WELEETKA — Okmulgee County Sheriff Eddy Rice hasn't watched much news lately, but he knows his Okfuskee County counterpart, Sheriff Jack Choate, is in a tough spot. He also knows all that separated him from being in that tough spot is a distance of about 20 feet.
If 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and her best friend, Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, had been walking on the other side of County Line Road when they were shot to death two weeks ago, the case might very well have ended up in Rice's lap. The primetime spotlight and mounting pressure to unravel the mystery of who gunned the girls down, and why, would be all his.
Both sides ‘help out when we can'
The stretch of County Line Road just south of Bad Creek, where the girls were shot multiple times by two different guns is a rutted dirt road that splits two dense, verdant walls — Okmulgee County on the east and Okfuskee County on the west.
On June 8, Taylor and Skyla were found lying face down in a ditch on the west side of the road. It became Choate's crime scene, but because the nearest cell phone tower was to the east, it was Rice's office that got the emergency call that sent his deputies scrambling.
"Our guys were the first on the scene, and we maintained that crime scene until OSBI arrived,” Rice said.
When something this horrific happens, Rice said, everybody helps, no matter which side of the road it's on.
"County lines doesn't matter. Each side knows each other and help out when we can,” he said. "The only people that care about the boundary lines are the people who have to fix the road or take reports.”
Since the night of the shooting, Rice said his guys have been right in the thick of things, working just as hard as everyone else, but he said the difference is he can do his job without interruption, as the media seemed to have converged miles away at the court-house in Okemah.
"The media can be a useful tool for us,” Rice said.