3/21/11

DARK SPRING - Unsolved OKC Murders

Spring times are supposed to be about life and renewal and second chances.  Once upon time in central Oklahoma City the spring was dark and filled with visions to cause nightmares.
The first body parts showed up in April 1, 1976, in an abandoned house at 325 NE 8th in Oklahoma City, utility workers exploring an abandoned house found the head and body parts of a 18 year old Cathy Lyn Shackelford. At the time, however, she was unidentified and was labeled a 'Jane Dow'.   

Fast forward to April 19, 1979 when several grisly discoveries are made between mid-April and the first of May. All around the 300 block NE 10th and 200 block NE 7th in Oklahoma City.  The  second known victim was named Arley Bell Killian.

A strange gap of seven  years followed before another find was made.  On March 6, 1986, the body of   23 year old  Tina Sanders was located at 507 N. Lindsay.  A fourth has been suggested but unverified.

There are interesting similarities which might provide links to similar crimes and bring closure to this cold case. All the women were Native American, they either lived on the streets and/or worked as prostitutes, and were all probably killed within the same one mile radius where their bodies were found. The killings were in the spring, they were not rushed, and due to the ease with which the body parts were created and discarded, the killer had to have been familiar with his surroundings (the Stiles Circle - Lincoln Terrace neighborhood; now generally covered by the Centennial Expressway and the OU Health Science buildings and related structures).  Each body had an incision in the lower lip, massive body mutilation and dismemberment, and certain parts of the bodies were never found.

The chronology of the murders -1976, 1979 and 1986 - indicate there may have been a pattern at work.  Another killing (5) might have occurred in 1982-1983.  Just as possible, however,  the killer could have been in jail, in the military, or out of state on some job during the seven year break.  It is likely other killings, as of yet to be found,  may be fit that pattern.(Oklahoma Cold Cases) It would be atypical for such a killer to have such a long 'cooling off' period but not impossible.

Some suggest that another body was found April 22, 1995 and pulled from missing head, hands and feet, from a shallow grave 50 miles west of the city.   Authorities were said to note 'similarities' in the manner of the dismemberment. (Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes, 2009,p. 291) The time period is shortly after the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City and that story was the major news for several days and no report was found to confirm that suggestion.

In 1993, the combined efforts of Andra Medina, Sgt. Norma Adams, Norman forensic sculpture Betty Pat Gatliff, and well known Oklahoma based anthropologist , Dr. Clyde Snow brought closure to the first Jane Doe.  DNA identified her as Shackleford ("DNA Tests Identify '76 Slaying Victim". Steve Lackmeyer, Oklahoman, Nov. 30, 1993, pg.1).

There were also some 'interesting' bodies in eastern Oklahoma, not for from the I-40 corridor in Shamrock 1975, Wellston 1985 and Broken Arrow 1989. Also possibly other locations in 1985 and the early 90's.    Body parts or dismembered bodies of young women who apparently went missing unnoticed and unidentified.  The 1960's through the 1990's were especially violent with serial killers springing out of their dank worlds to grab headlines through gory acts: Kemper, Bundy, Rader and so many others.


What happened to the killer? Where did he go?  One notorious killer confessed to some of these deaths but the confessions are considered by most as suspect, the last minute greedy attempt by a sociopath to get attention.  If that is true, then chilling questions remain. When the region was razed by bulldozers and new building rose over the bloody grounds, what secrets were lost?  Are there other victims  out there - somewhere? Victims of this monster who stalked the streets to prey- at leisure -  on women struggling just to survive?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a very eerie encounter with a man in the summer of 95. I swear to this day he was a serial killer. I used my wits to escape. For the life of me I don't remember his name though so I don't know how I would be of help. I wish I knew what to do.

MARILYN A. HUDSON, MLIS said...

You might describe the encounter here, what you remember about his appearance, actions, mannerisms, etc.
Describe in detail where he was and what he did. There may be others who also saw him or had encounters.

If there were crimes around that time or location it may provide valuable clues for police investigating those crimes.

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