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 David Lee Branton

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David Lee Branton

  • Birth 17 Jul 1960
  • Death unknown
  • Burial Body lost or destroyed, Specifically: Believed it is probable he is not alive, regarded as deceased.
  • Memorial ID 42093251

It is more than 16 years since David Branton went missing. There's no telling if he is truly alive or not, but it appears he is considered deceased.

David went to my church, was in my catechism classes for three years, and was confirmed with me. In school, we were classmates for six years. In junior high he was VP when I was class secretary, and in high school, he was our class president.

Dave was a decent-looking young man with wavy light brown or dark blond hair, pale skin with a few freckles, blue eyes and glasses. His hair was later described just as brown, possibly because by that time he wasn't swimming as regularly which lightens one's hair. A member of the swimming team, he was also a good student. In high school he also participated in golf, the planning of the dance marathon, and was a member of the Key Club, which is part of Kiwanis, and is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. Possessed of a sharp wit, and sometimes biting sarcasm, he was nonetheless generally fun to be around. A law graduate from Temple University, he was admitted to the Lehigh County Bar Association in 1986. He came from "a good family" - his dad a pediatrician, his siblings smart achievers, his family socially active. His father died in 2005, and in his obituary, Dave is called his son "David L., late of Allentown" so the family must regard him as having passed on, however reluctantly, or at least on paper. Probably any such family never gives up hope.

David disappeared. It's not known if he is alive now. He wasn't the sort of person you'd have suspected could meet a mysterious fate. He was always outwardly conservative in dress and social habits in school, and was always healthy so far as any of us knew, so it's hard to say why it was later said he was on medication for unspecified reasons. In school he was sometimes sharply critical of males who seemed gay, so it is hard to be sure he is the same David Branton who shows up in an article as a special projects coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Red Cross AIDS service center (1990), though there don't seem to be any other men of his name in Allentown at that time. People get AIDS for many reasons, and volunteering to help them doesn't mean you are gay or have AIDS. It's true some people are seemingly homophobic and then later come out of the closet themselves. It's also true that people with serious diseases, particularly one that used to carry the stigma AIDS did, sometimes distance themselves from their loved ones. These general truths don't speak fact about the case, and regardless, whatever Dave's orientation, it probably had nothing to do with his disappearance. Dave was an athlete and very critical of my cigarette smoking as a teen, so it is hard to imagine him with a purported drug problem. Still, he did meet with some misfortune, as you'll see below.

I liked David in the sense that we liked one another socially. Though we were around each other for years in school, student government and church, we weren't really close, just very familiar. That's why I have no idea why I dreamt about him in 2008. In this dream, crowds of people were walking quickly through halls as though there were an emergency or drill in progress. All I know is that we were moving very fast to exit some large building. As I walked briskly along a turn in a hallway, I saw David beside me. "You're alive!" I exclaimed to him. He grinned sheepishly, gave me a strong look with a smile and raised eyebrows, then said "Shhhh" while putting a finger to his lips.

Some dream. Maybe we'll never know. I have never had a prophetic dream, and I certainly don't think this was one.

If it seems in bad taste to memorialize someone who might still be alive, it seemed sadder to forget someone who may have passed. It would be lovely if some day David came forward and proved the need for remembering wrong.


College yearbook from Dave's undergrad years:

David L. Branton — Allentown, Pennsylvania, American Studies; Theta Xi.

Newspaper items below are from the Allentown Morning Call.

December 1985


A 27-year-old Bethlehem man was arrested by Bethlehem police Wednesday night in connection with the Dec. 11 knife-point abduction and robbery of an Allentown man.

Tommy Dorsey, 27, of 1111 Mansfield Court was arraigned before District Justice James Stocklas on charges of unlawful restraint, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy. He was committed to Lehigh County Prison in lieu of $200,000 bail pending a hearing.

Police said Dorsey is charged with the robbery of David Branton, 25, of 329 N. 8th St., Allentown.

They said Branton was robbed while using the automatic teller machine at the Bank of Pennsylvania, 4th Avenue and W. Broad Street, at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 11. Police said the robbers then forced Branton to drive them to a residence on Gatewood Lane in Bethlehem where drugs reportedly were purchased.

Investigators said the robbers took Branton back to the bank, where more money was withdrawn, then returned to Gatewood Lane. Branton later was forced to drive to a bank on Stefko Boulevard in Bethlehem where money was again withdrawn, and then to the Marvine Village area where he managed to escape at 2:15 a.m. after the robbers got out of the vehicle.

Investigators reported that approximately $175 in cash was withdrawn from the banks during the almost five hours Branton was held.


January 1986


Bethlehem police arrested a second man early yesterday in connection with the Dec. 11 knifepoint abduction and robbery of an Allentown man.

Jimmy Dorsey, 26, of 1111 Mansfield Court, Bethlehem, was first arraigned before Northampton County District Justice John Gombosi on charges of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, robbery, theft, receiving stolen property, recklessly endangering another person, making terroristic threats and criminal conspiracy.

Dorsey was then taken before Lehigh County District Justice Theodore Russiano, where he was arraigned on the same charges and committed to Lehigh County Prison in default of $250,000 bail pending a hearing, tentatively set for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Dorsey's brother, Tommy Dorsey, 27, of the same address, was arrested on similar charges Dec. 18 in connection with the same incident. At the time, he was committed to Lehigh County Prison in default of $200,000 bail.

Police reported the Dorsey brothers are charged with the robbery of David Branton, 25, of 329 N.8th St., Allentown.

They said Branton was robbed at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 11 while using the automatic teller machine at the Bank of Pennsylvania, 4th Avenue and W. Broad Street in Bethlehem. Police said the robbers then forced Branton to drive them to a residence on Gatewood Lane in Bethlehem, where drugs reportedly were purchased.

Investigators said the robbers took Branton back to the bank, where more money was withdrawn, then returned to Gatewood Lane. Branton later was forced to drive to a bank on Stefko Boulevard in Bethlehem, where money was again withdrawn, then to the Marvine Village area, where he escaped at 2:15 a.m.

Investigators reported that about $175 in cash was withdrawn from the banks during the almost five hours Branton was held.

July 1989

Theft - Reported Friday by David Branton, 3003 Turner St.; 10- speed bicycle from 9th and Linden streets.

November 1990

Speaker David Branton, special projects coordinator for the AIDS Service Center, outlined the findings of his recent survey of service center volunteers.

Branton asked the volunteers why they offered their time. The primary reason, he found, was their desire to help a certain group do a certain thing. But in doing so, the volunteers said, they received a secondary benefit.

"It simply made people feel good," Branton said.

He said volunteers in general want to know that what they're doing is useful, want to see their talents utilized, and want to be appreciated.

"You're doing the right thing," he told the volunteers. "Your work is really appreciated."


November 1991

Charged -- David Branton, 31, of 1628 Turner St.; Monday with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct at 1201 Hamilton St.; cited and released.


February 1993


Allentown police are trying to locate an attorney who has been missing for nearly a month.

Although David Branton, 32, was last seen Jan. 7, Capt. Scott Mitchell said there is no reason to suspect foul play.

Branton once was missing for a week, but turned up unharmed. That is why his roommate waited to report his absence.

Police have checked with friends, out-of-state family members and hospitals without luck.

Branton of 28 N. 16th St. has a law office at 921 Hamilton St. He is 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.

January 1995


David Branton's resume reads something like this:

Graduate of Allen High, where he was president of his class.

Graduate of Lehigh University, where he was president of his fraternity.

Graduate of Temple University Law School.

A law practice in Allentown.

Likes golf, swimming.

Missing two years.

Family members last saw Branton on Jan. 7, 1993, at a funeral for his grandmother. [Note: Grandma Pearl Branton passed on January 5, 1993.] Weeks passed and they heard nothing from him. But that was not rare, according to his oldest sister, Jennifer Lancaster, a Bethlehem resident.

Branton, now 34, had vanished for a few months once before, Lancaster said. He also had struggled with a drug problem, she said. So his family, along with the police, believed his disappearance was self-imposed.

"That was the original premise," Lancaster said.

But two years later, they can't be sure, she said.

In his wake, Branton left his car and his belongings in an apartment he shared with a roommate along N. 16th Street in Allentown. He stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 170 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.

Lancaster was hesitant to discuss her brother's disappearance or the family's experience since then. She said she and her relatives were skeptical that publicity could do little more than rekindle the pain they've tried to overcome.

"We've had to cope with this for the last two years," she said.

She won't say whether she believes Branton is alive or dead. But Lancaster doesn't believe she will hear from her brother again.

Coping with that, she said, is the hard part.

"Unfortunately, with this kind of case," she said, "you don't go through a grieving process."

January 1995


Allentown police want help locating David Branton, last seen leaving the Allentown Racquet Ball Club at 6th and Union streets on Jan. 7, 1993.

Crimestoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information on the 34 year old attorney. He is 5 feet 10, weighs 170 pounds, has brown hair and blue eyes. Branton has a history of drug abuse, according to Crimestoppers.

Branton failed to return to his 28 N. 16th St. apartment after the club. His car was left behind and none of his clothing or medication was missing.

Information may be given anonymously at 1-800-426-TIPS or to Detective Victor Markowitz at (610) 437-7721.



David's all over the Internet in missing person sites and forums. The usual profile of him features the squinting photo shown here, and reads like this:

Missing Since: January 7, 1993 from Allentown, Pennsylvania
Classification: Endangered Missing
Age: 21 years old [sic- wrong- in 1993 he'd have been 32/33, unless 21 refers to the age of the case when it was posted on the site]
Height and Weight: 5'10, 170 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Brown hair, blue eyes.
Medical Conditions: Branton has a history of substance abuse. He is required to take medication for unspecified reasons and did not have it with him when he vanished.

Branton was last seen leaving the Allentown Racquetball Club at Sixth and Union Streets in Allentown, Pennsylvania at approximately 11:00 a.m. on January 7, 1993. When his roommate returned to their apartment in the 20 block of north 16th Street that evening, he noticed Branton's car parked across the street, instead of in its usual place behind the building. All of Branton's possessions, including his medicine and clothes, were inside the apartment, but there was no sign of him.

Branton has never been heard from again. His roommate reported him missing several days later. He has a history of leaving town, but he had always stayed in touch with his friends and family before. When police searched his car and apartment, they found no evidence indicating his whereabouts. He was employed as a lawyer at the time of his disappearance, and had an office in the 900 block of Hamilton Street in Allentown. Branton's case remains unsolved.

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Lehigh Valley Crimestoppers


On the "I Care Missing Persons Cold Cases" site, there was discussion of a case in Canada in which it was suggested that a John Doe there may have been David. The info below was not written by me. Lay people participating in the forum posted about the found man, then a reply to it. The site is very dark and hard to read, but featured the pencil sketch shown here, and the text said:

Unidentified Male, 1995, In Sasketchewan, Canada

Unidentified White Male

* The victim was discovered on July 28, 1995 in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
* Estimated Date of Death: July 28, 1995
* Cause of Death: Suicide

Vital Statistics

* Estimated age: 20-30 years old
* Approximate Height and Weight: 5'9"; 140-160 lbs.
* Distinguishing Characteristics: White male. Clean-shaven, with short, medium-brown hair; blue eyes. The deceased had no tattoos, surgical scars or unusual characteristics that might have helped to identify him.
* Dentals: Available
* Clothing: He was wearing a black denim button shirt with a gold crown logo displayed on the left front pocket. Under this shirt the victim wore a white t-shirt with the words "Boca Authentic" on the front. He also wore faded blue jeans, white socks and a pair of size 12 and 1/2, blue and white Reebok runners. [Personal note: Unless he really changed his style of dress, it's hard to think David would be wearing Boca gear, as he was a conservative dresser in his school years.]
* Fingerprints: Available
* DNA: Available
* AKA: The victim called himself "David"

Case History
The victim was located at the Canadian Pacific Railway crossing at 13th Avenue and Courtney Street, in Regina, Saskatchewan on July 28, 1995.

Police interviewed two CP rail employees who had just witnessed the young man come from the ditch on the south side of the tracks and position himself in the path of an eastbound, four-locomotive train hauling 104 box cars. The crew was unable to stop the train, which was traveling approximately 65-70 kilometres per hour as it approached the crossing. The railway traffic control arm was down and the red warning lights were functioning. The victim was killed instantly by the impact.

He carried no personal identification and a search of a knapsack he'd had in his possession, revealed some clothing and personal items, but virtually nothing to help investigators determine his identity. In his pocket, there was a silver brooch, shaped like a rose, sometimes referred to as The Christmas Rose.

One of the best leads in this investigation was contact from a then-35 year-old man who believed he had been in the company of the unknown male for a few days. He described the two traveling together, hitchhiking on July 22nd from Strathmore, Alberta to Swift Current and then to Regina, arriving in the Queen City on July 24, 1995. Mr. Randy Wakelin has agreed to allow the Regina Police Service to use his name. In a lengthy interview, Wakelin gave police insights into the habits, moods and mannerisms of John Doe and recalled bits of conversation between them. The man called himself David but Wakelin said he wasn't convinced that was his companion's real name. In addition, Wakelin said the younger man wasn't accustomed to a transient lifestyle, "You pick up on, you know, when they're not from the streets and not really into this. And by the way he was dressed, and by the way he prepared himself, it was not normal for him to be hitchhiking." In spite of Wakelin's recollections, the follow-ups produced no new leads into John Doe's true identity.

John Doe is buried in the Southeast portion of Regina's Riverside Cemetery. A rectangular granite headstone marks the grave, the gift of a woman now living in Turner Valley, Alberta.

[This link no longer works.] Please see for even more information. THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT THIS MAN IS FROM EASTERN CANADA, OR THE U.S.


Possible Matches?

I've been in touch with the authorities on this case and suggested possible matches of:

..............Daren Allen Kelley
Missing since May / June, 1995 from Milton, Santa Rosa County, Florida

First pic is a sketch that was done before the computer composite compared to

David Branton
Missing since January 7, 1993 from Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Again, the officer I spoke with was terrific and said he'd check out the possibilities.



Lehigh Valley Crimestoppers no longer has the case in their database and could not refer me to any authority. Allentown Police said they "just had a homicide so no one's available to check that out".

I did call the Regina Police Cold Case Department September 18 and October 9, 2009 to ask if they had indeed checked out Branton as a possibility for their John Doe. They confirmed they have considered him, pretty much ruled him out, but they did check again, probably more thoroughly or with new info, and have ruled him out definitively now. Though the pencil sketch shown here that was supposed to have been associated with their case bore a strong resemblance to David in my opinion, and the eyebrows, prominent cheekbones, narrow chin and easily visible front teeth due to a thin upper lip were similar, Regina police still have a John Doe, and David's family still has no closure. We can hope there will be a happier ending.

See more Branton memorials in:





  • Created by: sr/ks
  • Added: 18 Sep 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 42093251
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for David Lee Branton (17 Jul 1960–unknown), Find A Grave Memorial no. 42093251, ; Maintained by sr/ks (contributor 46847659) Body lost or destroyed, who reports a Believed it is probable he is not alive, regarded as deceased..