Officers search for missing Gainesville man and 2 others

Travis Brown

Rex Davidson

John Cole

The Ozark County Sheriff’s Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a Gainesville man who has now been missing for more than a month.

Travis Lee Brown, 51, was last seen around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, walking on Highway 5 north of Gainesville.

“Through investigation, we determined that the last contact with Travis was about 6 p.m. that evening,” said Ozark County Deputy Cpl. Curtis Dobbs. “We are uncertain as to the direction of travel. He has some ties to the West Plains area. He has some ties to the Branson area. And he has some ties to Florida.”

Ozark County Sheriff’s call logs show that Brown’s father, Ralph, Brown, reported his son missing Dec. 15. 

Brown isn’t the only man with Ozark County ties who has gone missing in the past 18 months. John Edward Cole, 46, of the Big Creek area west of Theodosia in Taney County, and Rex Willis Davidson, 52, of Ava, are both listed as missing in the National Crime Information Center’s missing persons database. Cole was last seen in May 2019, and Davidson was last seen in October 2018. Both men have deep connections to Ozark County, officers say. 


John Edward Cole

Cole’s wife, Angela, reported him missing in May 2019. He was known to walk far distances and be out of contact with his family for lengths of time, Angela told the Times late last year, but she says he has never been out of contact for this long. 

The Coles live in Taney County just past the Ozark County line, so the Taney County Sheriff’s Department is leading the investigation. The Ozark County Sheriff’s Department is also actively investigating because of Cole’s ties here. 

Dobbs said no credible new information has turned up in Cole’s case. 

“We suspect something may have happened to him,” said Dobbs. “He walked a lot and had some health issues.”

According to Angela, John is a severe diabetic and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

He was last seen May 22 walking on County Road 644 (Stehle Road) wearing a light gray shirt, blue jeans, black lace-up boots, a wallet with a chain and a ball cap. He is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 163 pounds with blue eyes and brownish gray hair. The tip of his left thumb is missing.

“Our son dropped him off at his cousin’s house in Ocie…,” Angela told the Times in November 2019. “That was the last time any of us, his immediate family, saw him. A neighbor saw him walking on the Big Creek Bridge after that. The cousin whose house he went to said his brother was the last one to see him, and that was on Stehle Road.”

“The not knowing is the worst feeling ever,” said Angela.


Willis Rex Davidson

Davidson, who was last seen Oct. 31, 2018, was reported missing to Douglas County law enforcement by his mother, online records indicate. 

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, which is leading the investigation, says no new leads have been discovered in the case. 

Ozark County officers are also involved because Davidson has a large network of friends and family here. 

Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed made an April 11, 2018, Facebook post asking residents here to come forward with any information they may have in Davidson’s disappearance. Reed told the Times then that several people had been interviewed, and deputies suspected that foul play may have been involved. 


Public help needed

“We think eventually we will find [the men], but we need the public’s help,” Dobbs said, “even as irrelevant as a detail may seem. I think the answers are out there.”

Anyone with information about Cole, Davidson or Brown should call the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department, 417-679-4633. Information about Cole may also be reported to the Taney County Sheriff, 417-546-7250, and information about Davidson to the Douglas County Sheriff, 417-683-1020.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423