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New sketch fuels hope in slayings

By John David Sutter Modified: June 14, 2008 at 5:58 pm •  Published: June 14, 2008
WELEETKA — Officials announced Friday they are searching for a man with a black ponytail and driving a white Ford or Chevy pickup who may have information on the recent shooting deaths of two girls here.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown said at a news conference in Okemah that the man is wanted for questioning, but is not necessarily a suspect in the killings of Skyla Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13.

"We just want to question this man,” she said. "Maybe he saw someone in the area. ... Witnesses say he acted suspiciously, but we don't know what he was doing there.”

A composite drawing of the man was released by the OSBI.

Residents of Weleetka, near where the girls were found shot on a backwoods dirt road Sunday, viewed Friday's clue with some optimism. In a case that has produced little in the way of public information, any "person of interest” brings hope, they said.

But the tidbit isn't enough for parents to let their kids outside again or for some residents to be able to sleep well at night. On Friday, Weleetka looked like an abandoned town: doors were shut and locked, window blinds were turned downward. Some residents said they won't be able to relax — to avoid jumping at small noises and always watching their backs — until authorities are sure who committed the crime.

"My sense of security will never completely come back,” said Shauna Nelson, 27. "But if they could catch the persons or person who ... did this, that would ease so much.”

At the time of the shooting Sunday afternoon, the man was seen by witnesses blocking the backwoods dirt road where the two girls were found shot in the chest and head, fully clothed, she said.

Funerals for the girls were also held Friday.

Brown described the man authorities want to interview as American Indian, 6 feet tall, with brown eyes and a long black ponytail. She said a couple of witnesses told the OSBI they saw the man near where the girls were found dead. Other witnesses said they heard gunshots but did not report seeing the man or his white truck, Brown said.

Brown declined to say how many gunshots were heard or at what times. Previously, authorities said ballistics tests showed that two different-caliber guns were used in the slayings. Another witness said he or she saw the girls before their deaths, according to officials.

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•The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is offering a $30,000 reward — collected partly from donations from around the world — for information that leads to a suspect in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the OSBI hot line at (800) 522-8017.


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