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MIDDLESEX — A missing Wilson man may have never made it to his girlfriend’s house or tried to drive home the night he vanished.
Travis Lamont Lynch, 21, left his girlfriend’s home near Middlesex at 1 a.m. on Christmas Day 2003. He’d been drinking heavily and drove away in his white 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix.
At least that’s the story his girlfriend Carlisha Whitley told authorities and a newspaper reporter back then. But detectives now say there’s no real proof Travis ever tried to drive home or that he even made it to Middlesex in the first place on the night he disappeared.
Several attempts by this newspaper to reach Whitley have been unsuccessful, including messages left at her new home.
As far as a review of archived news reports can tell, Whitley has only given one interview about Travis in the 16 years he’s been missing.
J. Eric Eckard is an award-winning journalist who writes for Our State magazine among other publications. In 2003, Eckard worked for the Rocky Mount Telegram as an assistant news editor and covered Travis’ missing person story as it initially unfolded.
Eckard wrote hundreds of crime stories during his time at the Telegram. But he said recently that he remembers Travis’ case because he disappeared during the holiday season.
“The Christmas thing sticks out,” Eckard said. “I don’t know if I can add much to the story I wrote almost 20 years ago. Of course, I stand by the quotes. I wish I could remember the specifics behind the interview.”
According to the 2003 article, Carlisha Whitely said Travis left her home on Claude Lewis Road to drive home.
“I’m thinking the worst,” Whitley said then. “I think he might have wrecked his car. That’s the only thing I can think of. Something had to have happened.”
Jackie Lynch, Travis’ mother, said Whitley called her house the night Travis disappeared to ask whether he made it home. Something Whitely never did before, Jackie Lynch said. And Whitley has never called since. In the 16 years since Travis vanished, she’s never contacted his family, Jackie Lynch said.
Travis Lynch’s aunt, Avalean Lynch, said her family went to Carlisha Whitley’s house the day after Travis didn’t come home.
“They wouldn’t let us look around in the house,” Avalean Lynch said of the Whitley family.
The only evidence investigators have that Travis tried to drive home is Whitley’s statement, said Maj. David Brake of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.
When previously asked whether Carlisha Whitely is a suspect in the case, Brake responded, “We can’t rule anyone out.”
Recently named as a person of interest in Travis’ disappearance and probable death is Sean Whitley, Carlisha Whitley’s uncle.
In 2003, Sean Whitley lived in a mobile home next to a now-shuttered notorious nightclub outside Bailey. The nightclub is the last place anyone outside the Whitley family saw Travis alive.
The mobile home — which didn’t have electricity — burned down in two suspicious fires in April 2004 just as detectives began to ramp up their investigation into Travis’ whereabouts.
That missing person probe sped up another already underway investigation into a crack cocaine drug ring ran by Sean Whitely, said sheriff’s Maj. Miste Strickland.
Sean Whitley has been incarcerated in a federal prison on drug trafficking convictions since 2005.
Eckard also covered Sean Whitley’s arrest. When told recently that the investigation into Sean Whitley’s drug ring had been kicked into high gear by authorities looking to find out what happened to Travis, Eckard had a one word response: “Crazy.”
Anyone with information about Travis’ disappearance is asked to call Strickland at 252-532-4574. A reward of up to $20,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the case.