Pittsburg County father increases reward for son who disappeared a decade ago Read more: http://www.newsok.com/pittsburg-county-father-increases-rewa

A Pittsburg County man whose son has been missing for years says he's substantially upping the reward being offered for information connected to the case.
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Matthew Cook has been missing for more than a decade.

''When he disappeared in April 1999, he was 26," said Cook's father, John Cook, of Hartshorne.

No one in the family has seen or heard from Matthew Cook since the night Matthew's father dropped him off at some land belonging to his grandfather north of Dow, John Cook said.

Although there's been no finding by investigators that Matthew Cook was the victim of a homicide, his father is convinced that is the case.

''I will offer $15,000 for information that will lead to the arrest and prosecution of the killer," John Cook said.

He had previously offered a $2,000 reward not long after his son was reported missing. He later upped it to $3,000, then subsequently increased the amount to $5,000.

So far, no one has collected any of the reward money.

While there has been no official determination that Matthew Cook was the victim of foul play, he has been officially declared deceased by the courts, John Cook said.

Anyone with any information regarding the missing man should contact the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department at 423-5858, said Sheriff Joel Kerns.

Kerns said he recently talked with John Cook and the case is still open. It's not under active investigation at this time, but the sheriff said his office is ready to act "if we get something new."

Anyone calling with information regarding Matthew Cook should ask to speak to Undersheriff J.W. Young, Kerns said.

Young is familiar with the case from when he previously worked at the sheriff's department for former Pittsburg County Sheriff Jerome "Snookie" Amaranto, the sheriff said.

At the time Matthew Cook was reported missing, he weighed approximately 175 pounds and stood five feet, 10 and a-half inches tall. He had sandy brown hair and blue eyes, his father said.

John Cook's belief that his son met with foul play is based on more than a hunch. Things he observed in the Dow area shortly after his son came up missing led him to that conclusion.

Matthew Cook had been occasionally staying with his parents, John and Earlene Cook, in Hartshorne shortly before he was reported missing. Matthew Cook had recently been divorced and had two young daughters, his father said.

John and Matthew Cook had been working together in 1996. On the night before Matthew Cook was found to be missing, John Cook said his son had insisted that he take him to his grandfather's property north of Dow, where he had a camper.

John Cook said his son turned and waved at him after he dropped him off at the site, before walking toward a wooded area. That's the last time he saw his son, John Cook said.

The next day, he went to check on him, John Cook recalled.

''We looked at the camper; he wasn't there," John Cook said.

''We found his tote bag. It was open and his shoes were on top of it." Matthew Cook's Bible, some clean clothes and a picture of his two young daughters were also inside the bag, John Cook said.

''A few days later my dad and I drove farther back in the pasture," John Cook recalled. "We found his sleeping bag and a pillow" about 200 yards from the camper, he said.

John Cook and some friends and family members continued to look over the area.

''A little farther, we had a road," John Cook said. "We found a barefoot track on the right-hand side and big boot-print in the left side," he said.

John Cook said he's convinced that the person wearing the boots had forced his son to walk down the road after forcing him take his shoes off "so he wouldn't run away through the briars and bushes."

Farther on, near a gate, John Cook said he saw another barefoot track in a water puddle, with a boot print on the other side.

John Cook said that's convinced him "They took him out at night." He thinks that because of the darkness, the puddle had been unnoticed until it had been stepped into by Matthew Cook and whoever wore the boots.

''Nobody in their right mind's going to step in a water hole at night," he said.

John Cook said he still believes his son's body may be in a water-filled strip pit not far from where he had last been seen alive.

Former Pittsburg County Sheriff Steve Burrows had been involved in a search to try and find Matthew Cook, which included pumping out the strip pit in question.

A man with a "cadaver dog," a dog trained to detect dead bodies, had also been brought to the area and "hit" on the strip pit, John Cook said.

''The dog handler said there's a body in the strip pit," he said.

Divers at the time had also been involved in the search into the murky strip pit, until it was decided they might be in danger if part of the bank collapsed, according to John Cook.

During the pumping operation to drain the water from the strip pit, as the water got lower, a huge chunk of the earthen bank at one edge of the strip pit did collapse into the remaining water, John Cook said.

Although the rest of the water was eventually pumped from the strip pit, John Cook said he thinks that the dirt that collapsed into the strip pit could have buried his son's body.

John Cook said he does not believe his son left the camper voluntarily on the night before his family found him to be missing.

John Cook said his son had been intent on studying his Bible. Matthew Cook had been "saved" and had personally "witnessed" to some of his friends when he would see them in town, John Cook said.

It's possible his son's disappearance had to do with a case of mistaken identity -- he may have been mistaken for someone else, said John Cook.

He continues to have hope that the mystery may someday be solved and that anyone with any information will contact the sheriff's department.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

Read more: http://www.newsok.com/pittsburg-county-father-increases-reward-for-son-who-disappeared-a-decade-ago/article/3410375?custom_click=pod_headline_crime#ixzz0UVq8QNVH

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