More than one year ago, I began researching the Mary Jimmie ‘Bobo’ Shinn disappearance, which as many readers know, is one of the most famous missing person cases in South Arkansas. The story took more than six months to write, and included countless interviews with investigators (both current and retired, both law enforcement and private), relatives, friends and area residents. It was, to say the least, a fascinating story, in part because the case itself is baffling. Bobo seemed to have disappeared into thin air, hence the headline we put on the series of articles that resulted: ‘Vanished: The Disappearance of Mary Jimmie ‘Bobo’ Shinn.’
The award-winning three-part series, which began with the morning of the disappearance and ended with the words of current Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe, may be the most widely-read story ever published by the Banner-News. Readers from across the globe requested copies of the three editions in which the story was printed, and even now, more than a year later, it remains the most clicked-on article on the Banner-News website. The article even resulted in a column by an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writer who interviewed me by phone about the story – in that column, I was quoted as saying that my goal is to someday write the final chapter to Bobo’s tale, and that goal has not changed.
Someday, I hope I will have the opportunity to reach it.
As someone who did not grow up in Magnolia and who had not, until my college years, ever heard Bobo’s story, I had no idea, going into that story, the amount of attention it would receive, but after hearing from so many readers with an interest in Bobo’s case, we decided to post the article – for free – on our website and to leave it there for 12 months . . . My hope was that the publicity surrounding the story would lead someone, anyone, to come forward with new information that may bring closure to the case and to Bobo’s family. Sadly, that has not yet happened, but I have not given up hope that one day, the case will be solved.
However, the time has come to take down Bobo’s story. It has been re-published a number of times, and even now, on multiple websites and various missing persons sites, versions of it remain available for those interested in the case. And of course, investigators remain hungry for leads in the case.
But before we remove the articles from our website, we want to give our readers one last opportunity, if they haven’t already, to read Bobo’s story, to share it with their friends and family, to spread the word that Bobo’s family still wants and hopes for a resolution to her case. If you have not read it, please do so now at the link here: http://www.bannernews.net/news/Announcements/2011/05/04/vanished-the-disappearance-of-mary-jimmi-38.php The link will remain active until tomorrow afternoon.
And as the writer of the series, I cannot close the chapter on the story without one final word of thanks to those who went out of their way to provide me with information about her case. Sheriff Mike Loe, who has investigated her case almost since its beginning, granted me wide access to her case file – something which is almost unheard of as open case files are typically closed to the media – and for that access, I will remain eternally grateful. Other law enforcement investigators who were more than happy to visit with me and answer my almost endless list of questions included retired Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch and current Miller County Sheriff Ron Stovall (formerly an ASP investigator). Former 13th Judicial District Prosecutor Mike Kinard was also extremely helpful and spoke quite candidly to me about the investigation. Private Investigator William ‘Bill’ Dear extended to me an invitation to visit his Waco, Texas, office to review his own case file, yet another unique opportunity that few reporters are given and one for which I remain grateful.
And of course, the deepest thanks go to Bobo’s family, who gave of their time and their hearts to help me see this story to completion. To the countless others who contributed their energy but who cannot be named here – thank you. I couldn’t have written the story without your help, and you know who you are.
Jamie Davis, Managing Editor – Banner-News