WELEETKA — Investigators continue to interview people in hopes of finding a suspect in the brutal murder of two young girls found dead along a dirt road in Okfuskee County. So far there are no suspects, no proposed motives and little known about the killings.
Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker, 13, and Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, were shot in the chest and head Sunday, according to the State Medical Examiner's Office.
"We have no solid suspect information," OSBI Agent Ben Ross said at 2 p.m. news conference. "We have no person of interest. We have nobody we can put a finger on. We've received phone calls and we're looking into those leads."
Taylor's grandfather, Peter Placker, found the girls about of a mile from their home after the girls went for a walk Sunday evening and didn't return. Placker went looking for the girls after Taylor couldn't be reached on her cell phone. Placker used Taylor's cell phone to place a 911call, Ross said.
Authorities were notified about 5:40 p.m. Sunday and spent most of Sunday night looking for evidence.
Ross said shell casings were found at the scene, as well as tire tracks and footprints. Ross would not release the caliber of the gun believed to have been used in the shooting. The girls had walked to a bridge along the dirt road, which is a popular gathering place for residents in the rural county, which is about 90 miles east of Oklahoma City.
"We're not sure whether it was somebody passing by," Ross said. "It's an active area for people to throw from the bridge, shoot from the bridge."
Ross said the road, while remote, the road gets a fair amount of local traffic. The investigation so far has been focused on people who may live in the area or be familiar with the country roads.
"It's not likely someone pulled of the interstate or the highway and just stopped there," Ross said. "It's possible they went to meet somebody, or interrupted something or maybe it was a personal attack."
The OSBI this morning announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the shootings. Ross said the reward could increase as the OSBI gets calls of people wanting to donate. America's Most Wanted will also be doing a segment on the slaying, he said.
Autopsies performed Monday on the girls show that they had been shot in the head and chest, said Kevin Rowland, chief medical examiner. Rowland did not release any other details. The girls were found wearing T-shirts and shorts.
Ross said DNA is being recovered from the girls, samples from their clothing and under their fingernails are being tested for substances, or anything that might give investigators a clue about the last minutes of their lives.
The girls were found close together. It is unclear if they had tried to flee, Ross said.
While the girls were found fully clothed in T-shirts and shorts, Ross said there is no conclusive evidence to show that the girls were not sexually assault.
"We have no information on whether the girls were sexually assaulted or not," Ross said. "In that time frame, I doubt it, but we're still looking into it."
Taylor and Skyla, who were classmates at the Graham school in eastern Okfuskee County, had walked down the dusty road to a bridge about 1/2 mile from the home where Taylor lived with her grandparents.
Investigators spent most of the evening Sunday looking for clues in the area where the girls were found. Tire tracks preserved before heavy rains hit the area late Sunday show that a vehicle traveled down the road, then turned around near the ditch where the girls were found.
Taylor was the only girl in her sixth-grade class, and Skyla was the only girl in the fifth grade in the Graham School District.
"Taylor was a top student," said Wanda Mankin, principal.
Taylor was homeschooled until the family moved to Weleetka, a town of 1,014.
Taylor was a big-hearted girl who rescued turtles crawling in the middle of the road and wanted to become a forensic scientist like the ones she saw on TV, said Peter Placker, Taylor's grandfather, who said he raised Taylor.
Skyla was the carefree adventurer — the girl who walked barefoot almost everywhere and rode her bicycle down dirt roads. Where Skyla went, her many cats and a pet goat followed. Skyla wanted to become a veterinarian, said her grandmother, Claudia Farrow.
Mankin said school counselors were to be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, and from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday. School is out for the summer at Graham.
A fund has been set up to help pay for the funeral expenses for both girls at the Bank of Commerce, P.O. Box 48, Weleekta, OK, 74880. For more information call 405-786-2216.