GUTHRIE - People are whispering about Satan again in Logan County.
For years, rumors about practicing devil worshipers have persisted in this historic Oklahoma town of 10,000. Rumor has it, they sacrifice dogs - and who knows what else - on crude altars.
Fueling many of the rumors over the years was the shocking 1980 rape-slaying of 4th-grader Carrie Kendall and trial testimony that she was the victim of a satanic ritual on the banks of the muddy Cimarron River.
That testimony was later discounted with the conviction of Roger Dale Hayes, but the rumors have persisted - although in recent years citizens say they have become fewer and fewer.
Last summer, the ugly rumors raised their heads again in a dispute between local bed and breakfast business owners over "murder mystery" weekend guests being taken on tours through the city cemetery where some mock funerals were held.
"We hear rumors, but nothing we've ever been able to confirm through law enforcement investigations," Larry R. Brooks, assistant district attorney, said concerning reports of local Satan worshipers. "There was testimony in the Hayes case, but the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was not able to verify or confirm that. " Hayes is now on death row at the state penitentiary in McAlester.
Last week, an Oklahoma County grand jury indicted a rural Guthrie man, Jimmie Ray Slaughter, accusing him of the torture and fatal shooting of Melody Wuertz, 29, and the fatal shooting of her 11-month-old daughter, Jessica.
A prairie fire of public discussion and suspicion has erupted here again. Citizens are remembering the Kendall death and wondering again if the mystery satanists are still lurking about.
The grand jury reported that Slaughter, a nurse at the veterans' hospital in Oklahoma City, was involved in witchcraft and satanic rituals. Some of his co-workers said he openly preached devil worship.
Wuertz's bullet-pierced and mutilated body included knife carvings on her stomach that some believe are an "R" and upside down cross - the occult symbols for Satan's revenge.
She was seeking child support in a paternity lawsuit against Slaughter, who is married and has two young daughters.
Sharon Majors, who has been the Slaughters' neighbor since 1978, said Slaughter and his wife kept to themselves. "People out here are very friendly, but they acted like we never existed," she said, adding that she has never met Jimmie Slaughter.
Majors said she was unaware that the Slaughters had children until told so by police. "I never saw any children out playing," she said.
The neighbor said she knows nothing about satanic worship and never saw anything unusual next door.
"They say Guthrie is full of it, but I don't know and I don't care to find out," she said.
"Unofficially, and this is my personal opinion only, yes, I believe there are practicing Satanists in Logan County," says police detective Sgt. Rex Brown, 32, who has investigated occult practices on his own for years. "This is not a police department opinion. We've had no formal complaints. " But, Brown said he has found remains locally of sacrificed dogs.
"I've investigated animal rituals, and satanic graffiti which have been printed on different areas of Guthrie - the abandoned Masonic childrens home and the old city hospital," he said. "There have been satanic signs on the outside and inside of the buildings. " BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 490743