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Former football coach Denton Fox missing; his family is asking for help

Former high school football coach Denton Fox has gone missing.

His son Jake Fielder told The Oklahoman that Fox left the family's home in Jones sometime Friday, then communicated via text with several people Saturday.

He hasn't been heard from since.

 "We've spent the last five days, I guess, searching for him ... but haven't had any luck," Fielder said Wednesday morning.

Fox was home Friday when his wife, Jan, left for work. When she returned in the evening, he was not home. That wasn't alarming, though, because he often goes to a family cabin near Okemah to hunt or fish or simply escape.

Fox, 54, retired from education last year.

Saturday, however, family members became concerned.

"We all started getting goodbye texts," Fielder said. "We immediately sounded the alarm, called the police and got a missing person's report."

Fox has dealt with health issues for more than a decade. When he retired from football coaching in 2007 -- he coached Jones from 1998-04 and Deer Creek from 2005-07 before becoming an assistant principal at Deer Creek -- he was dealing with kidney disease. It had reduced his kidney function to only 12 percent. 

He got a kidney from his wife in 2012.

Fox nearly rejected the kidney several times, then dealt with a cancer scare. Ongoing concerns over kidney rejection ultimately led to his retirement from work last year.

"When his physical health went down hill," Fielder said, "his mental health kind of declined with it. 

"We had noticed some small lapses in memory and stuff like that over the last few weeks. In the last week, he had been ... erratic or paranoid. It seemed like COVID-19 had actually really gotten to him."

On Saturday after family members got Fox's ominous messages, they began trying to track his movements by cell phone. Cell phone tower data eventually revealed a ping from north of Okemah near Castle.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean that's where he stopped," Fielder said. "He could've been driving through. He could've gone there, turned around."

Still, Fox's family asked for help via social media to search that area, and several people, including some of Fox's former students, have walked the area. Drones were even flown over it to see if they might spot Fox or his pickup.

He was driving a dark brown 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 crew cab.

Fielder said the family believes Fox was wearing a tan Carhartt jacket.

Fox recently had hernia surgery, and because his mobility was limited, his family doesn't believe he would've been able to get far from his truck.

"We think if we find his truck," Fielder said, "we find him."

The family has not done an extensive on-ground foot search because it has no way of knowing where Fox may have gone after that cell-tower ping. Fielder said not only are family members not wanting to waste time or resources on such a search but also his mom is an epidemiologist, so she is against a large group gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the family is asking for help from everyone. Because no one knows where Fox might've driven, the family is asking everyone to keep a lookout for his pickup and to report if they saw anything suspicious, especially over the weekend.

The Jones Police Department is handling the investigation, and anyone with information about Fox or his possible whereabouts is asked to call (405) 869-2501. Major Les Warren is handling the case.  

"It's hard to read anything he did as necessarily rational or logical on the surface," Fielder said. "So the concern is, you don't know where his head was."

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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›