The clock continues to tick on state investigators trying to solve the homicide of the Rev. Carol Daniels, whose nude and mutilated body was found Aug. 23 inside her small Anadarko church. Authorities have not announced any persons of interest or identified any suspects. Oklahomans have seen such a scenario unfold repeatedly in recent years with unsolved homicide cases in towns such as Poteau, Cordell, Buffalo Valley and, perhaps most notably, Weleetka. As time passes, are investigators are also battling the odds of these cases ever being solved. "If you don’t have any solid leads in the first 48 to 72 hours, then it gets tough,” said Cleveland County Undersheriff Rhett Burnett, speaking in general terms and based on 27 years in law enforcement. "If you got nothing after 72 hours, then you should be really concerned. That’s why investigators have a heavy, heavy burden on their shoulders when they go to a crime scene. Because each homicide presents different evidence and challenges, no one can definitively say when a case begins to go cold. Burnett, however, doesn’t believe in the term "cold case.” "I don’t like that term,” Burnett said. "I don’t think a case should ever be ‘cold,’ but a case can go inactive if there is no new information coming in. Even then, there is always something to do. For instance, you can always go back and re-interview witnesses.” Brent Turvey, a criminal profiler and private forensic scientist, thinks the term "cold case” is an invention of television. "I believe agencies or investigators allow cases to go cold,” said Turvey, an Oklahoma City University adjunct professor. "But I do not believe in the existence of a cold case. ... Agencies often make the mistake of keeping the same people on a case for years. If you don’t have something solid after a while, you need to bring in an outside expert or another investigator.” Here is a brief look at some of Oklahoma’s unsolved homicides:
Carol Daniels, 61Place: Anadarko Time elapsed: One month, 11 days Case summary: Police found the Oklahoma City pastor’s body inside the Christ Holy Sanctified Church in Anadarko. Sources told The Oklahoman her body appeared to be staged in a "crucifix position” behind the altar with her throat, left breast and back slashed. Crime scene investigators processed the scene for more than 15 hours. Comment: "I think about it all the time,” said Charles Etta Dunlap, Daniels’ mother. "Of course, at the time when you’re meeting people, you’re not thinking of anything. But now ... I have thoughts — thoughts I have shared with authorities.”
Joe Neff, 61Place: Poteau Time elapsed: Four months, 20 days Case summary: Police were called to Neff’s Long Branch Saloon off U.S. 59 on May 14 after a friend of Neff’s found a lot of blood, as well as Neff’s straw hat and cigarette lighter. Three days later fishermen found Neff’s body in an old mining strip 12 miles north near Pocola. He had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head. No arrests have been made. Comment: "Go around town, and you’ll see where people have taken down posters about my dad’s case,” said a sobbing Marie Pitchford, Neff’s daughter. "I know it’s just a piece of paper to them, but that’s my father.
Frieda Dighton, 67Place: Buffalo Valley Time elapsed: One year, three months, 29 days Case summary: Authorities found Dighton dead June 5, 2008, in the bedroom of her rural home with her throat slashed. Those close to the investigation say robbery doesn’t appear to be a motive, noting that her wedding ring remained on her hand and nothing appeared to be missing from the home. Comment: "Right now there are four theories of various suspects, but I’m beginning to lose hope this will ever be solved,” said Marie Wilson, Dighton’s daughter. "You know we had a $15,000 reward posted, and we didn’t get one call — not one call. That tells me people are scared.”
Melissa Flores, 27Place: Cordell Time elapsed: Two years, eight months, six days Case summary: Flores was last seen Jan. 27, 2007, at an estranged boyfriend’s house in Cordell, where investigators found her car and purse. Police served the estranged boyfriend – Ronnie Denny Jr. — with a search warrant at the time, but he claimed to have no knowledge of Flores’ whereabouts. Her body has never been found. Comment: "I’ve had people call my house with rumors that they have found my daughter’s body,” said Judy Tome, Melissa’s mother. "I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t believe the rumors anymore.”
Luella ‘Granny’ Wright, 89Town: Cheyenne Time elapsed: Eight years, two months, six days Case summary: Authorities found Wright slain in her bed July 28, 2001. Roger Mills County Sheriff Joe Hay said the crime scene showed no signs of a forced entry, struggle or robbery. The killer left only a set of shoe tracks outside in Wright’s garden. No arrests have been made. Comment: "Our frustration is we believe we know who did it, but he’s sitting in a prison in Mexico,” said Joe Hay, Roger Mills County sheriff. "If he ever returned to the United States, the odds of us ever getting our hands on him would still be slim.”
Taylor Placker, 13; Skyla Whitaker, 11Place: Weleetka Time elapsed: One year, three months, 26 days Case summary: Taylor and Skyla were found shot to death June 8, 2008. The girls were found by Taylor’s grandfather, Peter Placker, near Bad Creek Bridge on a dirt road about 300 yards from the Placker home. Authorities determined the girls were shot 13 times with two different weapons. Investigators think they are looking for at least two suspects, although none have been identified. A grand jury was impaneled in September 2008, but the evidence produced no indictments. Comment: "We’re not getting as many (leads) as we did in those first few months, but we’re still getting leads in,” said Jessica Brown, OSBI spokeswoman. "It’s funny how some leads come to us. There might be a traffic stop, or maybe you bust somebody with meth, and all of a sudden they have some information.”
Bobbie Lynn Wofford, 14Place: Kingfisher Time elapsed: Ten years, two months, 29 days Case summary: Wofford was last seen alive July 5, 1999, outside a Love’s Country Store at 4 a.m. On Nov. 4, quail hunters found her small purse and called then-Kingfisher County Sheriff Danny Graham, who found her decomposing, clothed body in the woods west of town. She appeared to have been killed by a gunshot to the head. Self-proclaimed serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells, on death row in Texas, claimed to have killed her, but authorities remain unconvinced. The case remains unsolved. Comment: "Periodically, we still receive phone calls,” said Dennis Banther, Kingfisher County sheriff. "Whether we think it’s a good lead or not, we still track it down. We investigate every lead. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t think about that case. We even have a Wofford room here where we can spread out all our information. Trust me, that file is not stored in some basement somewhere.”
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