McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 11, 2013

Remains of Eufaula man missing since 2003 identified

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Officials have identified the remains of a Eufaula man reported missing in 2003.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns said the remains of Howard Wayne Bennion, 58, a white male, of Eufaula were identified by the Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics June 13 using DNA samples from family members.

Kerns said the case is still under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Department

“We are treating this as a homicide,” Kerns said.

The circumstances of Bennion’s death are considered suspicious although no official determination of death has been made, he said.

According to a 2003 sheriff’s report, Bennion was first reported missing by his brother in Salt Lake City, Utah  on May 13, 2003.

At the time he was reported missing, Bennion had been living in an Arrowhead Estates home, according to the report.

Kerns said some of Bennion’s remains were found in 2003 behind his Arrowhead estates home and more remains were found near the Arrowhead golf course in 2008.

The report states that soon after he was reported missing  in 2003, a realtor from Longtown told investigators she checked Bennion’s house and found no one home and a neighbor was feeding Bennion’s animals.

The report states in 2008 Bennion’s brother told investigators that before Bennion disappeared, he lived in California for a few years before he moved back to Oklahoma.

The report also states Bennion had a wealthy longtime partner named Bruce who lived in Palm Springs, Calif. who sent Bennion money.

According to the sheriff’s report the unidentified  remains were submitted for a DNA match by Office of Chief Medical Examiner and Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Tommy Lyons, According to the DNA database report.

Meanwhile Sheriff Kerns said he has several cases of missing people that his department continues to investigate.

“We are glad to have the technology available to identify these remains,” Kerns said.

“We didn’t have that in 2008.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.