A person of interest has been identified in the killings of two girls near Weleetka last weekend, an OSBI spokeswoman says.
OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said agents want to talk to a man described as an American-Indian, possibly part white, who is about 35 years old and stands 6 feet tall. Brown said the man has a pony tail and drives a white Ford or Chevrolet single-cab pickup truck with chrome stripping and an Oklahoma license tag.
He was seen standing near the truck near the time and place the youngsters were shot to death on Sunday afternoon.
"We just want to talk to him," Brown said. "We think he might have seen something to resolve the case.
"Funerals Held For Girls
Amid speculation that a Kansas church planned to protest the funerals of two girls killed in Okfuskee County, police in a small Oklahoma town set up barricades and warned mourners.
However, protestors from the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church were not present for the funeral of Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker, 13, which was held Friday morning at the Dewar First Baptist Church in Dewar, a small community east of Henryetta in Okmulgee County. The church had disseminated faxes threatening to protest the girls' funerals for "the sins of Oklahoma," according to a news report on the Web site for Oklahoma City radio station KOKC.
Dewar police issued a handout to mourners, making them aware of the possible protest and outlining the protestors' rights.
The Tulsa World reports that more than 500 people attended Taylor's funeral Friday morning. The service for Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, was held at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Henryetta.
Witness Emerges In Case
Investigators look into a witness account that he saw the girls moments before their deaths. A state agent said a witness came forward and reported seeing the girls near the scene where they were shot to death on Sunday.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation lead agent Ben Rosser said they tested the witness' story and believe him to be credible. During a Thursday news conference, Rosser said that the witness offered no names of people he might have seen in the area.
Rosser added that he would rather not say whether the witness offered descriptions of people in the area.State authorities determined Wednesday that two guns were used to kill the girls Sunday along a county road in Okfuskee County, and an OSBI agent added that he believes they're looking for multiple gunmen. However, Rosser said Thursday that he's still open-minded about the possibility of one shooter.
He said tests determined that each girl was shot with both guns. However, Rosser again Thursday did not want to reveal what caliber gun killed them. Authorities are still awaiting DNA samples to be returned by a state chemist.
Rosser said detectives still have no suspects in the girls' deaths but that investigators were back at the scene early Thursday. He said an aviation unit with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was also helping to scour the scene for clues.
The reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of whoever killed the girls has climbed above $25,000, Rosser said.
Tips Come In From Across Planet
During a Wednesday news conference in Okemah, Rosser said authorities have gotten tips and leads from people across the country. They even got information from a caller in Great Britain. Rosser said 10 agents are working full-time on the case and that two agents are gathering intelligence for background purposes.
Rosser said investigators have interviewed several people and that DNA is being gathered from the girls to match up against evidence from possible suspects. Among the worst-case scenarios investigators are considering are that the shooting was random, the girls stumbled upon something or were targeted. He said Wednesday that he believes the girls were killed where they were found along the road, not killed somewhere else and transported there.
Anyone with information in this case is urged to call either the OSBI hot line at 800-522-8017 or the Okfuskee County Sheriff's Office at 918-623-1122.
The Okfuskee County Sheriff's Department said the girls had gone for a walk along a bridge during a sleepover. The grandfather of one of the girls went to get them and discovered the bodies, officials said.
"I can't describe coming up on it," Peter Placker said, sobbing uncontrollably as he recalled walking up to the scene, only about one-quarter mile from his house. "I done it once, and I can't do it again."
Meanwhile, relatives tried to make sense of the grisly killings in a community where some citizens still leave their keys in their cars and residents who live 10 miles apart still call themselves neighbors.
Skyla was a carefree adventurer, a girl who walked barefoot almost everywhere and rode her bicycle down endless dirt roads. Where she went, her many cats followed, along with her pet goat. Skyla wanted to become a veterinarian, said her grandmother, Claudia Farrow.
Relatives said to know Taylor was to love her. She was the big-hearted girl who rescued helpless turtles crawling in the middle of the road and wanted to become a forensic scientist, like on the TV shows, said Placker, who said he raised Taylor like she was his daughter even though he was her biological grandparent.
She was home-schooled until the family moved to Weleetka, located about 70 miles south of Tulsa.
"She was the best kid I've known," Placker said.Accounts to help the families with burial expenses for the two girls have been established at the Bank of Commerce in Weleetka. To donate, call 405-786-2216.