WELEETKA — Since his 13-year-old niece and her best friend were gunned down and left on the side of a county road June 8, Joe Mosher and his family have spent a lot of time glued to the TV, praying the unknown shooters would be caught. Tuesday morning, it looked like those prayers had finally been answered as a TV report indicated a man police called a person of interest in the shooting deaths of Taylor Paschal-Placker and Skyla Whitaker was in custody. But the closure the families had been hoping for soon crumbled when it became clear the news reports were based on a false claim. "We thought they caught the guy,” Mosher said. "We thought they had him in custody. It was right there on the TV — breaking news. It turns out, they had nothing. It was really kind of heartbreaking for us.” The family's false hope stemmed from what police called a domestic situation that began at the Weleetka Middle and High School. Officers said the man, later identified as Russell Neiley of Weleetka, had a bolt-action rifle in his pickup and was threatening to take his life.
What happened?When Superintendent Dan Parrish started getting phone calls about a hostage incident Tuesday morning, he said he didn't know what reporters were talking about. "Everyone's edgy,” Parrish said. "They want to find this guy. We all want to get it to a conclusion. It's pretty scary.” Police received a call Tuesday morning reporting a domestic disturbance at the Weleetka school where Neiley was apparently dropping off one of his daughters. "He was upset and said he was going to kill himself,” Okfuskee County Undersheriff Darrell Summers said. Weleetka resident Gary Ogle, like dozens of other concerned community members following the hunt for a killer, heard the events unfold on his police scanner. "They were definitely excited,” Ogle said. "They thought they had the guy, but that turned out not to be the case.” Ogle said the town started buzzing immediately, and someone even called his wife and warned her to stay away from the school. A message went out to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol that there was a hostage situation at the school and the person Okfuskee County officers had been searching for had taken a child hostage at the school. As the patrol scrambled a tactical unit to respond, another bulletin came through that they had arrested the man. Weeletka Police Chief Marlene Lawson said she was able to take the man into custody without incident, and he was admitted later Tuesday to a hospital where he could be placed under medical supervision.
Police are still searchingBoth Lawson and OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said they did not know where the reports came from that the man had claimed to be involved in the deaths of Taylor and Skyla; both said that Neiley was not part of the investigation. Police have been searching for a "person of interest” whose sketch was released Friday— the day of the girls' funerals. The man in the sketch is described as an American Indian, about 6 feet tall, with black hair and a ponytail stretching to the small of his back. Investigators say the man was seen standing near a white Ford or Chevrolet single-cab pickup with chrome striping and an Oklahoma license tag around the time and place the girls were shot. "He doesn't look like him at all,” Lawson said comparing Neiley to the sketch. "Not even close.” Okemah police officer R.L. Wilbourne, who lives just north of where the girls were shot, stopped by the spot Tuesday to pay his respects. "I know about half the agents working on this case,” he said. "And I know they are staying after this night and day.”
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