Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 12:19:32 a.m.
In September of 2013, Jason Stevens and Jennifer Owens happily celebrated their nuptials in Arkansas. The couple, who now live in Muskogee, even celebrated so far as to petition for Stevens to adopt Owens' child.
The trouble is, according to McIntosh County court filings, Stevens was already married. And Owens knew it.
Stevens, the court filings allege, married Monica Gill in April of 2006 in McIntosh County, and the couple never divorced.
In October of 2013, Stevens swore in a petition for adoption of the child that he is married to Owens while knowing that the marriage is illegal and that he is still legally married to Monica Stevens.
In November of that year, Owens swore under oath that her name was now Stevens, even though she knew her name could not be changed by an illegal marriage to Jason Stevens, while he is still married to Monica Stevens.
Owens and Stevens were arrested last week and booked into the McIntosh County Jail, her on charges of knowingly marrying a bigamist, him on charges of bigamy.
Report: Muskogee Police Department disorganized, full of cliques, unfair, covers up internal strife and misdeeds
Monday, March 2, 2015 at 12:19:22 p.m.
A negative report on the condition of the Muskogee Police Department submitted to the city in November of last year on interviews conducted in June was buried until MuskogeeNOW forced Police Chief Rex Eskridge to release it.
According to the report, which was comprised of interviews with 28 members of the department - including Eskridge - the chief is out of touch with his department, handing off the duties of running the department to his three deputy chiefs, of whom only one holds any real power.
The deputy chiefs, Chad Farmer, Reggie Cotton and Johnny Teehee, are at the top of the department's hierarchy, but Farmer is the "go-to guy," according to the report, if you want to get anything done. Teehee, formerly the only deputy chief, was sidelined by promoting Farmer and Cotton after an internal investigation into allegations against Teehee turned up nothing, according to the report.
The report states that Farmer holds all the power in the police department largely because no one else would step up to the plate, and in the perception of the police department, if you want something approved or moving forward, access to Farmer is the key to getting it done, and therein lies some of the problem: members of the Special Operations Team are given priority, most officers believe.
That preferential access, the report states, leads to the perception among non-SOT officers that the team's members are given favor and preference in promotions and other considerations.
"Involvement with this team and the formal and informal benefits realized within the organization was the strongest theme to emerge from participants' responses," the report states.
In addition, the lack of expectations and accountability within the department allowed officers to essentially set their own agendas, with some working hard and long hours and others hiding in the vacuum of leadership, "sliding by" doing as little as possible. The leadership vacuum also allowed for some officers to demonstrate "egregious" behavior, bordering on the criminal, according to some of the officers interviewed for the report.
"There were several perceptions of inappropriate behaviors that had gone unaddressed throughout the organization," the report states. "Whether these accusations are factual or fictional does not change the validity for those telling the stories. It will be important to fully explore these allegations and hold individuals accountable or dispel the rumors circulating around them."
The whole of the department believes Eskridge is chief in name only.
"One of the most interesting themes to develop ... was the perceived disconnect between Chief Eskridge and the department," the report states. "(His) goals, intents and passion ... were clear in our discussions with him. However, when we spoke with even his deputy chiefs, the message had not been received. Eskridge seemed unaware of the disconnect, which only furthered the perceived divide between him and the department."
Three significant perceptions in the department are killing morale, the report states:
"Several (officers) shared stories of leaders aware of inappropriate behavior but taking no corrective action," the report states. "At every level of the organization and in virtually every assignment, there was a perception that the organization lacked meaningful and actionable direction."
Officers also universally panned leadership for what they perceived to be an unfair treatment of equity.
"Throughout the agency and without exception, there was discussion about the perception of inequity," the report states. "Every member of the organization brought up a perception of inequity between members of the Special Operations Team and those who were not on the team."
Specifically, the universal perception is members of the team get additional training, overtime, added equipment, access to promotions, the ability to circumvent command and a pass on discipline for behaviors that are "egregious."
"Virtually everyone in the organization perceived that there was a disparity of power in favor of Deputy Chief (Chad) Farmer," the report states. "It was perceived that (Farmer) was the ultimate authority in any decision."
"Deputy Chief Teehee mentioned that he was not made aware of the reasons (that two others had been promoted to deputy chief and the bulk of his authority removed), but his perception was that he was no longer wanted at the DC level. Because the position is protected by the bargaining unit, Teehee could not be removed without cause - but his perception is that all responsibility, status and authority have been removed from him without explanation."
The report goes on to describe in detail that rank-and-file officers believe inappropriate behavior is ignored while appropriate behavior is unrewarded, members of the Special Operations Team receive unfair benefits and lack of discipline for inappropriate behaviors, and leadership at the department is lacking or nonexistent.
Several officers said "this department is a great place to work if you want to do whatever you want to do." And that there is a perception of an unwritten rule: "Whatever happens in Special Operations Team stays in Special Operations Team." Several officers pointed to the removal of one officer from the team because he had gone outside the team to address issues relating to the "Black Tuesday" and Jet Ski events. Another officer was removed from Investigations and sent to patrol for standing up for the other officer.
The 53-page report is available for viewing here (8.6MB PDF file).
Eskridge and Farmer have not returned calls for comment. Several other officers would talk, but only on condition of anonymity, so we did not quote them in the story above. City Manager Howard Brown also has not yet returned a call for comment.
1:43 P.M. UPDATE: City Manager Howard Brown returned our call for comment and said he is troubled by the allegations revealed in the report.
"I will definitely be investigating the allegations in the report," he said. "I do think it's commendable that Chief Eskridge was the one who wanted the report and hired the company to do it. I don't think that clears him automatically of any responsibility, but I do respect the fact that he did it."
Several of the specific incidents in the report occurred before Brown took office last year.
"I will be meeting with Chief Eskridge and the deputy chiefs," he said. "We have a collective bargaining agreement with the police department, so everything we do will have to be done in light of that agreement, but we definitely will be addressing the issues this report has brought up."
This story has been revised 5 times
Friday, February 27, 2015 at 6:21:09 p.m.
Matthew Edward Ezell of Muskogee is facing charges of forcible sodomy stemming from an August assault in a remote area near Taft.
A juvenile girl told police she went riding with three men, who gave her multiple shots of vodka and tequila.
"The defendants took her to a discreet location near Taft," an affidavit filed with the case states. "The defendants then ordered (her) to perform oral sex on them."
The two other men listed in the affidavit are Alec Colby Lynn and Jordan Wayne Parks. While she was giving Lynn oral sex, Parks pulled down her shorts and panties and attempted to have anal sex with her, the affidavit states. Failing that, he penetrated her vaginally, it states.
The juvenile told police she repeatedly said "no" to the men's advances. A forensic nurse said the juvenile's body showed signs of sexual assault.
Parks told police that nothing sexual had happened; that the men and the juvenile had simply driven around drinking. Lynn, however, said there was sex and it was consensual. He also said Parks had called him and told him to tell police there was no sex.
Ezell wasn't interviewed for the affidavit, but today's filing states he is accused of forcing his penis into the mouth of the juvenile by force, violence or threats of violence.
He has not been arrested yet.
You can read the affidavit, on which we have redacted the juvenile's name, here
UPDATE: A debate has been raging all weekend on this case over at the MuskogeeNOW Facebook page. You can read the thread here.
This story has been revised 2 times
Friday, February 27, 2015 at 12:08:16 a.m.
Picking them as Valentine's king and queen turned out to be prophetic.
Mattison Smith, 77, and Francis Smith, 66 (no relation) met at the Brentwood Extended Care and Rehab on the west side of town, and last week, they were chosen as the center's Valentine's king and queen.
Shortly thereafter, they decided to get married.
Mattison Smith moved to the center in October. Francis is a longtime resident.
The wedding will take place at the center today at 2 p.m.
Friday, February 27, 2015 at 8:45:20 a.m.
Fort Gibson police have arrested five people who they say had broken into the Fort Gibson National Cemetery with a plan to steal equipment.
Arrested were Jackie Pippen, Russell Cook, James Cook, Alydia Shepherd and Shelby Gatwood.
The thieves, according to police, cut the fence to the cemetery, then were aiming to get a container full of supplies and equipment out to a waiting truck. Passers-by saw the activity and called police.
Friday, February 27, 2015 at 9:12:01 a.m.
The cattle from the ranch owned by Dan McWilliams west of town, where numerous cows and horses were found dead, will be sold at the Tulsa and/or Tahlequah Stockyards, according to an order by District Attorney Orvil Loge.
McWilliams was also ordered to pay $63,000 to pay for the upkeep and rehabilitation of the cattle after they were seized from his ranch.
McWilliams is also forbidden to buy or arrange for others to buy the cattle on his behalf. He can, however, help the stockyards prepare the animals for sale.
McWilliams will receive the proceeds from the sale of the cattle.
This story has been revised 3 times
Friday, February 27, 2015 at 8:40:19 a.m.
When 664 Muskogee citizens were asked what changes they'd like to see in Muskogee, the number one answer was clean up the city.
March 25 to March 28, you can help make that happen by participating in the Muskogee 500 Azalea Clean-Up, sponsored by Action in Muskogee and Mayor Bob Coburn. The clean-up's goal is to get 500 citizens working together over four days to clean up illegal dump sites, parks, trails and main thoroughfares.
Coburn has challenged church groups, civic organizations, schools, sports teams and banks to get together for the challenge.
The groups can work on any day during the challenge.
For more information: 918-684-6326 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 9:14:23 a.m.
Have you always wondered what treasure hunting is all about? Have you ever wanted to get your own metal detector? Do you have one you have never used or just want to see what others have dug up?
Visit with the Indian Territory Treasure Hunters' Club and the Three Forks Treasure Hunters' Club during the Treasure Hunters' Show at the Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin, Muskogee from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday February 28.
Club members' will set up exhibits of cool items they have found in the Three Rivers area, provide demonstrations with their equipment and rules for hunting.
Admission to the Treasure Hunters' Show is Free, museum tour admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.50 for students and kids under age 6 are FREE. For more information see the museum's website at www.3riversmuseum.com or call 918-686-6624.
Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 9:11:38 a.m.
Bacone College is taking its place in this millennium with the introduction of iBacone - an online education program flexible enough to accommodate working adults' busy schedules.
iBacone is now enrolling for classes beginning in March. The program is year-round, so students can complete a bachelor's degree in business administration in just three years. The college's tribal leadership course is the only one offered as part of a BSBA degree program online.
"We are delighted to offer this opportunity to students who may have had limited options for pursuing a college degree because of obstacles such as living in a rural area, transportation issues, or child care costs," said Bacone President Frank Willis. "iBacone allows us to adapt to our students' educational needs, and helps them avoid those obstacles -preparing them for a successful career. And this positive change is just a part of what you'll see over the next two years from Bacone College."
Concurrent enrollment for high school students is also offered, making iBacone a perfect opportunity for any student from any walk of life.
Bacone Online College is fully-accredited, with the Higher Learning Commission. The degrees are accredited by International Assembly for Collegiate Business. Financial aid and online enrollment is available. For more information, contact Dana Orange, iBacone@bacone.edu or (918)360-3866.
This story has been revised 1 time
Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 9:09:28 a.m.
The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame will host a Mardi Gras party, featuring The Jambalaya Jazz Band, on Thursday, March 5th at The Frisco Depot, 401 S. 3rd in Muskogee.
In his decades as a working Tulsa-area musician and bandleader, trombonist Steve Ham has learned a great deal about making audiences happy. The Jambalaya Jazz Band is one of the longest-lived musical outfits in the area, having begun sometime in the mid-'80s when Ham left a Dixieland band he'd been playing in and decided to start one of his own.
"I really don't remember exactly when it was, but I can tell you who it was for," he says. "It was for people from Ken's Pizza. We played a Kentucky Derby party for them at the old Fountains restaurant out on Lewis. I booked it first, and then got the band together. As [the late Tulsa pianist] Ron Chandler used to say, `Hitch up that wagon. We'll load it later.'"
Because of his stature as one of the town's top working musicians for many years, Ham has been able to attract some of the best talent around to the outfit he calls "that little old band from Creek County."
The party kicks off at 6 pm with traditional Cajun fare and King Cake being served, with the show starting at 7 pm. Make sure you wear your best Mardi Gras mask and sign up to enter the Mask contest. First, second and third place prizes will be awarded!
Tickets are on sale now at The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. All ages are welcome.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 9:26:48 a.m.
The Cherokee Nation is funding a record number of college scholarships in the 2014-15 academic year to ensure as many Cherokee students as possible enroll and graduate from college with a brighter future and fewer student loans.
All Cherokee students who applied and qualified for a scholarship, which is nearly 3,500 students, were offered a $2,000 scholarship this spring.
This past fall, scholarships were awarded to 3,830 students.
The tribe is awarding scholarships totaling about $13 million this school year for all program scholarships. Funding for Cherokee Nation scholarships is collected from the tribe's motor fuels tax funds.
Some of the eligibility requirements include students must be Cherokee Nation citizens with a permanent address in the 14-county tribal jurisdiction or contiguous counties, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete community service hours.
For the undergraduate scholarship, applicants living outside the tribal jurisdiction or contiguous counties must be eligible for the federal Pell Grant.
Scholarship applications for the 2015-16 academic year are now being accepted at https://scholarships.cherokee.org/. The deadline for new students and Cherokee Promise Scholars is April 10. The deadline for renewing students is June 5.
For more information on Cherokee Nation scholarships, call 918-453-5465.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 8:54:48 a.m.
The Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Foundation serves Muskogee patients with serious challenges. To help do that, the foundation hosts an annual golf tournament with decidedly not serious fun.
The Ninth Annual Kelly B. Todd Charity Golf Tournament is seeking teams to play on May 18 at the Muskogee Country Club, during which there will be contests, goofy dressing .. and of course golf.
Team entry fees are $400, individuals are $100, and the deadline to sign up at those prices is May 1.
For more information, call 918-687-2947 or get the registration form here.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 1:52:27 a.m.
Georgia-Pacific is upgrading its Muskogee bath tissue and towel manufacturing operations, and The Muskogee City-County Port Authority is supporting that effort through the Strategic Investment Program (SIP). The Port Authority approved a SIP incentive application connected to the mill's planned investments across its operations.
The Muskogee mill has both approved and proposed investments of more than $130 million during the next three years to improve all aspects of its operations. The investment will help the mill meet both existing and projected demand for its tissue, towel and napkin products, as well as help improve employee safety, environmental performance, reliability and quality. For example, one of the current projects at the mill is the installation of new bath tissue converting equipment - a $15 million investment to serve customers in the away-from-home market.
"These types of investments help us to be a more competitive business and ensure that we remain a valued employer in Muskogee," said Rodney Bond, vice president - manufacturing for Georgia-Pacific's Muskogee mill. "We appreciate the support that the community provides us. In particular, we appreciate the business relationship that we have with the Muskogee City-County Port Authority and the City of Muskogee."
The Muskogee City-County Port Authority Strategic Investment Program, funded by a $3 million grant from the City of Muskogee Foundation, allows the Port to consider incentive awards to companies with qualifying job creation and/or qualifying investment in new or expanded facilities. The Muskogee mill's application falls under the latter category of expanding facilities.
"We are always pleased when an existing industry makes the decision to reinvest in Muskogee, and are delighted to be able to support Georgia-Pacific's Muskogee facility's continued growth and vitality, through our performance based, Strategic Investment Program.
Monday, February 23, 2015 at 4:02:29 p.m.
District Attorney Orvil Loge has issued his opinion on the case of Muskogee Police Officer Chancey McMillin's shooting of Terence Walker in January:
McMillin acted appropriately and in accordance with the law, Loge stated.
"My decision is that Officer Chansey McMillin's actions in the shooting death of Terence Dewayne Walker Jr were legally justified," Loge wrote. Walker "was a threat to every individual that attended a wedding at Old Agency Baptist Church."
Monday, February 23, 2015 at 1:19:53 a.m.
Robert Luis Guerra Jr. has pleaded guilty to all seven counts against him, including first-degree murder in the 2013 killing of 22-year-old April Perry and the shooting assault of her husband Darrell.
The couple were attacked in their home in January 2013.
Guerra today pleaded guilty in exchange for seven concurrent life sentences. He will be 75 before he can even be considered for parole.
Monday, February 23, 2015 at 6:06:36 a.m.
District Attorney Orvil Loge will issue a ruling today on the police-involved shooting of Terence Dewayne Walker on January 17.
Walker was shot while fleeing from police officer Chansey McMillin after McMillin had received a call that Walker was armed with a loaded pistol and had threatened to kill a guest at a wedding.
During a pat-down, McMillin felt a pistol in one of Walker's pockets. Walker spun around, elbowed McMillin in the face and took off running, McMillin in pursuit.
During the chase, Walker dropped something McMillin believed to be a gun, stopped to pick it up and faced the officer in a crouched position, prompting McMillin to fire his pistol at Walker several times, two of which hit Walker, killing him.
According to multiple law enforcement officials, Loge will issue the ruling, largely based on evidence processed by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, on whether McMillin was justified in the shooting. The ruling should come down around 4 p.m.
Friday, February 20, 2015 at 8:06:04 a.m.
If you haven't heard of Bass Reeves, or if you just know a little about him, you've missed out on one of the baddest men ever to walk the wild west. When you think of the lone lawman riding tall in the saddle, shooting with dead aim using either hand, rifle or pistol, tracking down outlaws and fugitives with dogged reserve, even holding one outlaw by the neck while shooting another with the other hand, then you're thinking about Muskogee's Bass Reeves.
Reeves, who escaped from slavery to Indian Country, where he learned the tribes' customs and languages fluently, became a US Deputy Marshal, rounding up the worst of the worst outlaws who had fled to the wild country - including his own son, who he arrested for murder.
The legendary lawman, who many believe was the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger, has largely disappeared from the public's memory, but Hollywood has long fished in his history, turning the characters they base off his exploits into white guys with frilly vests.
Fox News is filming a show about Bass Reeves this weekend in Texas, but you don't have to wait for the show to come out; you can see living actors portraying his history next Tuesday at the Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin, in Muskogee.
Representing Bass and his wife Winnie, Oscar and ShIron Ray have helped keep the story alive in the Bass Reeves Tour and other presentations for the last three years. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call Three Rivers Museum, 918-686-6624 or see the museum's website: www.3riversmuseum.com
Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 6:41:56 p.m.
OK. I'm finally getting my head above water in responding to the hacking of my sites. Still have a lot to do, but at least the sites are, from your perspective, back to functioning (mostly).
I wanted to take this time to do something unusual: thank the hackers. They helped me find some things in my sites that were dumb, slow, vulnerable and mostly confusing from a programming perspective.
In fixing the sites and shoring them up against further hacking attacks, the hackers actually encouraged me to do something I should have been doing all along: regular backups of the sites, both the content and the numerous (you'd shudder to know just how numerous) programs that run the sites. It's a complicated endeavor, turning complicated operations into something that looks so simple, and having to jump back in from scratch reminds a guy that it's best to keep spare files around if something like this happens again. In the past month, I've had a catastrophic hard drive failure on my computer, a weird hiccup on the servers and then the hacking yesterday. It's been quite a ride.
But also, I discovered something that I would have bet before wasn't true: the ads for this site were residing in an old, vulnerable and slow database that I could have sworn I had done away with a long time ago. I know you probably don't care about ads, but you should, because without them, this site wouldn't be here - or at least it wouldn't be free. We love our advertisers and we aim to give them the best value possible for advertising with us. Slow, vulnerable databases are just asking for a problem, so thanks to the hackers, I was able to move all the ads to the same new, secure and lightning-fast kind of database as I use on the MUGS sites.
I still have a lot of work to do (the MUGS mobile viewers still can't view the site, and search doesn't work on this site), but those are small, easy (not to say quick) fixes. As I said before, I can finally see the daylight now.
Thank you for your patience, and feel free to toss suggestions my way.
This story has been revised 2 times
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 10:26:17 p.m.
OK. I've been programming all day and all night to recover from the hacking we had this morning.
The long and short of it is this: hackers removed the programs we used to display the site, and then they replaced them with some sort of weird Muslim propaganda.
In fixing the site, we figured it was a good time to increase security and to address some nagging issues we've had with the site for a long time, so that's what I've been doing all day.
Mostly, the site will work as you expect it to, with some notable exceptions:
I will resume programming this afternoon. Until then, I believe the greatest majority of the site is working again.
Also, lesson learned: Always back up your files. I had recently backed up the MUGS sites because of another server-related issue we had there, so it was a cinch to fix after the hack. You can bet your sweet ... whatever sweet things you're inclined to bet that I've backed everything up now.
12:17 A.M. UPDATE: The stuff in the "Other News" menu now works. And I'm fading fast. Good night. Also, the stuff in the "Local" menu under the "Categories" item work now.
12:36 A.M. UPDATE: The stuff under the "Local" menu now works.
12:38 A.M. UPDATE: Well, mostly.
2:01 P.M. UPDATE, Feb. 19: I'm ironing out small details now. They're small, which means hard to trace down, but they have a big impact on the performance of the site.
This story has been revised 9 times
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 1:42:43 p.m.
So yeah. We were hacked by someone claiming to be Zone_41_DZ, who apparently gained access to our servers and then changed all the index files to the image above.
We weren't alone.
Around 1,000 sites were hacked this morning with the same tactic.
We are working to restore MuskogeeNOW.com to its former state, but while we do, we've put the raw news feed on this page so you don't miss anything while we work.
UPDATE: I'm working on the databases and the site itself, so if you experience weirdness, that's what's going on. I don't think the site should go down while I'm doing this, but you never know. In programming, one misplaced comma or period could crash everything.
Whatever happens, no more worries, we're beefing up all the security, and any crazy stuff you see from here on will be me working behind the scenes, not the return of the hackers.
This story has been revised 1 time
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