Since I have been involved in trying to identify the amnesiac Benjaman Kyle, I’ve seen many leads come in, ranging from the casual to the very serious. Many people have contacted me that they are related to Powells or Davidsons (or both). Many people have written to direct me to websites describing missing persons who they believe might be Benjaman. Many others have sent in pictures of their relatives, friends and acquaintances who they believe resemble Benjaman, in a sincere desire to assist in his identification.
One example of a Benjaman look-alike is this picture sent to me by Mary Beth Pierson who believed her former neighbor resembled him. I agreed, although the neighbor had been a pilot in the military, and we doubt that Benjaman has had any military experience. I asked Mary Beth to follow up on him with her present neighbors to see if they knew what happened to him. Unfortunately, someone had talked to the neighbor recently, so we were out of luck.
One missing person who has been called to my attention more than once is Kyle Clinkscales, who disappeared from Lagrange, GA on January 27, 1976. At first his parents believed he left on his own accord, but because of tips the police have received through the years, it is now believed that Kyle was murdered. Even so, Kyle’s disappearance remains officially unsolved.
To the casual observer, Kyle’s case seems like a good candidate for a match to Benjaman. His age would be about right, as would his height. His whereabouts in Georgia check out. His name was Kyle. And the shape of his face is not too far off. As in many cases, however, the match falls apart based on physical characteristics that are not shared by the two men. For example, Kyle had previously fractured his ring finger, while Benjaman has scars that Kyle did not have.
Everyone who has contacted me has had the best of intentions. But because it is impossible for me to follow every lead that comes in, I use my “three reasons” guidelines to decide whether I take a lead seriously or just keep it in reserve pending further developments. If the lead has only one reason for researching it further, I usually don’t follow it down. An example would be a Powell family who are related to Davidsons (see my earlier post about Benjaman’s Y-DNA results), but who have nothing else to suggest they might be related to Benjaman. If the lead presents two reasons for following it down, I think a little harder about it, but usually put it aside for more serious consideration later. A Powell family who are related to Davidsons and who live in Oregon would fall into this category. If the lead has three reasons, I usually take it seriously and research it as far as I can. A Powell family related to Davidsons living in Oregon with a child born 29 August 1948 would be this kind of lead. (Benjaman believes that his birthdate is 29th August 1948. See his Wikipedia page for the full story.)
I discovered a lead that fell into this most serious category through an article that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 6 July 2006 reporting the death of Jeremy Kyle Davidson of Inman, VA.
On August 20, 2004 at 2:40 am, a boulder weighing 1,000 lbs was dislodged by a bulldozer widening a road at a strip mine site in Inman, causing it to roll toward the Davidsons’ house 649 feet below. The stone crashed through the side of the house and two interior walls, crushing Jeremy before stopping against his 7-year-old brother Zachary’s bed. The article continued with commentary about A & G Coal, the owner the mine, and with a description of the lawsuit that the Davidsons had filed against the company.
There were three parallels between the article about Jeremy’s death and Benjaman’s story that caused me to consider it as a serious lead: (1) the accident happened just a week before Benjaman Kyle was discovered unconscious, (2) the coincidence with the name Kyle, and (3) the results of Y-DNA tests that have indicated that Benjaman’s last name might be Davidson. In hindsight, there is a fourth parallel that would have caused me to consider it even more seriously – Benjaman’s 23andMe autosomal tests reveal he has a family connection to the western Carolinas or eastern Tennessee. Inman is just north of the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
I considered that perhaps Jeremy was Benjaman’s grandson, and that the trauma of the death of the boy had been too much for him, causing him to experience amnesia, wander away from the area, and that defenseless, he was beaten by someone who left him for dead.
I followed this lead down as far as I could. I called the Post-Dispatch and even the attorney who was representing the Davidsons in the lawsuit. But my search came to naught. Since I did not get any return phone calls, I began to doubt that Benjaman could be connected to the Davidson’s tragedy. I reasoned that if the accident had caused distress to the parents beyond the loss of their son, it would have undoubtedly been noted in the press. But I could find nothing to support this. I shelved the lead, filing it in my mental file cabinet under “coincidence”.
Undoubtedly the most stunning close call came from a woman named Mary Davis who lives in Alabama. She contacted me after a friend sent her a copy of the article that had appeared about me in the Orange County Register on 5 October 2009.
As Mary explained in her email:
Just heard from a fellow genealogist about your work with Benjaman Kyle. I also saw the Dr. Phil Show and felt that this man was familiar.
My husband, Michael Steven Davis, a/k/a Michael James King was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on 23 March 1938. His mother was Jennie Lee King. No father is listed on the birth record. After many years of researching, I found his grandfather, who was Jennie Lee’s birth father, Wallace Rudio. Her birth name was Barnette Rudio. Jennie’s mother was Barbara Lillian Winkler who later married a man named Walter King who raised her but did not legally adopt her. They lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. My husband had spent part of his childhood under the asupices of the Catholic Charities in Indiana and we finally got his records after we proved his mother was already deceased. I have a thick stack of papers regarding Michael’s life in the orphanage and foster homes.
We had earlier found a younger brother Norman Lower who now lives in Indianapolis with his wife and children.
About two years ago another man named Carl Litel contacted the Catholic Charities to see if they had any records for him. He turned out to be a brother. We have all met and through our studies of the Catholic records find that there is yet another brother which we cannot find. The Catholic Charities say they have lost his records. We asked the Dr. Phil Show if they could check DNA and see if these brothers are related to Benjamin Kyle. We have never received an answer from Dr. Phil. This brother would probably be in his 60’s. My husband was the oldest brother at 71 and Norman is the youngest brother. The other two brothers would be in between. They all have the same mother, but different fathers.
I have a Davis Family Tree on ancestry.com you may wish to check. Hoping you can find a connection. The brothers are all willing to be tested for DNA.
Mary’s story was of the missing brother from Indianapolis was exciting. He would be about the 60 years old, he would have three brothers, and he would have been taken care of by Catholic Charities in Indianapolis. This personal information is consistent with what Benjaman can remember.
Mary followed up with a photo of the three brothers. From left to right: Norman Lower, Carl Litel (aka Patrick King), and Michael Steven Davis (aka Michael James King).
Mary accompanied the photograph with information regarding Jennie King, the boys’ mother, taken from the Catholic Charities report on her husband Mike and his brother Carl (Patrick King) b. 1946:
Jennie was referred to CCB in a pregnant condition out of wedlock. She was employed at the time as housekeeper by an elderly man who was critically ill. She was living in his home on the south side and was keeping Michael with her. She was delivered of her baby 2-5-46 at St. Francis Hospital. The child has been placed in legal adoption. When the elderly employer died, Jennie received several hundred dollars from his small estate, as well as the right to occupy the house for several months. She kept Michael with her.
The report also contained information about an unidentified third brother [birth name later found to be Robert Lee King]:
The mother’s whereabouts are unknown. She has had a third child out of wedlock – born in General Hospital. This child has been placed in adoption. It is difficult to locate the mother, as she moves from one rooming house to another in the vicinity of Massachusetts Avenue and Michigan Streets.
[Jennie’s] last child was with William Lower whom she married. His name is Norman Lower and he lives in the Indianapolis area.
Upon the three brothers meeting, they found lot of things in common. They are all intelligent. Carl is a college graduate, Norman works for the U. S. Government, and Michael is retired from employment at Walt Disney in California. They have many of the same likes and dislikes and spent many hours together talking into the night. They enjoy reading and learning new things. They are collectors of various things. Norman and Mike are both married and have children and grandchildren. Carl is still single but he’s a very busy man. My husband and I are planning on meeting again with them in the next month or so. I do have more pictures of them – just can’t find them right now. I am busy with researching one of my other families.
I hope you will be able to find something regarding these four brothers. It would be good to see all four together.
Unfortunately Mary’s reports told us almost nothing about brother #3, but several clues about his identity could be derived from the information she did have. Brother #3 was adopted out by a Catholic organization, he had at least three brothers, his adopted name would be different from his birth name, and he was born in Indianapolis between 1946 and 1951.
To be continued…
Part I, Part II, Part III, Conclusion