Mayo searching for her father 40 years after his disappearance

Published 6:05 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of David McMicken’s last name. 

ReAnne Clifton Mayo has spent the last 40 years waiting, hoping and praying her father would come home to give an explanation for his disappearance decades ago.  Mayo last saw her father, William Clifton, in 1982 when she was three years old. 

Mayo is working to solve her father’s missing persons cold case. Clifton was last seen on Dec. 10, 1982 at the former VIP bar in Chocowinity with two other men who also disappeared – David McMicken and Michael Norman both of Washington. Clifton’s wife and Mayo’s mother, Wilda Carver, believes Clifton and McMicken were friends, but is not sure how Norman fit into the group.

Mayo said the night her father disappeared, he received a phone call that evening then quickly left their home on West Second Street in Washington. Mayo’s mother was under the impression he went to pick up some Christmas gifts for their two daughters. He socialized with Paul Freeman that night then sometime later he, McMicken and Norman signed in together at the VIP bar.  The trio left the bar before last call seemingly vanishing into the cold air. 

At that time, it was presumed the men were tired of being husbands and fathers wanting to leave for good.

“The initial thought when these three guys disappeared was that they didn’t want to be family men anymore. They weren’t even reported missing,” Mayo said. The men weren’t added to the National Crime Information Center’s missing persons database until April of 1983, she continued. When asked if a local search party formed to try to find the men, Mayo said their disappearance was “not brought to anyone’s attention that they were even missing.” 

Mayo said people reported sightings of either one or more of the men, but there were no definite leads. 

One possible lead she found in Clifton’s file was that his black and white 1975 Camaro was found in New York two months after the men went missing. There was an arrest made, but no documents containing details about the arrest or how it ended up in another state.

Mayo obtained this information about two years ago when the widow of former Beaufort County Sheriff Nelson Sheppard uncovered a file on the missing persons report in their home while preparing to sell the home. Sheppard’s widow turned the file into the sheriff’s office which is how Mayo was able to collect a small portion of information on her father.

Mayo shared that when she was 18 years old, she visited Sheriff Sheppard requesting to see her father’s file, but Sheppard told her that the office lost it and could not find it. “I don’t know if he just forgot about it or what but when his widow found it, she turned it in. So at least we have this crumb.”  

A report from that file states Clifton and Carver had a domestic dispute the night he disappeared. Mayo and her mother say the claim is false. 

“He had a fight with his wife and he doesn’t want to go home,” Mayo said was the primary explanation for Clifton disappearing; however, “mom said they did not have an argument that night,” Mayo said. 

Mayo described her parents as being “soulmates,” and that they had a happy and loving marriage. Carver told Mayo that Clifton was “the love of her life.” She was devastated by the absence of her husband. 

“She’s grieving still. This has been a long time with no answers,” Mayo said about her mother. 

Clifton was a ladies’ man, Mayo said. Almost all of the young women in Washington swooned over the Washington High School quarterback, but Carver won out. She shared with Mayo that for her and Clifton, “it was love at first sight.” 

After graduating from Washington High School, Clifton worked at Texas Gulf – now known as Nutrien. A few weeks prior to their disappearance, he and McMicken had been laid off. 

“Maybe they were trying to do some side hustles before Christmas,” Mayo speculated.   

Mayo said David McMicken’s daughter, Kayla Benton, started a search for her father. Her mother had not yet told McMicken that she was pregnant. Therefore, Benton has not met her father. She is not sure he knows about her. 

Mayo and Benton have sent their DNA to the FBI as a way to possibly find their fathers. 

Mayo hopes this time around, she can at least bring awareness to the cold case, encouraging people who were alive at that time and who knew the men to reach out and talk to her. She is optimistic they could provide some insight into what happened 40 years ago. 

“I have one very vague memory of my dad – that’s it. I’ve got a few photos and this case,” Mayo said. She continued to say it’s difficult to work on the case because it can become emotional. 

“You always look,” Mayo said about growing up without knowing what happened to her father. “You’re always looking at people [and wondering] ‘is that him?’”