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Questions remain in some high-profile Oklahoma homicide and fire cases

A number of questions remain unanswered in some high-profile homicide and fire cases in Oklahoma.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE Published: January 2, 2012

Just before midnight Sept. 18, 2010, Justin and Christina Neidel's home caught fire.

The Tuttle couple fled and told police they had surprised a group of masked Hispanic men who were burglarizing their $200,000 home.

The Neidels said the men handcuffed them to a set of dining room chairs but that they were able to free themselves and escape.

By the time firefighters arrived to the isolated subdivision, the Neidels' home was nearly completely lost to the flames.

The Neidels were not injured, and their children were staying with grandparents at the time.

Investigators determined the fire was started intentionally on the home's second floor.

Judah Sheppard, an investigator with the state fire marshal's office, turned his case over to Grady County prosecutors several weeks ago.

Sheppard won't reveal any suspects in the case, but he said that “it's going to be big when it all goes down.”

“I'm just waiting on the DA's office,” he said. “They just keep telling me they'll get back to me.”

2011 ended without answers to a number of questions in this and other high-profile murder, fire and missing persons cases in Oklahoma.

Missing man

Bill Dwayne Shipley withdrew several thousand dollars from his bank account in July as he prepared to leave for Arkansas to paint an Arby's restaurant.

Shipley never made it to the job, and the last time anybody reported seeing him was July 19.

Because his work involved frequent trips out of state — some times for weeks at a time — Shipley wasn't reported missing until Aug. 20.

A busy self-employed contractor, the missing Goldsby man was described by investigators as a savvy businessman who never missed an appointment and always did the job right.

Shortly after the missing person report was filed, police found one of Shipley's trucks in south Oklahoma City, abandoned in an apartment complex parking lot. Another truck remains missing.

Investigators have an unidentified person of interest in the case — a stocky white man in his 50s or 60s — caught on video surveillance using Shipley's credit cards at several metro-area businesses.

But nearly six months since Shipley was last seen, the case has come to a standstill.

Grass fire

Intense winds and dry conditions turned a fire that began just south of NE 50 and Sooner Road on Aug. 30 into what fire officials called one of the biggest fires in Oklahoma City since the 1980s.

The winds sent the fire northbound, where it burned and destroyed more than two dozen homes.

The fire, which ranged from Sooner Road to Midwest Boulevard and from NE 50 to Britton Road, burned well into the next day.

Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said the massive grass fire highlighted a growing problem in metro areas.

Homes far from any fire hydrants or other water sources — common as more people move from subdivisions onto acreages — were burned because trees, brush and high grass serve as kindling on a hot, dry summer day.

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