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MIDDLESEX — The disappearance and likely death of a Wilson man in southern Nash County more than a decade ago hits close to home for Police Chief Mike Collins.
Travis Lamont Lynch, 21, vanished on Christmas Eve 2003. He was last seen alive with his girlfriend, who lived on Claude Lewis Road near Middlesex at the time.
Collins, who took over the Middlesex Police Department in 2017, said something like a missing person case where foul play is suspected is alarming for his small town, especially since the area is usually a bit quieter than the rest of the county.
“We have been very fortunate with cases such as serious assaults or murders in our town,” Collins said. “We had a sexual assault that occurred back in 2018, but an arrest was made quickly in that case. I think we have been fortunate here, but I also think a lot of it has to do with the people here in town.”
Collins said he’s proud of the proactive approach his officers take in their town and community.
“We have always tried to be vigilant and also work hard in our community policing efforts,” Collins said.
The story of Travis’ disappearance has always been big news and a subject of many conversations in Middlesex.
“I have followed the story of Lynch’s disappearance and it’s quite a sad story for a family that needs closure,” Collins said. “I also know it’s a personal case for Maj. Miste Strickland due to the fact she knew the individual closely, as she served as his school resource officer.”
Collins said the story grabs him emotionally because he previously worked in a school. He served on the N.C. Association of School Resource Officers’ board for more than a decade.
Much of his law enforcement experience involves schools: While at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Collins served as sergeant over the youth education and school safety division and helped the Vance County Sheriff’s Office establish its first-ever school resource officer program.
“We sometimes have former students that may run into trouble or pass away, and it hits home with us due to our close connection we had made with our former students,” Collins said.
Middlesex is a close-knit community with many residents who were born and raised in the area, Collins said.
“They love their town, protect their town,” Collins said. “It speaks volumes of the ‘Mayberry feel’ here that people enjoy living in, so when something like the Travis Lynch situation occurs close by, it becomes talk and it causes people to think because it changes the norm. We hope someone will come forward with more information and some closure could come soon for the Lynch family.”
Anyone with information about Travis’ case is asked to call Maj. Miste Strickland of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office at 252-532-4574.
A reward of up to $20,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.