries in his wake as he pulled out of the driveway.

A Foreboding Landscape

Gerald's car, dog and diabetic supplies were soon located on Cavanal Mountain, near Poteau, Oklahoma. There was no sign of Gerald or the .22 caliber handgun bearing the serial number AT039253 believed to be in his possession. And while there were no signs of foul play in or around the area where Gerald's vehicle was located, it had taken some work to get it there. Found approximately two miles from the nearest paved road, authorities had difficulty reaching the Buick in 4-wheel-drive SUVs. A bulldozer would eventually need to clear a path through the terrain to get Gerald's Buick back to the road.

Cavanal Hill

Dubbed the "World's Highest Hill", Cavanal Mountain is a foreboding landscape littered with abandoned mine shafts, caves and other dangerous deterrents. These natural oddities have played a part in many missing persons cases and deaths over the years. In a strange twist of fate one of the several people who lost their lives to the area was a friend of Detective David Williams, who was assigned to Bingham's missing persons case. The boy fell into one of the many mine shafts in the area and was essentially suffocated to death by the high levels of methane gas found below the earth's surface.

A Witness

A witness was located who said he had given Gerald Bingham a ride into a nearby town before leaving him once again at his vehicle on the mountain. Authorities from several agencies spent days searching the treacherous terrain for Bingham to no avail. Gerald's Airedale terrier was located on the mountain weeks after his vehicle was located. Subsequent searches and leads have produced no additional clues to Bingham's fate.

Gerald Leroy Bingham was born in Yuba, California, on July 25, 1930, and would be 90 years old in 2020 if still alive.  He stood 5'8", weighed approximately 170 pounds, and had grey hair and blue eyes at the time his nephew reported him missing on June 17th, 2000.

Missing Person Agency Contacts

Those with additional public information or contacts related to this article please contact us. Persons with information regarding the whereabouts of Gerald Bingham or the circumstances surrounding his disappearance are urged to contact the Fort Smith Police Department at (479) 785-4221 or (479) 7709-5116 or by email at missingpersons@fortsmithpd.org.

Thoughts & Theories

Our Thoughts & Theories section is meant to encourage our readers in producing new leads, ideas, methodologies and discussions regarding the cases described herein. Readers are encouraged to submit their own as well as additional information and sources regarding these cases.

 

  1. The details regarding Gerald's trip and its purpose in general seem vague, which is odd given the circumstances. Did the neighbors have reason to believe it was routine or normal for him to be leaving at that hour? What was his demeanor? What was he wearing and did it seem appropriate for the weather or like he may have dressed in a hurry? Did he usually wear glasses, and if so did he have them on that night? Did he routinely carry the .22 with him when he traveled or was it out of the ordinary for him to take it with on this trip?
  2. Talahina, Oklahoma, Gerald's destination, is 70 miles (about 1 hour 15 minutes) from Fort Smith, Arkansas. Gerald left at 2am and stated he would be back by 5:30am; apparently planning on arriving in Talahina around 3:30am and leaving by approximately 4:15am. That would have left approximately 45 minutes for Gerald to complete the purpose of his trip, whatever that may have been (that may be the second biggest mystery here). There's no mention of what time the Poteau resident picked up or dropped Gerald off in any sources I've seen so far.
  3. Poteau, Oklahoma, is 33 miles from Fort Smith along OK-112, about a 39 minute drive. To get to Talahina, Gerald would have needed to head southward on US-59 BYP at Poteau - however if Gerald had for some reason missed that turn and traveled another 10 minutes west on OK-112 he would have come directly to the base of Cavanal Hill. This still brings us back to the question of how & why he continued driving his Buick almost two miles through 4-wheel terrain, given the fact that he probably would have realized he was on the wrong road had he traveled to Talahina in the past.
  4. The witness stated that he gave Gerald a ride into town, then returned him to his vehicle on Cavanal Hill. What did Gerald do while in Poteau-especially if this was still in the early morning hours? How long did he take? It sounds like Gerald didn't procure a tow-truck or other aid while he was in town, which leads one to believe that he either wasn't looking for help or that he called someone personally. If Gerald was on his way to meet someone that night and became stuck his first call may have been to whoever was waiting on him in Talahina; that person offering to come pick him up or help might have been reason enough not to call a tow truck.
  5. When the witness dropped him back off was Gerald's car in the same location authorities found it in? If so, did the witness leave Gerald at his car or did he drop him off at the start of the two mile trail where it was located? Did Gerald appear to be having any kind of medical issues or seem confused? Given that the area where Gerald disappeared is known for mine shafts and cave systems, it would make sense to see if any maps of mines in the area are still existing, and to confer with local spelunker groups regarding possible cave and cavern entrances Gerald could have fallen into.
  6. I've come across one or two theories online that Gerald left that morning with the intent of committing suicide, given the circumstances and the gun that was believed to be in his possession. But why would man intent on killing himself take his diabetic supplies and beloved dog with him? His dog was later found roaming Cavanal Hill, meaning either Gerald let him out of his car or someone else did - was his dog with him when the witness saw him? If not, were the vehicle's door's locked when authorities found it? Another theory is that Gerald had the gun on him when he disappeared - or possibly when someone else picked him up.

Sources

The Charley Project - Gerald Leroy Bingham

NAMUS - Gerald Leroy Bingham - MP # 9741

The DOE Network - 5289DMAR - Gerald Leroy Bingham

Websleuths - AK - Gerald Bingham, 68, Poteau, 8 June 2000

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