Dead man’s girl friend says rumors, wild imaginations are adding to his family’s grief
News of Jimmie Ray Odom’s death has been making headlines in Dallas and in his home state of Oklahoma ever since Dallas police announced Tuesday, Feb. 22, that they had found his body.
The Oak Lawn man — known to friends as Jake — had been missing since, according to police, running from a “disturbance” at apartments near the intersection of Fairmount and Kings Road.
Fed perhaps by the fact that police actually found his body on Feb. 11 but did not notify his family for 11 days, rumors of the circumstances around Odom’s death have run rampant.
Now his girlfriend is stepping forward, urging people not to let rumors rule the day.
“People are out there, assuming this and assuming that. They’re making up their own versions of what happened, and they don’t have all the information,” Chaselyn Wade said on Thursday, Feb. 25. “People need to remember, Jake has a mother and brothers. He has family. Don’t disrespect his family and the people who loved him with all your rumors.”
According to police there was no sign of trauma to Odom’s body, and an autopsy is pending.
Dallas police LGBT liaison Laura Martin said it will be a “couple of months for toxicology and histology” test results come back and the medical examiner can determine his cause of death.
Wade said that she and Odom had been together as a couple for about 15 months, and that he had been living with her at her apartment in the Berkshire Medical Apartments on Fairmount.
She also said that she was the one who called 9-11 for help the night he disappeared.
“No, the ‘disturbance’ the police talked about wasn’t a domestic disturbance. We weren’t fighting,” Wade said of that night. She added that she called for help when Odom ran from the apartment because he was agitated, and she was concerned for his well being.
“He was behaving in a manner where people were worried he might hurt himself,” she said.
“That’s why police listed him as ‘critical missing.’”
Wade doesn’t want to speculate on Odom’s cause of death, again citing respect for and deference to his mother’s wishes. But she said she does want people to know Odom and see him the way she did.
“We kept our relationship private, as far as Facebook and the Internet goes,” Wade said. “He was a dancer, and I am an entertainer, and so much of our lives were public. We wanted to keep our private life private.”
And while some initial reports described Odom as a gay man, Wade said that wasn’t accurate. “He was bisexual,” she said. “Or maybe pansexual would be a better word.”
Odom, Wade continued, “was a very nice, very loving person” who loved drag shows and dancing and reptiles (“We have two geckos; he got me interested in reptiles as pets”), and who never did anything to hurt anybody.”
“He never had an ill word to say about anybody, and he was very protective of people,” she said. “If we went to a drag show or a pageant, and I said something critical about somebody’s hair or their shoes or their dress, he’d say, ‘Leave them alone. Let them be the way they are.’ He didn’t want to hear anybody making fun of somebody else. For him, any kind of negativity like that was a total no-go.”
Even though he worked as a male dancer, Wade said she and Odom led a very low-key kind of private life.
“We’d get up in the morning and fix coffee and have breakfast together. He made me French toast almost every day for breakfast. We’d go work out together, maybe go shopping,” she said. “He supported me in things I did, in pageants and stuff, and we did some projects together.”
Wade also said that despite rumors, Odom was not involved in illicit drugs. “He used to be into drugs and he raised a lot of hell,” she acknowledged. “But he went through the programs and got clean years ago. We both drank, yes, but he had transformed his life [when it came to drugs]. He transformed himself, and he used that to help others who were having problems with drugs.”
Wade said she and Odom’s mother and siblings still have a lot of questions about his disappearance and his death — questions the police are not yet answering.
For one, she said, she wants to know why it took so long for police to find his body.
“They found him in that wooded area behind the Family Dollar Store on Maple, literally, a three-minute walk from our apartment,” she said. “The police searched and searched on [the northeast side of Maple Avenue]. They brought in dogs, and they searched all the way up to Cedar Springs Road. But they never went and looked on the other side of Maple? Why not?”
She also wanted to know what happened to Odom’s phone. He had it with him when he left the apartment that night, she said, and 13 hours after his disappearance, about 5:30 p.m. on that Saturday, someone used the phone to access Odom’s Facebook page. But police have not returned the phone to her or Odom’s mother. In fact, they haven’t mentioned it at all.
Most of all, Wade said, she wants to know why it took 11 days for police to notify her and Odom’s family that they had found his body.
“I do know they identified him from his fingertips,” she said. “But the police won’t tell us if they found him during a search, or if someone else found him and notified them. And they won’t say why it took 11 days to tell us they had found him.”
The waiting, Wade said, was the hardest part. “You’re just on hold. And we had hope, right up until the end when the police came and told us they had found him.
We had hope,” she said. “He had been having a hard time, and we hoped that he had just chosen to go somewhere by himself to get his head together, and that he would come home before long.
“That’s what my friends, our friends, kept telling me. They said he’d come home soon, and that I needed to get on with life. So I tried to do that, and of course, that just made people talk even more,” Wade said. “People have been so cruel, in ways they don’t even realize how cruel they are. I’d say 99 percent of people have been loving and supportive. But there is that 1 percent of horrible, horrible people who ask the most absurd, the rudest questions — people who are strangers to me, who didn’t even really know Jake, asking such horrible, rude questions.”
It’s those people, Wade said, that need to stop, step back and take a look at their own behavior, who need to stop spreading rumors. “We’ll know what really happened eventually, when the police are all done with their investigation. Until then though, people need to stop making things up and starting rumors. They need to show a little respect, for Jake and for his family.”
A celebration of life service for Jimmie Ray Odom, known to friends as Jake, will be held Friday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m., at Floral Haven Rose Chapel, 6500 S. 129th E Ave., in Broken Arrow, Okla.
A memorial service is being planned in Dallas for friends who are unable to attend the services in Broken Arrow. The Dallas service is tentatively planned for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, at the pavilion in Lee Park.
Dallas Voice Senior Staff Writer David Taffet contributed to this report.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2016.