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Police Say Skeleton That Of Executive Killed 17 Years Ago

October 19, 1991 GMT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The skeleton of a wealthy service station owner has been found in a cave, 17 years after his disappearance. Police have ruled his death a homicide.

An amateur cave explorer found the skeleton of Gary R. Simmons on Wednesday in a cave in a hilly, isolated, indistrial district.

The remains were clad in cowboy boots and decaying clothing. Simmons’ drivers license was in the pants’ pocket.

Police said he died of a bullet wound to the head.

Gary Compton, a private investigator hired by Simmons’ family, said he believed Simmons, of Overland Park, Kan., was killed because he he planned to testify in a federal investigation concerning black market gasoline.

Like many independent operators, Compton said, Simmons had been forced to buy fuel at inflated prices from illegal vendors to survive the energy shortage.

But others, including Ronald Jackson, who directed the investigation for Overland Park Police, said Simmons wasn’t involved with illegal fuel.

″That was all rumors. Gary was squeaky clean,″ said Jackson.

Simmons, 32, was last seen Oct. 15, 1974, with Tommy R. Dixon, 42, talking about the sale of a horse. Dixon disappeared a day later and police believe he also was killed.

Simmons called his secretary and told her to write a $30,000 check to Dixon for a horse. About 30 minutes later, Simmons phoned his bank to say Dixon would be coming in later to cash the check.

It was unclear if Dixon cashed the check.

Compton said he believed black market operators used Dixon as a lure to get Simmons.

But Dixon, described as a ″dabbler″ whose occupations included carnival operator and job painter, was considered incapable of plotting Simmons’ murder, Jackson said.

″We always believed there was a third party involved, because Tommy Dixon didn’t have the smarts for this,″ he said.

Simmons’ Lincoln Continental was pulled from the Missouri River in the suburb of Sugar Creek in April 1975. He was declared dead in 1981.