WELEETKA — In the biggest and most visible investigative effort since two girls were gunned down Sunday, state agents and local officials closed an isolated stretch of County Line Road on Thursday for another look at the scene.
Investigators hovered over the area in a helicopter, searching the nearby creek bed and marking important points with coordinates. The community was abuzz. It had to mean something, residents said. It was enough to bring Graham Elementary School Principal Wanda Mankin to Okemah for the regular afternoon news conference — instead of waiting to read about the situation in the news. "I heard they were going to have a big announcement, so I wanted to come up and see what it was,” she said. Both 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker had gone to Mankin's school, and she remembered them as good girls who couldn't have done anything to deserve being shot multiple times in the head and chest area by two guns. Mankin wrung her hands in anticipation as OSBI agent Ben Rosser prepared to speak in front of the Okfuskee County Courthouse. She, like the other members of the community who have been paralyzed by fear since the killings, wanted an answer. But as Rosser started his briefing, her face fell, and she knew that answer was not coming Thursday. "There's not a whole lot of new information this afternoon,” Rosser said.
Scattered details emergeHere's what Rosser did say: •Investigators had identified a witness who saw the girls on the road before they died, but that the witness would probably only help "nail down” a timeline surrounding the shootings. •Police had previously administered lie detector tests to some of the people they had interviewed, but the tests did not produce a suspect. •Agents were back out at the scene doing more work. •Both girls were shot multiple times by two guns. "I think ‘angry' is a good word for it,” Mankin said of her mood, and the mood of others from the area. "Rumors are still everywhere that this happened or that happened. I just want some answers. I want to know why this happened.” One of Mankin's biggest fears, echoed by other townspeople, is that the return to the crime scene was not hopeful, but rather desperate, she said. "I'm getting scared about what we're going to do when school starts back and we have to run bus routes and we still don't know who did this,” she said. "How are we going to be able to leave kids at bus stops or drop them off, knowing these people are still out there?” Another community member, Tammy Smith, said she came with her two children to the news briefing Thursday so they could see that police are working to find the people who killed their friends. "I want them to know they are working on it,” she said. "I know there are people who want answers right now, but I also know they are working as hard as they can.” Since the shooting, Smith said, her 11-year-old daughter, Destiny, and her 13-year-old son, Bryan, who was in class with Taylor and Skyla at school, have been too scared to sleep in their own beds. "I'm scared this could happen to me,” Bryan said. Guest book: Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker Guest book: Skyla Jade Whitaker
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Funeral services•Taylor Paschal-Placker: 10 a.m. today at First Baptist Church in Dewar. •Skyla Whitaker: 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Henryetta.