McLoud, Oklahoma, still feeling effects of sex abuse scandal

Some in this rural town of 4,000 residents hope last week's convictions of former elementary teacher Kimberly Crain and her co-defendant, Gary Doby, on child pornography charges marked the end of long nightmare.
by Andrew Knittle and Phillip O'Connor Published: January 14, 2013
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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.”

Reconnecting, grooming

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.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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by Phillip O'Connor
Enterprise Editor
O'Connor joined the Oklahoman staff in June, 2012 after working at The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a combined 28 years. O'Connor, an Oklahoma City resident, is a graduate of Kansas State University. He has written frequently...
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