MCLOUD — Some in this rural Oklahoma town of 4,000 residents hope last week's convictions of former elementary schoolteacher Kimberly Crain and her co-defendant, Gary Doby, on child pornography charges marked the end of long nightmare.
The two were found guilty of dozens of sex crimes involving lewd photos and video that Crain took of some of the school's young girls and then shared with Doby, a former Oklahoma Baptist University professor living in Pennsylvania. The abuse included secretly recording the girls as they changed clothes and having them wear skimpy outfits and pose provocatively. The incidents took place both on and off school property. The victims ranged in age from seven to nine.
Doby, 66, a retired early childhood education professor, received a life sentence, and Crain, 49, faces the same when Pottawatomie County Judge John Canavan sentences her March 22.
In a chilling revelation after last week's court hearing, District Attorney Richard Smothermon said he will present evidence at Crain's sentencing that shows the activity went on for a number of years, and that far more children were involved. Smothermon said investigators were unable to identify girls in dozens of other photographs found during the investigation, leaving many parents to question whether their child may have been among those targeted.
“I have spoken with several parents that are probably in that exact position,” Smothermon said. “I think it scared everybody.”
The crime panicked parents and angered residents. It targeted the town's most vulnerable victims, scarred the reputation of one of its most beloved institutions and now has left questions hanging about what trauma might still lie ahead if more victims are identified.
“It's finally brought home reality,” City Manager Larry Dillon said of the impact the crime has had on his community. “Reality is there are bad people out in the world and they will exploit you at the drop of a hat. You have to be ever vigilant.”
‘Couldn't happen here'
At first, many residents couldn't believe the allegations could be true. Crain, a third-grade teacher who had been at the school since the fall of 2006, by all accounts, was popular with students and parents.
She resigned in November 2011 after parents of a girl in her class went to McLoud police and reported that Crain took lewd photos at a pizza party at her Shawnee home. Parents of another girl reported that Crain asked her students to Skype over the computer three or four times a week with an older man wearing glasses named “Uncle G.” The parents also said Crain took photos on her personal cellphone of certain girls in the class posing on desks and chairs.
Smothermon said Doby would request Crain have certain girls pose in certain ways.
An FBI agent testified that Doby admitted to Crain during a Skype conversation that he showed one of the young girls his penis while he conversed with her at school.
Crain was arrested Dec. 1, 2011, and held on $1 million bail.
“I was … this couldn't happen here,'' recalled Ron Kenyon, 66, a retired Defense Department employee who serves on the McLoud City Council. “Sure enough, it did.”
McLoud spreads over 20 square miles of countryside in northwest Pottawatomie County about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City. Known in its earliest days for making and selling whiskey to whites and American Indians, the city gained notoriety in 1949 as the “BlackBerry Capital of the World,” when the chamber of commerce sent a crate of blackberries to President Harry Truman. The town still has a blackberry festival every July.
In more recent years, McLoud has become a commercial hub for nearby farm families and a bedroom community for Shawnee, Oklahoma City and Tinker Air Force Base, city officials said.
The past three years brought new housing, a boost in population and new businesses opening along State Highway 270, which is renamed Broadway as it cuts through the center of town.
The chamber of commerce website promotes McLoud's “small town warmth and country charm.” Some fear the events of the last year have tarnished that image.
“Not only are you disgusted by what happened but you're embarrassed that it happened,'' said Dillon, the city manager. “No community wants that kind of publicity.”
Smothermon said Crain and Doby met at OBU in the 1980s, while the former schoolteacher was a student at the private college in Shawnee.
Some time in the past couple of years Smothermon said Crain reached out to Doby for help with her graduate school dissertation.
The prosecutor said he wasn't sure if the two became romantically involved when they first met — sometime between 1985 and 1987 — but the online correspondence quickly turned sexual.
“And that was him, he was grooming (Crain), I believe, from the start,” Smothermon said. “Some of these things they were planning for some of these girls, it's not something that's easy to talk about.”
Smothermon said it was apparent the couple was grooming the children for sexual activity and, that in at least one of the chats, it appears Doby was planning a trip to Oklahoma, Smothermon said.
Smothermon described some of the plans Crain and Doby had for at least some of the girls as “beyond disturbing, even if we are talking about adults.”
“All of the chats are incredibly sexually graphic,” Smothermon said of the evidence he plans to produce at sentencing. “It will literally turn your stomach.”
Struggling with feelings
About 1,000 students attend the one-story red brick elementary school that for many residents serves as a point of pride in the community.
Dillon, the city manager, doesn't think Crain's crimes will change that.
“The local people here know we have a good school and most of the teachers are good people,” Dillon said. “It was almost unbelievable that a teacher would do that.”
Dillon, who has grandchildren in the elementary school, said he struggles to express his feelings about what happened.
“It's a combination of, ‘you've got to be kidding me,' and you want to go kill them,'' he said.
A spokesman for the school district declined to comment, citing a lawsuit that several parents of the victims have filed against the district.
Over the holiday break, the school installed new classroom doors with windows, and ordered that those without windows remain open during school hours. Teachers now are prohibited from hanging decorations or curtains in the windows that would block the view. A new policy also requires that any outgoing Internet attachments be forwarded to the principal and superintendent. Smothermon said several nearby school districts had adopted similar measures.
Maj. Carol Pendley, the city's assistant police chief, said the crimes astounded the community.
“People were just outraged, outraged, that this had occurred,” Pendley said. “They were just shocked that something of this degree could happen in this small peaceful town.”
In the wake of the revelations, residents jammed a December school board meeting demanding answers. Many grew angry when the board, which had planned to release a public statement on the matter, instead cited the possibility of litigation and declined to make any comment.
“It will never go away, but eventually you've got to look forward,” Kenyon said. “You can't keep living and dwelling on what happened. This community doesn't deserve a black eye.”