MCALESTER, OK — On January 20, 2017, security cameras captured 40-year-old medical professional and mother of three Holly Marie Cantrell exiting the hospital where she worked and stepping into a green pickup truck — in broad daylight.
The driver reportedly dropped Holly off at a nearby Braum’s restaurant. She never made it back to work. She never made it home that night. In fact, Holly Cantrell has not been seen nor heard from since then.
By all accounts, Holly lived for her family and loved her job as a physical therapist at the McAlester Regional Health Center. She had many friends and was popular among coworkers and with patients.
Holly did, however, harbor a pretty major secret. In the months leading up to her disappearance, Holly was reportedly having an affair with a local man named Cody Ketchum, and it was said to still very much be going on.
At the same time, Holly remained actively married to Tommy Cantrell, her second husband who she married in 1999, when she was 19 and he was 46. Holly and Tommy, in fact, met and began their relationship while she was still married to her first spouse.
Complicating matters considerably around Holly going missing were rumors that she may have been pregnant, and that she possibly believed Cody Ketchum was the new baby’s father.
Cody Ketchum, in fact, proved to be the driver of the green pick-up truck. He told police that he dropped Holly off at Braum’s, a popular chain eatery alongside a nearby highway, but didn’t return to pick her up.
No one at Braun’s said they saw Holly in or even around the restaurant. She does not appear on any surveillance video, nor did it seem she made plans to meet anyone there.
Authorities intensely questioned Ketchum, but have not pinned him with any evidence of legal wrongdoing. Nevertheless, Ketchum remains a “person of interest” in the case. From there, investigators took some hard looks at Tommy Cantrell.
After Holly vanished, her first husband pointed out to police that she had simply taken the couple’s two-year old son and walked out on him — leaving, he claimed, no explanation and no way to get in touch with her.
Family members countered, though, that Holly stayed with the baby at her grandmother’s house and filed for divorce the very next day. She also shortly thereafter made plans to marry Tommy Cantrell.
In talking to detectives, Tommy said he suspected Holly had taken up a relationship with Cody Ketchum. Some observers said once Tommy caught wind, he became excessively “controlling” of Holly, forever checking up and demanding information on her whereabouts.
Tommy acknowledged his jealous behavior to some degree, but maintained he would never hurt his wife and just wanted her returned safely for her sake and the sake of their blended family. Police also believed his care and concern seemed genuine. And with that, the trail grew colder.
That February, a hunter found Holly’s purse tossed haphazardly in the woods. It contained her ID, credit cards, medication, and other personal items, etc. Holly’s cell phone was not there, however.
Odder still is that the very day after she went missing, her service got cut off, eliminating the cops’ ability to track the device.
After examining the purse and the materials it contained, local police returned all the items to Tommy Cantrell, rather than keep it as evidence. This decision outraged Holly’s family, who still don’t understand why.
In April, a group of teens splashing around a creek in Muskogee, about 60 miles from McAlester, stumbled upon human remains. Holly’s loved ones waited with bated breath for medical exam results, but the body turned out to be someone else.
During the ongoing inquiry, one wild card came forward. Luann Wooley, a local woman turned amateur sleuth, reportedly became obsessed with the Holly Cantrell case and hunted down clues on her own.
That spring, Wooley presented police with a recording she said she made secretly of a conversation between herself, her husband Raymond, and an unidentified man who, she claimed, said he heard Holly’s body had been thrown down a well.
After hearing the tape, police ultimately concluded that Wooley, who “talked in circles,” was an “unreliable source.”
Two weeks later, Raymond Wooley called police to say that his wife, Luann, had hanged herself in the family barn. The coroner ruled it a suicide. Some members of Holly’s family, however, reportedly say they remain suspicious as to what might have actually happened to their suddenly silenced advocate.
Later in 2017, another bone turned up in the woods that police thought might possibly be Holly’s. It wasn’t.
In February 2018, a “substantial amount of skeleton remains” washed up from Lake Eufala, located less than two miles from where Holly’s purse was discovered. Scattered among the debris were snatches of green clothing, ostensibly similar to Holly’s hospital scrubs.
A month later, still more remains emerged from Lake Eufala. At present, medical examiners are working to identify them — a process that could take up to a year.
In the meantime, anyone with any information is urged to contact McAlester police at (918) 423-1212 or the Detective Division at (918) 421-4917.
If you are in search of a missing person, make sure to enter their information into the database of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
For more on Holly Cantrell, watch the “In Broad Daylight” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Disappeared on ID GO now!
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Main photos: Holly Cantrell [McAlester Police Dept]