As a photographer for The Oklahoman, I get to see a number of things that I would most likely never have the opportunity to experience if my career was not spent behind a camera. Every day for the most part is something different. Some assignments are good. Others great. And then, there are the ones that you just cannot believe are taking place. Over the last few days I have spent some time in El Reno, Okla., taking part in one of those unthinkable assignments.
A family photo of the five homicide victims, Autumn Rust, 7, Kirsten Rust, 7, Evynn Garas, 3, Teagin Rust, 5, and their mother Summer Rust who were killed on Monday at the Elizabeth Place Apartment Homes, in El Reno, Okla. Also pictured is Jason Garas, Summer Rust’s ex-husband and Evynn’s father.
On Monday, I got the call to go out to the Elizabeth Apartments in El Reno where the bodies of Summer Rust, 25, and her four children, Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7, Teagin Rust, 5, and Evynn Garas, 3, were found dead. That day, like with most tragic situations I cover, was hectic. I tried to track down details and information from anyone who might know what happened and was willing to talk. There are always a number of unanswered questions, due to the lack of information being released, but by the ended of the day, fortunately and unfortunately, I end up knowing a lot of details of the situation I am covering.
Police investigate a crime scene where an adult and four young children were found dead in an apartment at the Elizabeth Place Apartment Homes Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, in El Reno, Okla. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
Then day number two arrived and it was back to El Reno with reporter Bryan Painter, videographer Tim Money, and we began the process of getting to know who these five individuals are who tragically lost their lives. The three of us spent the day talking to the children’s grandparents, friends, neighbors and teachers. With each conversation we learned more and more about the personal lives of the victims. I learned about their habits, activities, their favorite toys, food, nicknames, dreams, goals and how much they mean to those around them. As the day ended, the three of us got a personal look into the lives of five people we never met and will never have the opportunity to meet.
James Franklin shows off his favorite photo of his granddaughter Evynn Garas, 3, on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, who was killed on Monday along with her mother Summer Rust and three of her other children at the Elizabeth Place Apartment Homes , in El Reno, Okla. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
Tears roll down his face as James Franklin stands outside the apartment on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, where his daughter-in-law Summer Rust and granddaughter Evynn Garas were killed along with three other children at the Elizabeth Place Apartment Homes on Monday in El Reno, Okla. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
Amanda Tilley, longtime friend of Summer Rust, lowers her head on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, as she talks about Rust and her four children. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
The third day brought a very late night as I sat outside the Canadian County Courthouse at 1 am trying to stay warm and waiting for Sheriff Randall Edwards to bring suspected killer Joshua Durcho from Texas to be booked for the murder of his former girlfriend Summer Rust and her four children. Just before 2 am deputies gathered the media to tell us where we could stand. Then I saw deputies take their weapons from their cars and within a few minutes Sheriff Edwards drove in with Durcho in the back seat of the car. As Sheriff Edwards opened the back door, Joshua Durcho stepped out with his head down, hands shackled, showed no expression and said nothing as members of the media asked him questions on his way into the jail. In the 30 feet or so he had to walk from the car to the door of the jail I got a very close look at an individual suspected of committing a horrific crime you never want to believe could happen.
Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards leads Joshua Steven Durcho, 25, into the county jail after Durcho was extradited from Texas on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, in El Reno, Okla. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards talks to the media about the extradition of Joshua Steven Durcho, 25, from Texas on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, in El Reno, Okla. Durcho is accused in the killing of Summer Rust and her four children that occurred earlier this week. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN
In this short time near Durcho, I saw a very ordinary person, someone who could easily be your neighbor or co-worker. Seeing this made me stop and think about just how many people I (and you) come in contact with each and every day that has an unthinkable side to them that you hope they never act upon. Just think, last week I was in sunny and warm Miami, Fla., covering OU playing for a national championship, and this week I am getting all the details I can handle in a five-person homicide. In this job, each day brings something different.