McMicken’s daughter looking for “answers and closure” after his disappearance 40 years go

Published 6:00 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Before David McMicken, 24, had the chance to know his girlfriend was pregnant and they were to have a girl, he disappeared on a December night in 1982. His daughter, Kayla Benton Melendres, has yet to find answers or clues about what could have happened to her father 40 years ago. 

Melendres, of Wilmington, began actively researching her father’s disappearance in 2019. Her father went missing on Dec. 10 as well as two other men he was with, William Clifton and Michael Norman. The last time they were seen was at the former VIP bar in Chocowinity. After that, none of the men were seen or heard from again. 

Nelson Sheppard was the Beaufort County Sheriff in 1982. In 2019, Melendres was able to find his widow on Facebook; therefore, she sent a direct message to the widow asking if she may have any information on the disappearance of those three men. The widow uncovered a file in her home revealing information about Clifton’s car that had been recovered and when the men were reported missing. 

Melendes obtained a copy of the file shortly after Sheppard’s widow delivered it to the sheriff’s office. Meledres believes her message prompted Sheppard’s widow to return it. 

Four years later, Melendres has not recovered more information than what was in the file – not due to lack of effort. She posted the missing persons cold case to several websites like Reddit, NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), Websluths and Community United Effort (CUE). She gave a DNA sample to NamUS in case her father’s remains were found.   

McMicken and Clifton are still listed as missing in the National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) database, Melendres said. McMicken was entered into the database on March 22, 1984; Clifton was entered on March 27, 1985 but Norman was not added until July 3, 1990, according to Melendres. She did not know why the names were added years later after the men’s disappearance. 

Melendres hopes her research can provide “answers and closure.”  Further, she hopes that if foul play was how her father, Clifton and Norman “met their demise,” then justice can be served. 

As a 10-year-old child, Melendres was legally adopted by her maternal grandparents. They tried to find McMicken in an attempt to get his permission for the adoption. That is when Melendres and her maternal grandparents learned McMicken was a missing person, she said. 

“I just wondered if he knew about me,” Melendres shared.  

By the time her mother wanted to tell McMicken she was pregnant, he had moved from an apartment in Leland, North Carolina to Beaufort County, Melendres said. 

Growing up, Melendres said the rumors were that McMicken, Clifton and Norman were drinking and driving and had an accident then crashed into a body of water. She was “led to believe that was the most likely scenario.” 

Melendres said McMicken’s parents, Albert and Viola McMicken, of Aurora, “went to their graves without knowing what happened to him.” 

The McMickens were hesitant to say Melendres was David’s biological daughter until a DNA sample from a first cousin proved she was a close family member. Even before it was verified that Melendres was a close family member, her paternal grandmother shared information about David and photos of him. 

From what she has heard about him from his family, Melendres knows she possesses a few of her father’s characteristics like his height, being good at math and having a quiet, bookish personality. 

Since starting a search for answers to her father’s disappearance, Melendres has connected with one of Clifton’s daughters, ReAnne. 

“It’s unfortunate that this is the link we share, but it’s also nice to have that connection as far as knowing someone who can relate to growing up and not having answers,” Melendres said.