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Three Killings In Lincoln County Puzzle Authorities

Robby Trammell, Bryan Painter Published: December 1, 1992

CHANDLER - Lincoln County Sheriff A.T. Brixey Jr. says it will be a bizarre coincidence if the brutal killings of three people, whose bodies were discovered beneath two county bridges within four miles of each other, are not related.

"The mathematical probability of finding victims (of unrelated crimes) like that beneath (separate) bridges in a rural area" is astounding, Brixey said.

A 33-year-old Cushing man, Stephen Edward Wood, was charged Monday with two counts of first-degree murder in the knifing deaths of Charles Van Johnson and an unidentified white man, both believed to be transients from an Oklahoma City shelter.

Four of Wood's companions - Pete Edward Culie, 60, of rural Wellston; his 27-year-old son, Robert G. Culie, of Wellston; Charles E. Caudle Jr., 36, of Cushing; and Lance David Charles, 29, of rural Wellston - were arrested on suspicion of being accessories to murder.

The disputed reportedly erupted because of sexual suggestions made by one of the victims to Caudle's stepdaughter.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to identify a young white woman, whose nude body was discovered late Saturday while lawmen were searching for the men's bodies. She may have been strangled, authorities said.

A pillowcase was found near the woman's body, which was face down in about a foot of water, authorities said. Investigators said there were marks on the woman's neck.

The woman's body was found 12 feet below a concrete bridge, five miles west of Tryon on State Highway 105 and 1 1/2 miles north on a dirt road. The men's bodies were discovered 25 feet beneath a wooden bridge, seven miles west of Tryon on SH 105 and three miles north on a county road.

"It defies the law of coincidence," said Barney Barnett, assistant district attorney, "but it doesn't appear to be related right now. The witnesses (suspects) we've talked to deny any knowledge of the female. " Barnett said additional charges in the mens' deaths may be filed today. Pete Culie was released on bond Sunday, but Wood and the other suspects are being held in the county jail.

Barnett said the murders during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend were surprising. There had only been one homicide in the county in each of the past two years, authorities said.

Undersheriff Duane Mathes said both men had been stabbed in the chest and stomach - Johnson about 30 times and the unidentified man, who was found nude from the waist down, about 15 times.

He said the men were believed to have been killed with a 10-inch, lock-blade knife, which may have been thrown into the Cimarron River off State Highway 33 west of Ripley in Payne County.

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