Robert Lomax resided in Saratoga, Arkansas and was well-liked in this small unincorporated community 30 miles northeast of Texarkana, AR. Robert enjoyed sitting on the bench outside the Saratoga store and chatting with his friends, Ed and Frank Fontaine, both now deceased.
He was naturally helpful, assisting the store’s shoppers by carrying groceries to their vehicles. Despite turning 80 on November 7, 1992, Robert’s mind was sharp. He was in great shape because he walked everywhere and did not have a driver’s license.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1992, Robert enjoyed a holiday meal at Henry and Peggy Olden’s home on what is now Chapel Hill Street. The Oldens were relatives of Robert and lived close to him. He left their home around 5 p.m. and decided to walk the short distance to his house because he needed the exercise.
Earlier that afternoon, while Robert was at the Oldens, Stanley Cephonis, now deceased, dropped off a plate of food at his house. Stanley was in town for the holiday and had previously befriended Robert. Surprisingly, the Thanksgiving food remained untouched when Stanley returned the following day to retrieve the plate.
Concerned, Stanley approached two local men, Dale Gathright, Jr. and Dornell Trotter, and told them about the meal he had taken to Robert. Now in his 60s, Dale had known Robert since childhood. His father, Dale Gathright, Sr., co-owned Dale’s Grocery, and now Dale owns the store. His father died in 2007.
Dale and Dornell headed to Robert’s house and spotted Dale’s cousin, Deputy Travis Hughes, on routine patrol. The three men went to Robert’s home together.
Dale briefly thought Robert would be dead inside. They tried to open the front door, but it was locked. Dornell climbed through a window, entered the home, and unlocked the door, then Dale and Deputy Hughes went inside.
Dale told the Texarkana Gazette in 2017, “The house was cold.” The air conditioning had been running, but Robert was “very cold-natured,” Dale said. Robert was not home, and Dale knew something terrible had happened to his friend. However, there was no evidence of foul play.
Then-Sheriff Dick Wakefield, his deputies, and about 100 others searched for Robert, but Wakefield called off the search after three days. Believing someone had murdered Robert, he requested assistance from the Arkansas State Police.
State police investigator Jerry Reed interviewed several people in and around Saratoga and searched Robert’s home. Locals knew that Robert always carried large amounts of cash on him. They believe someone robbed and killed him, disposing of his body in a manner no one would ever find it.
In 2010, an archaeological team working in Howard County near Saratoga and the Olden residence discovered human remains on top of the ground, which is uncommon, according to Howard County Sheriff’s Investigator David Shelton. He sent the remains to the Arkansas Crime Lab, which forwarded them to the Center for Human Identification in Dallas, Texas. Experts obtained a DNA sample from a relative of Robert’s, but the DNA was not a match.
Robert remains missing, and what happened to him and those responsible is a mystery. A memorial bench in Robert’s name sits at Camp Springs Cemetery in Columbus, Arkansas.
Anyone with information regarding Robert Lomax’s disappearance may call the Howard County Sheriff’s Office at (870) 845-2626.
Good, Meaghan. “Robert Lomax.” The Charley Project. https://charleyproject.org/case/robert-lomax
“Robert Lomax.” The Doe Network. https://www.doenetwork.org/cases/5058dmar.html
Robert Lomax Online Memorial. Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/225329979/robert-lomax
Williamson, Jim. “1992 Disappearance of Arkansas Man Remains Mystery.” Texarkana Gazette. December 11, 2017.