WELEETKA — The two girls found dead in a ditch Sunday along a dirt road in Okfuskee County were good students and best friends, school officials said Monday afternoon.
Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker 13, and Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, were found shot to death in a ditch on a dirt road less than a mile from Taylor's home. Family members said Taylor and her friend went for a walk down the road at about 5:30 p.m. to a bridge and appeared to be heading home when they were killed, said Sheriff Jack Choate.
Taylor's grandfather found the girls' bodies after he went to look for them when they did not return, Choate said. Investigators combed the area last night before heavy rains hit the area. Tire tracks were found on the dirt road and were preserved, as well as other evidence found at the scene. Choate said there is a suspect in the case.
The girls were found in a ditch on a county road along the Okmulgee-Okfuskee county line, said OSBI investigator Stan Florence. The girls were found fully clothed in T-shirts and shorts. Both had multiple gunshot wounds, Florence said.
Investigators are still trying to figure out a motive in the killings and what type of gun was used.
"They were little girls, what possible motive could there be?" Choate said. "You have to wonder, did they see something they were not supposed to? Were they at the wrong place at the wrong time?"
Their bodies were found along an isolated road. Hardscrabble homes along the county road are spread out and as much as mile apart in some places. Crime scene tape had blocked the road, but already mourners had dropped off flowers near the field where the girls were found. Lawn chairs filled the front yard of the modest home where Taylor's family lives.
Joe Mosher, Taylor's uncle, said the family is struggling with Taylor's loss. An account for donations to pay for her funeral expenses has been set up at Weleetka Commerce Bank.
"Her parents are really distraught," said Mosher, who is the brother of Taylor's mother. "They're a very poor family."
Mosher said his niece was vibrant and full of energy.
"Taylor was the most lively, beautiful little girl you ever met," Mosher said. "She was very intelligent and had good grades. She didn't have an enemy in this world. People who didn't even know her loved her."
Many in the small community of Weleetka, located about 90 miles east of Oklahoma City, were stunned to hear the news.
"Taylor was a top student," said Wanda Mankin, who serves as the elementary school principal and counselor. "She had been home-schooled before she came to us."
Taylor was the only girl in the sixth grade and Skyla was in the fifth grade at the Graham school district. Located in the four corners of Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Hughes and McIntosh counties, the school is about four miles from Dustin.
The school has 100 students from prekindergarten through the 12th grade and another 70 students in an on-line pilot program, she said.
Mankin described Skyla as an outgoing, bubbly, tall lanky brunette who played basketball, while Taylor was a sandy blond student who was quiet and studious.
Taylor was also elected elementary queen after selling the most raffle tickets for a fundraiser.
"In a school this size, we all feel their (parent's) pain," Mankin said. "Their parents want people to know these were good kids."
Mankin said school counselors will be available for students from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday.