A bus driver discovers the skeleton of a man

Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon

A bus driver discovers the skeleton of a man who disappeared in 1974.

In 1985, Tyrone Rollins was hired as a school bus driver in Independence, Missouri.  From the beginning, he said he had an eerie feeling about the rocky outcroppings behind the bus yard:

“I’d be sitting up in front of my bus and I’d feel like somebody was watching me from behind. I’d look back there and there would be nobody on the bus. For a while I just thought I was going crazy. There was a strong feeling, like something pulling inside me, wanting me to do something, and I just couldn’t figure out what it was.”

Finally, on October 16, 1991, Tyrone gave in. He simply had to investigate on the north side of the hill. There, he discovered a hidden cave:

“And that strong feeling was back again and I knew I had to go in there for some reason. It was like an amazing adrenaline rush, just the feeling of being in there. When I shined my flashlight towards the rocks, you could see little tiny specks of, like, crystals. So I started examining the rocks and it was just then that I happened to glance over and I saw a pair of boots. It was just shock. I just couldn’t believe what I saw.”

Dental records confirmed that the remains were those of Gary Simmons, a businessman from Overland Park, Kansas, 25 miles away. An autopsy revealed that he had been shot in the head.

Tyrone’s incredible discovery became a nightmare for the police. They were confronted with a killing that had happened 17 years earlier. Gary had mysteriously vanished in 1974 and an investigation at this point seemed pointless. But the police had no choice. Gary Simmons was dead and whoever killed him was still on the loose.

According to Gary’s brother, Jerry Simmons, Gary owned and operated a lucrative chain of gas stations. But his passion was horse-trading:

“Gary always worked hard. And I believe he got involved with horses in order to have a form of relaxation and a means of doing something that was fun with his family.”

Gary’s body remained in a hidden cave for 17 years

Gary’s body remained in a hidden cave for 17 years

On October 14th, 1974, the day before he disappeared, Gary learned of a prize horse for sale: a pure-bred Appaloosa with an asking price of $30,000. The next morning, an agent acting for the horse’s owner showed up at Gary Simmons’ office. His name was Tom Dixon.

When Tom Dixon came to see Simmons, it was the beginning of a mysterious encounter which lasted all day and which police are still trying to piece together. A little while later, Simmons left his office with Dixon. Gary told his secretary that he would return shortly, but he didn’t say where he was going. Fifteen minutes later, he called in and asked his secretary to write a check to Tom Dixon for $30,000.

Dixon picked up the check thirty minutes later and walked out of the office. Dixon then took the check to Gary Simmons for his signature, but no one knows where that meeting took place. According to Detective Victor Zinn, Gary was later spotted at a truck stop 10 miles from his office:

“The owner saw Gary Simmons walking back and forth between the counter and the window. He remembers that Gary Simmons was alone and there did not seem to be anybody with him or waiting with him.”

It was the last time anyone saw Gary alive. Just before noon, according to Det. Zinn, Dixon showed up at Gary’s bank:

“Gary Simmons had called the president of the bank and had informed him that Tom Dixon was on his way to cash the check. The bank president recognized Gary Simmons’ voice, but he didn’t recognize anything unusual in his voice to raise his suspicions either.”

Around five hours later, Tom Dixon was seen at a salvage yard 11 miles from the bank. He was driving Gary’s Lincoln Continental. He supposedly told the salvage man he needed to get rid of the car and asked if he could use his crusher to flatten it. The salvage men suggested he ditch the vehicle in the Missouri River.

The following day, one of Tom Dixon’s friends dropped him off at a truck stop near Kansas City. Dixon said he was catching a ride with a cross-country trucker. No one has seen Tom Dixon since.

Six months later, on April 25, 1975, Gary Simmons’ Lincoln Continental was pulled from the Missouri River less than six miles from the salvage yard where Dixon had tried to get rid of it. According to Det. Zinn:

“All we had was two grown men that had disappeared and that happens every day in America. It was unknown whether they had disappeared and not wanted to be found or if foul play had indeed occurred. When Gary Simmons’ body was found in that cave, it became a homicide investigation.”

Police suspected that Gary had been the victim of a bogus horse deal, and that Dixon, acting alone or with a partner, stole his money and killed him. Then, a new witness came forward. Roy Hylton was a local rancher. He says he knew both Gary Simmons and Tom Dixon:

“Oh, Gary knew a horse, that’s for sure.  He knew what a good horse was.”

Roy claimed he heard Gary calling his office and the bank from the Whispering Downs Horse Ranch on the day he disappeared. Roy also said that Gary showed him the horse he was buying:

“This murder didn’t come down over a $30,000 horse deal. It had to come down on some black market gas. I’m almost positive of that, because Gary Simmons was having problems getting fuel for his stations.”

Roy Hylton’s testimony complicated an already confusing case. Gary had been struggling to save his chain of gas stations in the face of soaring oil prices the year before his death.
According to Gary’s brother, Jerry Simmons:

“Gary closed the bulk of his stations because of the fact of lack of gasoline. After Gary disappeared, there were rumors that Gary might have been involved in black market gasoline.”

Who murdered Gary Simmons and why?  There may be only one man who knows: Tom Dixon.