HENRYETTA — One unanswered question hung over the funerals Friday for gunshot victims Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker and Skyla Jade Whitaker: Why?
In separate services, hundreds of relatives and friends grappled with the realizationthat both girls were truly gone, leaving the living to struggle with their senseless Sunday murders on a rural Okfuskee County road.
Best friends, Taylor, 13, and Skyla, 11, were discovered together near a dirt road some 300 yards from Taylor's home. Their bodies had been pierced by bullets from what investigators now know came from two different firearms.
Their killer or killers remain at large.
For now, only sorrow and anger can be found.
"We have two choices today,” said the Rev. Jim Paslay, officiating Skyla's afternoon funeral to an overflowing crowd at the First Baptist Church in Henryetta. "We can either be bitter or better. It's a choice.
"I don't know about you, but I want to be better.”
As Paslay spoke, law enforcement agents from Okmulgee and Henryetta began to congregate outside the church with word that the OSBI had released a sketch of "a person of interest” in the case. The man in the sketch is a male of American Indian descent with brown hair, a pony tail and a plain baseball cap.
Agents also confiscated the funeral service registry, and snapped pictures of people as they exited the service.
Inside, Rosita Gordon — Skyla's older sister — read a few words written by her mother, Rose Whitaker. Gordon reminded everyone how Skyla loved life, cats, cheerleading, walks, rain, and naturally, fighting with her sisters.
"Now she will never graduate ... never have boyfriends ... never go to college ... never have children,” Gordon said. "Someone stole that from her ... What little comfort we have is that, in the end, she was with her best friend; walking, having a good time on a beautiful day.”
Paslay would reflect on those words moments later, saying, "They tug at all of our hearts because we can all relate.” The pastor then begged those in attendance not to waste time seeking "revenge,” but rather to honor Skyla by loving one another.
‘No more tears'
Four hours earlier, the Rev. Ron King delivered a similar message of love and faith at the First Baptist Church in Dewar.
"What happened is tragic, but Taylor is full of life,” King said in a church thick with sorrow.