Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shirley Clift

Hennessey, Oklahoma sits north and a little west of Oklahoma City and is flat, barren and dotted with oil wells pumping up and down like a bird pecking the ground looking for worms. Scorching hot in the summer and cold winds in the winter, it's a rural town that has seen better days, yet many families settled there during the land rush generations ago.

Shirley and Gary Clift were 4 years into each other's second marriage when they realized the relationship was ending. In 1980 they were separated and went through a custody battle for their young daughter, Amanda, who was primarily awarded to her mother, Shirley. According to Gary, this breakup was friendly, and they had just drifted apart and all was settled amicably. However, Shirley's mother, Bonnie Anderson, speaks differently on the subject and recounts that she was told by her daughter that she was afraid of Gary.
"She would tell me a few things about her life with Gary, and none of it was very pretty," Anderson told The Daily Oklahoman. "She was deathly afraid of him."
Thanksgiving weekend in November of 1980, Shirley was seen leaving with Gary from her babysitter's home in his car. When she did not show up at her mother's for Thanksgiving dinner, Bonnie Anderson reported her missing, as well as Gary, two days later, stating that she had left that night with several Mexican men. Shirley was never heard from again.

Gary moved to Albequerque, NM with his young daughter, Shirley's daughter, and had several petty run ins with the law, nothing indicating violence, but resulting in a number of convictions. Nine years after Shirley disappeared, law enforcement agencies checked on her Social Security information, found no activity since she vanished, and indicated that she was most likely deceased.

Authorities finally caught up with Gary in NM and questioned him. He confessed that she was dead, that they had been in an argument, Shirley jumped from a car moving at 50 miles an hour and died from her injuries. Gary says, at that time, he panicked, rode around for several hours with her unresponsive body in the car and decided to bury her on the banks of the Turkey Creek. He was extradited to Oklahoma, Amanda was put into protective custody, then he quickly realized he implicated himself, changed his story, and according to authorities, there was not enough evidence to charge Gary with any crime at that time.

In October, 1999, police searched the site once more with cadaver dogs that indicated the presence of human remains. Heavy equipment was brought in, the site was excavated, and police indicated that evidence was strong enough to link Gary's earlier recanted statement to Shirley's whereabouts.

Shirley Clift was only 25 years old, her daughter, Amanda, 1, when her mother was taken from her under suspicious circumstances, probably involving her father. As of this writing, Gary Clift has not been charged, indicted, or convicted of having anything to do with the disappearance of Shirley.

Gary Clift is a free man. Did he get away with murder?

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