RANDLETT, Okla. (KFDX/KJTL) — In Cotton County, Oklahoma, just minutes from the Red River, about 10 miles outside the town of Randlett, authorities are trying to locate a 69-year-old man following his mysterious disappearance.
Grady Bruce Benson is a lifelong resident of Cotton County who has lived within a mile of his current residence on East 1970 Road since he was born.
Bruce met his wife, Maxine, more than five decades ago, when he was 18 years old, and she was only 16, at her very first job.
Bruce and Maxine Benson on their wedding day, July 14, 1973
“Junior’s truck stop in November of 1971,” Maxine recalled. “We had our first date on February the 18th of 1972, [and] we got married July the 14th of 1973.”
Maxine said Bruce has always been concerned with only two things; his family and his farming. She said she and Bruce have gone on multiple trips together, several of which involve classic rock concerts. They’ve seen and done a lot in their 49 years of marriage.
According to Maxine, she and Bruce went to Temple, Oklahoma to vote in the 2022 midterm elections on Tuesday, November 8, and the following day, she was planning to take a trip with some of their friends to Branson, Missouri.
Maxine said it didn’t even phase her at first when she’d texted her husband and he didn’t respond right away.
“But I text him and told him about classmates that was on the bus and, no answer,” Maxine said. “And, I didn’t think that much about it.”
But after several missed calls and unreturned texts, Maxine started to worry. So, she called their son, Grady, to go and check on Bruce. He said on the night of November 9, his dad brought him dinner from a nearby fish restaurant and helped him fix a flat tire on his plow.
Grady Benson (left), Bruce Benson, and Maxine Benson (right)
“I followed him. We both came back here to the house, to the barn,” Grady Benson said. “He shined his lights up there so I could get the door open, aired up a couple of tires.”
Grady said he exchanged just a few words with his father before he departed to get back to work.
“I circled around, he was standing by his pickup, and the garage was open,” Grady said. “He said, ‘I might not stick my head out tomorrow, I’ve got a little bit of a cough, but don’t think anything of it.’ I said, ‘Okay, but still, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ And whenever I drove out, that was the last time I seen him.”
In fact, that was the last time Bruce was seen by anyone. After Grady searched the house, the barn, and the property, the Benson’s called the Cotton County Sheriff’s Office, and they were at the house within minutes.
“They went through everything, the barn, this house, everything they went through, and he was not here,” Maxine said.
Maxine and Grady started noticing some details that concerned them the longer Bruce was missing. For one, his new boots were set by his chair with his socks laid on top of them, as if he’d taken them off.
Second, Bruce had shut his garage and pulled his truck into the carport, as if he was done working outside.
Third, and most concerning, his pickup truck was unlocked, which Maxine said he never leaves unlocked, and inside the truck, his cell phone, keys, and wallet were all sitting in the driver’s seat.
The Benson family can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right.
“This is nothing like him at all,” Grady said. “This is so out of character for him, he’s never done anything like this.”
Lori Hedges, a deputy with the Cotton County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the county’s Director of Emergency Management, said she’s known the family her entire life, and she grew up with Grady, finishing school a few years prior to him.
Hedges said from what she knows of Bruce, this doesn’t make any sense.
“I mean nobody knows what happened,” Hedges said. “They’ve not seen anything, heard anything. It’s like he woke up or got home and just disappeared in thin air.”
Hedges said she’s not the only one who has that feeling, either.
“The sheriff and undersheriff have both done this job for 30 years, and they’re both the same way,” Hedges said. “They have never seen anything like this.”
Hedges led the initial main search effort for Bruce, calling in every law enforcement agency within 15 miles or so, including the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office and the Temple and Randlett Fire Departments. She said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations is also working to locate Bruce.
“We need all the help we can get,” Hedges said. “This does not make any sense at all.”
For the Benson family, two weeks have felt like an eternity since Grady last saw Bruce on November 9, 2022. And with no real leads, it’s hard for them to hold on to hope.
“They’ve had drones, there’s been airplanes, there’s been helicopters, there’s been [troopers on] horseback looking, all the way to the [Red] River,” Maxine said. “Nothing.”
But at the end of the day, they just want Bruce to come home safe.
“As far as I know, and everybody has said, he did not have an enemy in this world,” Maxine said. “If there’s anything or anybody thinks of anything, please help us, and keep praying that we find him, and get him home.”
Maxine added that their family is now offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who knows how to find Bruce.
Bruce was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and worn red wing boots with the steel toe showing through. If you have any information that could help authorities, you’re urged to contact the Cotton County Sheriff’s Office at (580) 875-3383.