Around Weleetka, shock but no answers

By Bryan Painter Modified: June 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm •  Published: June 11, 2008
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WELEETKA — "This is the mother of all wrongness.”

Tension far exceeded the thick June humidity as Graham School Superintendent Dusty Chancey cut to the point Tuesday.


"There's a lot of anger out there right now,” said Chancey, a man with a stern look, a shaved head and a salt and red pepper goatee.

Less than 48 hours earlier two of his students — Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker, 13, and Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11 — had been shot to death along a rural Okfuskee County road about a quarter-mile from the older child's home.

But to understand Chancey's statements, one must understand that the bruise this community bears is not fresh. They were still healing.

Many people will for years talk about this horrible crime in June '08. But it's important to listen when Chancey starts a sentence with "The last time ...”

During the summer of 2004 Becky Johnson, who was pregnant, was shot. Her former boyfriend, Cody James, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Johnson and first-degree manslaughter for the killing of Johnson's unborn child.

Johnson and James were closing in on their junior year at Graham.

Think about these two tragedies. And then think about the families of the victims and the community left mourning.

School brings counselors
The Graham School District only covers about 48 square miles, which includes about 600 residents. The K-12 school has about 100 students. Chancey and Wanda Mankin, the elementary school principal, aren't concerned about the numbers but rather the children within the numbers.

That's why on Tuesday they invited two counselors to come to the school and meet with any children who wanted to come in and talk, even though school is out.

"You don't want it to fester,” Chancey said, following up his statement about anger. "You want to address it. Don't let it build.”

Chancey, who has worked in the Graham School District for 16 years and has been superintendent for 13 of those, said "The last time ...” the school had counselors available after Johnson's death.

Mankin said, "The last time, some students couldn't come back and walk the same halls. Guest book: Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker Guest book: Skyla Jade Whitaker


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