Victims' families, others have lost trust in OSBI
Editor's note: This story is Part Two of a three-part series examining the operations of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. It is a joint project of The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World.
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Such is the level of distrust the Devineys have developed for the state agency charged with finding justice for their daughter, Sheila Ann Deviney. The Devineys say the OSBI has "demonized" and treated them "hostile" because of their relentless quest to see the case solved.
Now they are disheartened and disillusioned.
"The agent in charge (Joe Lahue) finally told us to 'Go home and forget about it. Perhaps the person who takes my place when I retire will solve it,'" David Deviney told The Oklahoman last week. "We spend billions of dollars overseas to fight terrorism, but let it happen in your front yard and the government will turn their back on you."
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown, who declined to make agents available for comment, disputed the Devineys' claims, calling Lahue a "most gentle man" who has "never been anything but polite to the family."
Yet Deviney's story is one shared by several victims' families, private investigators, defense attorneys and public officials statewide regarding the OSBI.
Together, they portray an agency that has generally abandoned old-fashioned, street-level police work; trampled the feelings of victims' families; displayed arrogance in the face of evidence; and engaged in territorial disputes with other law enforcement agencies.
"We try to find the things they have done poorly, and we always have," said Joe Robertson, the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System's executive director. "Frankly, we've done so with great success. Frequently, we see OSBI zero in on a suspect and never move off of that person, regardless of the evidence.
"So I'm not saying they're a crack agency. But I will say, in court, they have always been very professional and open with their discovery. In that respect, we have a very good relationship."
Jim and Stacey Rilee haven't rested since a paraglider spotted their daughter's decomposing body May 8, 2009, while flying over Poteau Mountain. Authorities later found Jody Rilee Wilson's abandoned vehicle 103 miles away outside a Henryetta restaurant.
Initially, the Rilees were optimistic.
"After meeting with OSBI, we walked away feeling like they were earnestly investigating our daughter's death as much as they are capable," Stacey Rilee said from her Succasunna, N.J., home.
Confidence vanished after a conversation between Jim Rilee and OSBI agent Donnie Long turned to the subject of a key suspect and text messages.
"I called him (Long)," Rilee said. "I said, 'Have you gotten the text messages from the cell phone?' He said, 'I have the phone records.' I said, 'No, the specific text messages.'
"He said, 'We can't get those messages, but I'll check.'
A few days passed, and Long called Rilee back and said he'd learned agents actually could get the text messages. By then, it was too late. The cell phone provider had purged the texts from its system.
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