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NASHVILLE — Investigators believe the body of a Wilson man missing from southern Nash County for more than a decade may have been stuffed into his car, crushed and buried along with it.
Travis Lamont Lynch, 21, vanished on Christmas Eve 2003. Disappearing along with him was his white 1992 Pontiac Grand Am.
The car, with North Carolina license plate RZS-4818, hasn’t been seen since it was at the home of Travis’ girlfriend Carlisha Whitley. She lived on Claude Lewis Road near Middlesex at the time.
Travis’ aunt Avalean Lynch said she doesn’t understand how his car hasn’t been found by now.
“How does a man go missing in a car and you never find either one?” she asked.
A strong investigative theory is that the Whitley family killed Travis, placed him in his car and drove to a junkyard where the car was compacted into a metal cube, which was then disposed, possibly by burying it in the Middlesex area. Authorities have named Whitley and her uncle Sean Whitley as suspects in the case.
At the time of Travis’ disappearance, the Whitley family knew a junkyard operator who has since died.
Detectives with the Nash County Sheriff’s Office have been looking for Travis and his car since he disappeared. Their search has repeatedly focused on the Gallberry area between Middlesex and Bailey. But it’s included other areas as well, detectives confirmed.
Deputies have dragged bodies of water, searched junkyards and used sophisticated equipment borrowed from other agencies to check underground for the car, according to an archived report in The Wilson Times.
The Grand Am has been incorrectly identified in this newspaper and other publications as a Grand Prix. Both cars are Pontiacs with the Grand Prix being an upgrade from the Grand Am. The Grand Am was meant to be a combination of luxury and sports car, according to manufacturer information.
It’s easy to confuse the two as they look very similar, with engine size and interior room the main differences, said Cecil Hawley, a longtime used car dealer in Bailey.
After a request for clarification, detectives confirmed Travis’ car to be a Grand Am as depicted in the photo they have distributed several times over the years.
Even if Travis’ body isn’t in his car, it’s still a valuable piece of evidence, said Lt. Jeff Sherrod of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.
Travis’ assailants may have thought crushing the car would prevent it from being matched to Travis if it was ever found, but the vehicle identification number is still recoverable even in crushed cars. The VIN is typically located on tiny metal plates attached to the driver’s side interior dash, front of the engine block, front end of the car frame and inside the driver’s side door jamb, according to manufacturer specifications.
“He was so proud of that car,” Travis’ mother Jackie Lynch said in a recent interview.
Travis was in a fender-bender and needed another car. Travis’ mother helped him get his Grand Am two days before Christmas 2003 — likely his last Christmas on earth.
Anyone who might know anything about a car fitting the description is asked to give detectives a call. Sheriff’s Maj. Miste Strickland can be reached at 252-532-4574. There’s a $20,000 reward for information in the case.