In a hearing unlike those typically held in a Hopkins County Courtroom, Judge Robert Newsom granted a petition officially declaring Melissa Ann Darling, the missing 33-year-old woman known as Melissa Ann McVay as deceased. These types of cases are so rarely handled here that the judge and attorney in the case reportedly researched the matter to ensure the proper procedure was followed and that all requirements were met.
Darling’s mother, Retta Murphy, requested that her daughter be declared dead after 10 years. No one has heard from nor have any remains been identified as Melissa Darling.
Both Murphy and Sulphur Springs Police Department Det. Sgt. David Gilmore, the lead detective who has remained on the case for the last 10 years, said based on the lack of contact and physical evidence, they believe Darling to be dead. Attorney M.J. Trusty noted that Darling has been missing for three years longer than the statute requires.
Gilmore testified that he was assigned the case about a week after police listed Darling as missing. He took over from the SSPD Special Crimes Unit investigators. Darling was last confirmed to have been seen alive at 1:30 a.m. June 10, 2011, leaving a casino in Grant, Oklahoma, following a man as he drove away from the casino. A call was made from her phone around 1:50 a.m. to a man who lives about 1 mile from the casino. There’s been no confirmed contact or known activity from Darling since that time.
Det. Sgt. Gilmore testified Friday, July 9, 2021, that he worked with officials in several Texas counties from Hopkins County into southeastern Oklahoma and has even worked with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. The day after her took over the case, Darling’s vehicle was located in Hugo, Oklahoma. He drove there to work with state authorities as well as 40 officers and volunteer firefighters. At one point a section along the Red River was searched. Concessions were made to allow water levels to go down so officials could search the river. Darling’s body has never been located.
Texas Rangers, Homeland Security, Social Security and officials from numerous other agencies have been involved in the investigation, but there has been no confirmed traces of Darling’s existence since June 10, 2011. Her dental records and DNA have been entered into state and national databases for missing persons, with a few possible hits that did not pan out. Cadaver dogs have even been used during the searches. Gilmore said in addition to following up on any leads or tips that have come in over the past 10 years he has also checked into any reports in which deceased or unidentified people or remains have been found. For instance a skull found about 20 miles downstream from where her vehicle was located was run through a database but was determined by forensics science to be that of a Native American person believed to have lived long ago.
The tips, 2-3 a year and usually all second or third-hand information, have been followed as far as the information would take investigators, Gilmore said. At least 50 people have been questioned and several subjected to polygraph tests administered by the Secret Service. Gilmore said he has exhausted every lead and possible scrap of information that he has received and uncovered regarding Darling. Based on the last known sighting, lack of any communication from Darling with her family, which includes two children, and lack of any trace of activity from her, Gilmore said he believes the woman to be dead.
Murphy requested that her daughter be legally declared dead. Melissa Darling did not own any property that will require probation. Melissa Daring’s two kids currently live with their fathers. This should allow Darling’s two children, ages 16 and 11 now, to be eligible to receive Social Security benefits.
Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom granted Murphy’s request. Melissa Darling will be declared deceased as of June 10, 2011, at 1:50 a.m.
Since there is no body, the place of death is unknown. Her death certificate will show Hopkins County as her place of death. Hopkins County is where she lived and where the case was filed.
Darling was a week shy of her 34th birthday when she disappeared. While she has been declared dead, Darling’s information remains in the missing person’s databases and the case remains open.
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