One thing that will be a bit different about this case is there is a distinct possibility that no actual crime was committed. Two vulnerable people left their home, likely of their own accord, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, out into a small city full of abandoned buildings. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Diamond and King may have perished in some kind of tragic accident after getting lost and seeking shelter in a place out of the way enough that neither have ever been found. However, I think there is enough of a chance that foul play was involved for it to be included among my crime writings. In addition to this, it’s simply a case that I think deserves more attention than it’s received.
In the mid-morning hours of July 25th, 2015, a 21-year old woman named Diamond Bynum vanished from her Gary, Indiana, home. With her was her two year old nephew, King Walker. Although Diamond was an adult, she was considered to have the mental capacity of a 5 to 7 year old child. She had been born with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic condition that results in developmental delays, cognitive impairment, and near-constant feelings of hunger regardless of how much the affected person eats. Like many people with the condition, Diamond would sometimes go to extreme lengths to obtain food, and she had a habit of stealing food from stores and restaurants. Diamond had a distinct personality, too. Her family described her as a “bubbly” young woman who liked to play jokes and enjoyed getting her hair and nails done. She was a caring person who liked to help her mother with household chores when she could.
At the time of her disappearance, Diamond was living with her father, Eugene, and stepmother, Suzanne* in Gary. The family had only lived in the area for five months, and Diamond was not well-acquainted with the neighborhood. At the family’s previous home, Diamond knew her way around and would take walks on her own. Her neighbors also knew her, and were aware of her condition. However, this was not the case at the Matthews Street house she lived in at the time.
King Walker was the son of Diamond’s sister, Ariana Walker, and Joshua Williams. By all accounts, he was a normal, active two year old boy. The weekend of his disappearance, Ariana was taking classes in Chicago, and left King in the care of his grandfather, step-grandmother, and aunt. Diamond loved spending time with her nephew and was described as being very responsible with him. She was also in a good mood that weekend, as her father’s birthday was the following day.
Eugene left for work around 6:30 am on July 25th, and Suzanne, Diamond, and King got up later in the morning. Suzanne gave King a bath, and at around 10:20 am she put him down for a nap. Suzanne and Diamond wanted to use the chance to get some rest as well, so they too lay down for naps. According to some accounts, Diamond was snuggled up with her nephew; according to another account, King was lying down with Suzanne. Either way, Suzanne fell asleep and woke back up around 11:00 am to find both Diamond and King gone from the home. She then called Eugene at work and alerted him to the situation.
The initial suspicion was that Diamond had taken King with her to a nearby store, due to her habit of frequent food-seeking. Her family doubted that Diamond could have gone very far, due to her obesity, asthma, and a limp in her right leg. Diamond knew her father’s phone number, and she had a computer tablet that she used to play games, but both the phone and the tablet were left behind in the home. Yet Diamond and her nephew could not be located anywhere in the neighborhood. Also noted by her family was the fact that the house was well-stocked with food, including a chocolate cake in the refrigerator. If Diamond had left the home simply to search for more food, then she would have had to ignore all the food that was readily available to her. With Diamond’s medical issues and limited communication ability, her being on her own under these conditions while in the company of a toddler was dangerous for both of them. Diamond also relied on regular medication to help with her behavioral health problems.
It is unclear to me when the double disappearance was initially reported to law enforcement, or how long and where the family searched before contacting them. Early in the investigation, employees at a local McDonald’s reported that the pair had gotten food there and left, before anyone knew that they were missing people. Search dogs would later track Diamond and King’s scent to a local GoLo gas station, where the trail seemed to vanish. A witness would also report seeing the pair at the gas station, although they did not appear on any of the CCTV footage that was recovered. It is not specified what area the security camera in question covered, or if Diamond and King would have had to actually go inside the store in order to be seen on it. The scent was also picked up at an abandoned house in Gary, although where this house was relative to the Bynum residence and to the GoLo station is not known.
Gary, Indiana has more than its fair share of abandoned buildings–approximately 13,000 of them, to be precise. During the search for Diamond and her nephew, law enforcement would comb through 24 blocks worth of empty houses and other structures. The possibility that the two missing people had not simply gotten lost but instead been victims of foul play began to be considered. Eugene said his daughter knew not to open the door to strangers, but that did not rule out the idea that she and King had gone out into the neighborhood and encountered an opportunistic predator. There were 21 registered sex offenders living within a mile of the home, although evidently there was nothing to indicate any of them were involved. At one point, a 34 year-old local man was named as a person of interest, but this lead never developed further. It is not clear if this man was one of the registered sex offenders, or if police were interested in him for some other reason.
In the months, then years, following the disappearance of Diamond and King, the family has been frustrated with the response from law enforcement. For one thing, they do not think Diamond’s disabilities were taken into account in the early days of the investigation. It took a month for a Silver Alert* to be issued for her, even though this should have been immediately applicable for an intellectually impaired, likely disoriented woman. Communication between the family and law enforcement continued to be limited and often had to be initiated by the family members themselves. They have claimed that they have never been provided with copies of reports, and that FBI assistance was never even requested, despite the proximity of Gary to Lake Michigan and the Illinois state line.
Although the case was growing cold, there was a brief resurgence in attention in October of 2016. The Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force reviewed all the files related to the double disappearance, re-interviewed neighbors, and used K9 units to conduct searches (the exact areas searched are not mentioned in any of my sources). At the end of the review, the Task Force submitted several unspecified items to the Indiana State Police crime lab for testing. If any leads have emerged from that testing, they have not been publicly revealed at this time.
Despite the years that have passed, Diamond’s mother, LaShann Walker, continues to hold onto the hope that her daughter and grandson are still alive. In June of 2022, she held an event at Chicago’s Daly Plaza to raise awareness for her missing loved ones. “I’m asking if anyone knows anything, please say something. Someone knows something,” she implored. Ariana has provided law enforcement with a sample of her DNA, in case the body of her sister or son ever turns up. To date, there have not been any matches between her DNA and that of any Jane or John Does. Diamond’s father has his own theories as to what happened. “I don’t believe they are in Gary anymore,” Eugene has stated. “We’ve searched thousands of abandoned homes and buildings. It takes 10 minutes to get out of Gary, and we’re close to the border. They aren’t here.”
One thing I want to point out before I start getting deeply into my own views is that Diamond and King did not necessarily leave the house together, or if they did, they did not necessarily remain together. Therefore, it’s far from a certainty that they ended up in the same place. To add to this, young children like King Walker are not as instinctively repulsed by some actions as older people, and they can fit themselves into much smaller spaces. Kids who have gotten lost in the wilderness have been known to save themselves from freezing by crawling into hollow logs or animal burrows. To convert this into the urban setting of Gary, it’s worth consideration that King might have sought shelter in a drain, crawlspace, or similar structure that Diamond would have been unable and/or unwilling to enter. My overall point here is that we are dealing with two missing individuals, and not am indivisible pair. To examine a more extreme situation, it’s even possible that one person was targeted by a predator who ignored the other. Either Diamond or King could have been forced into a car at some point, leaving the other person behind in an unfamiliar area.
Shifting the focus to foul play, I find it highly unlikely that Diamond and King were taken from the home itself, either by someone known to them or by a stranger. This was, after, all, late morning and in broad daylight. An outsider would have had no way of knowing who was at home much less that the family was all lying down for a nap. King Walker was not even a regular resident at the house, but was only staying there due to his mother’s class schedule that weekend. I suppose it’s possible someone entered the home for the purposes of robbery, thinking no one was inside, encountered Diamond and King, panicked, and forced them out of the house (all without leaving a sign of struggle or alerting Suzanne), but this still seems less likely then the idea that Diamond and King left the house on their own for unknown reasons. It could have been as simple as King wanting to go outside to play and Diamond accompanying him, likely without any initial intention of traveling far. So the question becomes one of what happened after that point.
When it comes to the possible sightings of Diamond and King, I take the same approach I do with a lot of eyewitness accounts: it could have happened, in this particular instance I would even say it’s fairly likely, but I’m not going to hinge any theories on it. It could easily have been a case of mistaken identity, or a case of the witness thinking of a sighting on a different day. In this case there are two possible sightings, one at the McDonald’s where Diamond and King may have gotten food, and the second, more vaguely described sighting at the same GoLo gas station where search dogs lost the trail. There are a lot of things about this sequence of events that I simply do not know, and therefore I have a difficult time assessing their validity. For example, the distance between the home, the McDonald’s, and the GoLo station, and whether or not the pair could have plausibly traversed that distance and been at those locations at the times they were sighted. Another small but potentially crucial piece of information is if the GoLo sighting was reported before search dogs tracked Diamond and King’s scent there, or afterwards, when law enforcement would have had reason to question the people working there. I would find the sighting more credible if it was known to have been reported before that point.
I’ve been looking at the satellite images of the area where Diamond and her family lived, and, based on this and other information, I’m going to respectfully disagree with Eugene Bynum that she and King had to be taken out of Gary. It’s not that I find an abduction scenario implausible–it most certainly is plausible–but that there is more concealed space in this compact, urbanized area than one might be led to believe. There is a heavily wooded park six blocks east of the neighborhood where the house was located, and a smaller wooded area approximately four blocks south. A distance of 0.83 miles (1.34 kilometers) straight west of the Bynum’s home would take one to the Ivanhoe South Nature Preserve. To the north, past the Indiana Toll Road, is the Grand Calumet River, along with what appears to be a large retention pond or some other artificial body of water. Also, as previously discussed, Gary has a lot of abandoned buildings. I’ve included a link to some of the pictures in the resources section, and it’s all actually quite fascinating for anyone interested in ghost towns and abandoned places. Add to that all of the drains, underpasses, culverts, and (unpleasant though it is to consider) garbage dumpsters that must be contained within Gary’s borders, and I cannot help but conclude that, whether or not Diamond and King met with foul play, there is no reason to assume that they ever left the city. They certainly could have been, but we don’t actually have any evidence that necessitates this.
One thing that does need to be taken into consideration is that Diamond and King would have needed to leave the immediate area of their home in a relatively short period of time, roughly between 10:30 and 11:00 am. Given that one person was a toddler and the other walked with a limp, this lends some credence to the idea that they got in a car. That being said, I am not sure what the initial search by Suzanne (later joined by Eugene) would have entailed. If they began searching in one direction, and Diamond and King had gone in another, they easily could have missed each other even with Diamond and King moving at a slow pace.
Some sources have said that Gary was in the midst of a “heat wave” at the time off the disappearance. However, I looked up the weather information for that day, which stated that July 25th had a high of 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius), peaking in the afternoon. This is not a cool day by any means, but it’s not a record-setter, either. In fact, it was listed as being slightly below the average Gary temperature for that date (84 degrees Fahrenheit, 29 degrees Celsius). This doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been hazardous to Diamond and King, especially if they walked long distances without consuming any fluids, but it’s not the type of hot weather where people are at a high risk of heatstroke simply by walking outside at a moderate pace. Even so, the heat and exertion could quickly become tiring, possibly prompting Diamond and King to seek shelter in a shaded area.
In case it is not obvious, this is not a case in which I am firmly set on one theory over any others. I find it plausible that Diamond and King met with foul play from an unscrupulous person or persons who saw the opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable adult and a child; I find it more or less equally possible that they perished by accident in one of the Gary’s neglected corners. If there was foul play, they may have been taken out of the city or they may not have been, and they may have met their fate together or after being separated from on another. I must admit that I do not share LaShann Walker’s confidence that her daughter and grandson are still alive (although I applaud her determination in this regard). Still, there is a slight chance that this is in fact the case, which brings with it a new host of concerns. If alive, Diamond and King are almost certainly not living under the best of conditions.
Here is one thing of which I am certain: this case needs and deserves attention. Whatever happened to Diamond Bynum and King Walker after 10:30 am on July 25th, 2015, their story shouldn’t be swept under the rug and forgotten about. LaShann Walker has stated that she thinks someone knows something, and she may be correct. Even if there are no actual culprits or witnesses in what made Diamond and King vanish, we can still help spread information about the case and keep it from fading from public view. I’ve included the contact information for the relevant law enforcement agency and a list of resources for further reading below.
Gary Police Department: (219) 881-1260.
*I have also seen her name spelled “Susanne” in some sources
*A Silver Alert is most commonly used in cases of an elderly person with dementia going missing. In Diamond Bynum’s case, a Silver Alert was issued in response to her cognitive impairments.