DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – After 14 years, a North Texas family still hasn’t given up hope of finding a missing mother. 20-year-old Kelli Cox disappeared on July 15, 1997. The UNT honors student has since been declared legally dead, but her mother isn’t giving up, though she admits the anniversary is difficult. “Today’s more painful than other days,” she says. “I mean, I shed tears every day, there’s not a day I don’t get up and, “Is this the day she’s going to call? She’s going to come through that door? Are we going to get answers?”
On that fateful July 15th Kelli Cox couldn’t get into her car, parked at the Denton Police Department. She walked across the street to call her boyfriend from a gas station pay phone, bought a soda… and vanished. Literally without a trace. “I don’t believe Kelli would’ve gotten in the car with somebody she didn’t know,” Bynum says. “She was a feisty thing; she would’ve created a scene; so that’s what’s always baffled me, too. Because she was there one minute and she was gone the next.”
Police eventually eliminated boyfriends and family as suspects. They also rejected the idea that Kelli ran away, because she doted on her 19-month-old daughter. Now a blossoming young lady, Alexis Bynum is nonetheless cautioned to always be aware of her surroundings. “It is much more real to Alexis than it is to some of her friends and it hits very close to home: bad things can happen.”
Besides a reward, over the years agencies have done “age enhanced” sketches of what Kelli might look like as time passes. Mr. Bynum hopes to have a new sketch by the end of the summer. With high-profile kidnap victims like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard eventually returning, Jan Bynum still holds onto to hope that Kelli will come home one day. “Oh, absolutely. I’ve said many times until someone gives me definitive proof that she’s gone, I hold on to that hope.” She welcomes media interviews, even though the subject is painful. “I often view it the other way around, that I’m using you guys to be sure everybody know that Kelli’s not home. And it’s not a ‘solved’case. “Because I know somebody knows something, and at some point somebody’s going to share that information and the only way we can do that is to get the story out and keep it alive.”
Denton police investigators recently re-examined the case when the original detective retired. A $25,000 reward remains in place for Kelli Cox’s safe return.