ANADARKO — Carolyn McBride no longer likes to work late at her downtown newspaper office.
For a long time, Annie Lyons hesitated to attend her church's evening choir practices and women's club meetings.
The Rev. Brian Ball packs a gun now, even to the pulpit.
Nearly four years after a minister was brutally slain inside her downtown Pentecostal church, some of this city's 6,600 residents remain on edge.
Who killed the Rev. Carol Daniels, 61, remains unanswered. So, too, do questions of whether her killer was a stranger passing through town, or more frightening to those who live here, someone they know.
“Things are different,” said Carla McBride, Carolyn McBride's daughter who also works at the Anadarko Daily News. “You don't feel safe. I think that's what most people feel. You don't feel safe.”
About noon on Aug. 23, 2009, police found Daniels mutilated body inside the Christ Holy Sanctified Church on E First Street. Even though she had few regular congregants left, Daniels, who lived in Oklahoma City, still made the drive every Sunday to Anadarko to minister to anyone who might drop by the tiny weatherworn building with the large black cross hanging above the front door.
As details of her killing leaked out, concern in the community grew. Daniels had been stabbed multiple times, her head nearly severed, her hair lit on fire. The killing didn't appear random. The motive didn't appear to be robbery. The killer posed her body as if crucified, took her clothes and sprayed a chemical to destroy DNA evidence.
The then-prosecutor called it one of the most brutal and horrific crime scenes he'd even seen.
Authorities did little to lower anxiety levels when a few days after the crime they held a closed-door meeting with about 30 local church leaders warning them to be vigilant.
Ball, who was preaching in his Oakridge Ministries church three blocks away at the time of the slaying, took the message to heart. He installed an electronic lock system to limit access to his building. And he got a concealed-carry permit.
“In that situation, I bet she wish she was carrying,” Ball said of Daniels.
‘Had to be something'
As the days passed, with little information being made public, suspicion and speculation flew in coffee shops and on computer message boards.
A serial killer roamed the town. The death was racially motivated. Drugs were involved. It was a vengeance killing. Even a member of a local heavy metal band whose songs contained satanic lyrics came under suspicion.
But as the investigation dragged on for days, then weeks, then months with no arrests, some residents grumbled.
The killing occurred midmorning, about a block from the downtown police headquarters. Surely somebody saw something, heard something.
A $10,000 reward went uncollected.
“It just bothers me,” said Annie Lyons, who knew Daniels, through the church community.
“Was there some evidence there that could have given some idea of what went on? There had to be something.”
Lyons described Daniels as a lovely person who always had a smile on her face.
Daniels spoke several times at the Methodist church where Lyon's late husband was the pastor.
“It just kind of changed things for Anadarko,” Lyons said of the slaying. “For something like that to happen in our city. And to not just find anything on it. No clues or anything like that. It amazes me.”
Anadarko Police Chief David Edwards acknowledges being frustrated with what he called one of the toughest cases he's investigated during his 25 years with the department.
“There's not a day that goes by that we don't think about it,” Edwards said.
“Rarely does a week go by that we don't talk about the case. This is a case we want solved and believe one day will be solved.”
‘You just wonder'
Still, despite the help of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, law enforcement officials appear no closer to cracking the case.
Today, Daniels' church is gone, torn down.
A memorial that includes two benches and a cross of granite sits on the site, offering a brief glimpse to the steady stream of daytime traffic speeding by.
The fact that another similar death hasn't occurred leads some residents to believe Daniels was killed by a transient.
Others think the killer may have been a local, possibly someone who has since moved away or died.
“I wonder sometimes, ‘Could this person be here some Sundays?'” said the Rev. Ted Mercer, pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, whose mostly low-income congregation includes many members who Mercer said have run afoul of the law over the years.
“You just wonder. Am I meeting this person in the store? Am I seeing them? Do I know their name?”
Unlike her mother, Carla McBride thinks the slayer is someone from out of town.
She doesn't believe a local would have been able to keep the secret hidden.
“It's a small town,” Carla McBride said. “We know what everybody knows before they do it.”
And, she says, the alternative is too chilling to consider.
“You hate to think anyone in your little town could do something like that,” she said.