UPDATE: Identities of shooting victims released

The identities of two shooting victims from yesterday have been released.

The two killed were Abby Seals, 19, and Nicholas Rutherford, 25.

Though it was reported yesterday that the truck driver who found them was Seals' boyfriend, she had reported to friends and family that Rutherford was "other than just friends" with her, according to Sheriff's Office lead investigator Melissa Jackson.

The bodies were found in an apartment between Christy's Toybox and Coco Bongos just south of town on US 69 yesterday when Seal's apparent boyfriend came home from his job as an over-the-road trucker.

Seals was formerly a dancer at Coco Bongo's a gentleman's club. She was tied up, according to witnesses, and both were shot "execution style." Outpourings of grief have flooded Seals' Facebook page since yesterday.

Jackson said the investigation is ongoing.


This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif M. Wright on Monday, April 27, 2015 at 9:33:49 a.m. (VIEW)

Zebra bites man on nipple here

A Muskogee man was bit on the nipple by a zebra, according to Philip Blair, animal control supervisor with the city of Muskogee.

"It's illegal to have an exotic animal in the city limits," he said. "I'm still investigating this case."

Facebook reports had the man getting his nipple bitten off, but according to Blair, the man still has all of his anatomy.

Initial reports were that a woman was secretly keeping a zebra and a lawn-care person for a neighbor was bitten by the animal. Police can't comment due to the ongoing investigation.


BREAKING: Two shot to death beside strip club

Two people are dead of gunshot wounds in an apartment between Coco Bongos and Christie's Toybox on US 69 just south of town, according to emergency workers.

"They don't appear to have been there long," one worker said. "They both clearly died of gunshots."

Officials are processing the scene right now. More as we get it.

7 pm UPDATE: The two dead are male and female. The bodies have not yet been moved to be examined, but witnesses say the deaths were "clearly" homicide.

7:43 pm UPDATE: a witness in a position to know has said the victims were the renters of the apartment. However, we have no official confirmation of that.

10:38 pm UPDATE: Officials were notified around 4:30 pm via 911 call when an over-the-road trucker arrived home and found his girlfriend and another friend dead of gunshot wounds. Officials have not yet released the victims' names pending identification by the medical examiner in Tulsa. Both victims were late-teen adults or early twenties.


This story has been revised 5 times
  • By Leif M. Wright on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 6:58:45 p.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif M. Wright on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 7:44:24 p.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif M. Wright on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 8:19:27 p.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif M. Wright on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 10:43:07 p.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif M. Wright on Monday, April 27, 2015 at 9:44:34 a.m. (VIEW)

Second drowning victim found on Eufaula

The body of Sean McDonald, 41, of Henryetta was found around 250 yards from the shore of lake Eufaula around 5:30 p.m. today, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The body was found in the Holiday Cove area.

McDonald and James Michael Giles, 23, of Henryetta were canoeing on the lake without personal flotation devices when they were caught in a storm, causing their canoe to overturn, the patrol stated. Both men drowned.


Lee Roy Parnell to play the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame tonight

Country star Lee Roy Parnell, who has had more than twenty singles in the top ten, will play the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame tonight, starting at 8 p.m.

The hall of fame is at 401 S. 3rd St.

Parnell, whose hits include "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am", "Tender Moment" and "A Little Bit of You," brings one of country music's best guitar sounds to the hall of fame.

Tickets are $30 and $25, and are available at http://onelivemedia.com/events/leeroyparnell


Native Olympic gold medalist to speak at Bacone commencement

Billy Mills, the first and only Olympic runner to ever take the gold in the 10,000m race, will be the keynote speaker at Bacone College's commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 2 at the Muskogee Civic Center, 425 Boston Ave., Muskogee. The public is invited to attend.

Today an accomplished businessman, author and spokesperson for Christian Relief Services, Mills is a Native American born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He was orphaned by the age of 12 and sent to boarding schools. He graduated from high school at Haskell Indian School.

As National Spokesperson for Christian Relief Services, Mills has helped raise over 500 million dollars in cash and in-kind for charities worldwide. He has received five honorary doctorates, and is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Citation, the highest honor that the University of Kansas Alumni Association can bestow upon an individual to acknowledge outstanding achievement for the betterment of mankind.

A major motion picture has been made about Billy, titled "Running Brave." Billy Mills was recognized on several end-of-the-millennium lists, including being chosen as Sports Illustrated's Athlete of the Century for the state of South Dakota. In 2013 Billy won the second highest honor that is awarded to a civilian - the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Obama. On January 17, 2014 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) presented Billy the highest award they give to an individual: The Teddy Roosevelt Award.

For more information about Bacone College or commencement, please contact the Office of Development at Bacone College at (918) 781-7271.

For more information about Billy Mills, visit www.billymills.org.


Bill allowing teachers to use force is now law

School employees will soon be protected from liability for acting in their official duty at school functions under legislation signed into law Tuesday. Senate Bill 5, by retired educator Sen. Ron Sharp and Rep. Josh Cockroft, will provide immunity from liability for teachers and other school employees for use of necessary and reasonable force to control and discipline a student during any authorized school function.

SB 5 provides liability protection to school employees for the use of necessary and reasonable force to control and discipline a student during school hours, in transit to or from the school, or any other function authorized by the school district.

The new law will go into effect November 1, 2015.


One boater's body recovered

One of two boaters missing on Lake Eufaula was found late yesterday.

The body of James Michael Giles, 23, of Henryetta was found in 14 feet of water by Lake Patrol personnel using sidescan sonar and dragging operations.

Recovery operations have been suspended, but are expected to resume today with Lake Patrol and aircraft.


Author, former warden to speak at library on Thursday

Dan Reynolds, author and retired warden at McAlester, will be the guest speaker at the Thursday, April 23, meeting of the Muskogee County Genealogical Society. The talk is scheduled at 6 p.m. The author will have a book signing from 4 until 6 p.m. when copies of his various books will be on sale.

His books include: Caged Wisdom: Learning to See Through the Bars; On the Other Side of the bars: Lessons Learned as a Prison Warden/Administrator; What God Wants You to Know; Oklahoma Prison Riots; and the Most Hilarious, Bizarre and Unusual Correctional Stories Ever Told. Information on the books is available on the author's website at: dan1reynolds.tictail.com

Reynolds retired in November 2011 after serving with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for 31 years. He began his career at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center. In addition to Oklahoma State Penitentiary where he served for 20 years, his career also took him to positions with the Western Division of Institutions, Howard McLeod Correctional Center, Mack Alford Correctional Center, the newly developed Intelligence Unit, and as administrator of Community Corrections/Work Center.

Having earned both a Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree from Central State University, he is the winner of its 1998 Community Service Distinguished Former Student Award and the William Parker Outstanding Graduate Student Award for 2005.

Visitors are welcome to attend the meeting and hear the speaker. He will also be available for two hours after the meeting to sign copies of his various books which will be available to buy.

Participants are invited to bring refreshments to share.

The society will be co-hosting the Mark Lowe Genealogy workshop on May 22 and 23 with Muskogee Public Library. J. Mark Lowe is one of the top genealogy speakers in the United States. Information on topics and registration forms are available on the society's website: www.muskogeecountygenealogicalsociety.org.


Shooting at Junction and Arline

A Muskogee man was shot in the leg at a convenience store at Junction and Arline tonight, according to Muskogee police.

No other details are yet available, but we are pursuing more.


BREAKING: Shooting near Muskogee, victim injured

A shooting occurred near Muskogee this morning, according to Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson.

Details are sketchy at this point, but according to other emergency officials, the shooting was near Summit, south of Muskogee and the victim, who was rushed to the hospital, may be close to death.

We are pursuing the story.

9 a.m. UPDATE: The victim is not seriously injured, according to Chief Deputy Brandon Caster.

"His truck was shot up," Caster said. "He possibly got hit with a ricochet. We don't think he was directly shot. The hospital is going to release him."

The shooting happened on US 69, near 53rd St., Caster said. It started at a residence on Chimney Mountain Road, just West of Bootsie's in Summit.

"I think maybe the shooter was a female," Caster said, "but we don't have all the details just yet. We're just now making contact at the residence. We don't yet know what led up to the incident."

Officials haven't yet released names of those involved.


This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif M. Wright on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 9:03:15 a.m. (VIEW)

Bombing reminds of what's important

On April 19, 1995 - 20 years ago - at 9:02 a.m., I was sitting at a park bench in Honor Heights Park, enjoying the feeling of spring making its way through the park.

Cell phones were relatively new - and expensive - but I had a cheap Nokia phone that ran on Cingular, which only charged an arm to make a phone call, instead of other carriers' arm and a leg. Back then, it was so expensive to make a cell call that you almost never gave anyone your number for fear that they would call you - because you paid for incoming calls just like you did for calls you made. When someone called, just their number showed up on the tiny screen - there wasn't room for anything more.

On that park bench, my cell rang. The screen showed a number: 684-2903. We didn't have to use the area code for local calls back then. I knew that number, because at work, I sent callers to it every day. It was Kristi Fry, then the city editor at the Muskogee (we still used the word Daily in the title then) Phoenix. He wasn't my boss, but everyone knew he was in charge anyway. I was a copy editor, in charge of the Sunday and Monday papers, but during the week, I was just in charge of whichever pages the news editor, Vicky Holland, assigned to me.

I answered the call.

"Leif, this is Kristi," he said breathlessly before I could even say hello. "Someone has blown the hell out of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Get in here as fast as you can."

I ran to my Ford Ranger that was a thousand miles past its last hurrah and raced from the park to the newspaper's downtown office, motor clicking angrily at me the whole way.

The newsroom was in chaos.

Reporters were scrambling to get their assignments as they and photographers piled into cars together to demolish speed limit laws all the way to the city. Advertising people were arguing with editor George Benge over how much newshole (the amount of space in the paper for news copy) we would get. Vicky Holland was voraciously munching on a white Bic pen, throwing pieces of paper at all the copy editors who had made it in.

I sat at my place on the copy desk and started hammering away on the main "wire" page, mostly horrific images from the AP photo feed and what little information the news services had been able to gather. I later would shift rather abruptly to the local section as our reporters began to call in and dictate stories - the Internet hadn't reached the paper yet, so we still did things that way.

Our photographers had to borrow equipment from the AP office in Oklahoma City to send photos to us via satellite. As the story began to unfold of a lone American named Timothy McVeigh who had driven a Ryder truck full of fertilizer up to the front door and lit the fuse, Donna Hales began to uncover a local connection - McVeigh had visited the secretive, polygamous Cherokee County community that called itself Elohim City, where white supremacists quietly plotted against the government.

The coverage of the bombing, its aftermath and the unfolding local connection sprawled out and dominated our paper for the next month, during which I worked every single day without a day off - a record that I believe still stands to this day. I worked so much that I had no time to reflect on the horror of the news I was producing every day. Who even knew before that point that you could make a bomb out of fertilizer?

Through the years, the horror of what then was the worst terrorist attack on American soil has faded, obscured by 9/11. But there are lessons still to be had from 4/21. Oklahoma City was done not by some skulking foreign terrorist organization - though our government initially tried to blame Osama bin Laden. It was planned and executed by a clean-cut all-American psychopath who let conspiracy theories take him down a path that killed 168 people.

Today, it's easy to think of terrorism as something foreign brown people are trying to do to us, but the reality of Oklahoma City's bombing is that terrorists can be anywhere, even the innocent-looking boy driving a Ryder truck.

We can either cower and be suspicious of everyone all the time or we can choose to live our lives, make the best of the minuscule blink of time we have here and not worry about all the bad things that might happen. Evil is out there, stewing, brooding, planning. But it always has been. Always will. As we remember a 20-year-old tragedy this weekend, let's choose to remember it this way - you never know when your journey here will be done, so live today like there is no tomorrow. And then hopefully tomorrow, you can live the same way. Enjoy your spouse, your children, your friends. Let them know how much you love them and appreciate how honored you are that they're in your life.

One of my old bosses, Morris Cerullo, told me once, "When I die, lots of people are going to send flowers to me. Send them now, when I can enjoy them."

Don't wait to live your life.


This story has been revised 2 times
  • By Leif M. Wright on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:28:44 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif M. Wright on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 1:15:31 p.m. (VIEW)

EMS personnel honored for excellence

Paramedic Joshua Adcock, EMT Wendell Johnson, and EMD Kandis Crespy have been named as 2015 Oklahoma Ambulance Association (OKAMA) Stars of Life. The Star of Life award is presented to Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians, Emergency Medical Dispatchers, and other Oklahomans working in the emergency medical services field who demonstrate a strong commitment to their patients, clinical quality, and service excellence.

The Star of Life, a blue, six-pointed star, is the international symbol of emergency medical services. Each of the star's six arms represent a different link in the emergency chain of care.

Adcock, Johnson, Crespy and 16 other Oklahoma Star of Life honorees were recognized at a ceremony in the Blue Room of the Governor's Hall at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Stars then received their awards at a banquet at the Oklahoma History Museum in Oklahoma City on April 1, 2015. Additionally, Johnson was selected to represent Muskogee County EMS at the American Ambulance Association's national Stars of Life event in Washington, D.C. held this week.

OKAMA President Rebecca B. Williamson says the Star of Life events help showcase the important role of emergency medical services. "Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians, Emergency Medical Dispatchers, and Emergency Medical Responders are on the frontline of healthcare. When Oklahomans need immediate life-saving care and treatment or have other medical crises, medic's are usually the ones who initiate care," explains Williamson. "The OKAMA Stars of Life are men and women who go above and beyond to get the job done. They sacrifice their own comforts, desires and needs - sometimes even their own safety - to make sure Oklahomans get the best possible emergency medical care."


Company from Chile honored as Okies from Muskogee

Advantage Controls is hosting customers from ProEquipos, a Chilean Water Treatment firm. The company was the first non-North American customer for Advantage Controls. Mayor Bob Coburn stopped by to present them with certificates as "Honorary Okies from Muskogee" Edwardo and Christian, officers for the company were also presented and award from Advantage Controls celebrating our 20 year partnership.

Advantage President Dan Morris then presented Mayor Coburn with a kit of litter pick up supplies as a gag, but also as a means of recognizing him and thanking him for organizing the Muskogee 1300 clean-up.


Three men hurt on Tenkiller Lake

Two men in a bass boat were headed east on Lake Tenkiller yesterday from Needle Point to Snake Creek when another bass boat struck them on the port side, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The operator and passenger of the second boat, Jeremy Bersche and Ernest Fletcher, of Fort Smith, were ejected from their boat. Fletcher was treated and released at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. Bersche wasn't injured.

Jason Belt, a passenger in the first boat, from Sallisaw, was admitted to Saint John Hospital in Tulsa, where he was flown by helicopter, with trunk and internal injuries. Anthony Farris, also of Sallisaw, was transported to Northeastern Hospital in Tahlequah with trunk and internal injuries.

None of the men in the boats were using life jackets, according to the highway patrol.


DA to host balloon launch for child abuse awareness

District Attorney Orvil Loge is hosting a balloon launch on Friday at 1 p.m. to remind Muskogee residents that preventing child abuse is a community effort.

Area luminaries will attend the launch, including Sheriff Charles Pearson, Police Chief Rex Eskridge and County Court Clerk Paula Sexton.

The launch is on the courthouse steps at 220 State Street. The event commemorates Child Abuse Prevention Month.


City offers free leak check, internet water monitoring

The City of Muskogee has implemented a free service for water customers, which will assist them in efficiently managing their water usage and possibly lowering monthly bills.

Customers can now receive information about leaks before costly damage can occur. They will also have access to water usage from any internet-connected device, as well as receive alerts when certain thresholds are exceeded.

Muskogee water customers may register for this service online. Once registered, customers can receive leak alerts via email, text or telephone.

When usage indicates abnormally high usage or constant use over time, they will be notified of that usage so they may check for problems.

Customers may also view their bill estimate for the current period and set alerts to warn them if their bill is projected to exceed a certain dollar amount.

For registration, customers will need the name, phone number, email address and water account number on file. To register, visit http://www.muskogeeonline.org and click the Aquahawk link to get started.


Free alcohol serving training is Thursday

The Regional Prevention Coordinators of Neighbors Building Neighborhoods (NBN), in partnership with the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, are offering a free, Responsible Beverage Service and Sales (RBSS) Training to local retailers in Muskogee County. The goal of RBSS is to properly train store clerks, servers, bartenders, security staff, and the management of alcohol establishments in the basic knowledge and skills to sale and serve the product safely, responsibly and legally.

The RBSS Training will be held in Muskogee this Thursday, March 16th 2015 from 10am-Noon at the NonProfit Resource Center, located at 207 N 2nd St.

This training, considered an evidence-based "best practice" for the prevention of retailer-related alcohol problems, has been vital in preparing retailers to responsibly read ID's, identify fake ID's, learn the signs of over-serving intoxicated individuals, and understand policies on how to deal with alcohol-related issues in establishments.

To reserve your spot at this no-cost training, please contact Jeremy Little at NBN, 918-683-4600 or jlittle@nbn-nrc.org.


Rock and roll to fill Hall of Fame on Thursday

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame will host Crossfire on Thursday at 7 pm at The Frisco Depot, 401 S. 3rd in Muskogee.

Crossfire is a group of local musicians who, after years of playing in a variety of bands and music venues throughout the United States, have come together to form what is now Crossfire. They provide a mix of music they have all enjoyed since the 60s, including everything from Contemporary Rock, Country, Pop, Blues, and all-time favorites. Members include Frankie Knight - drums, Roy Roberson - lead guitar/ vocals, Joe Roark - keyboards/vocals and Wayne Buck - bass guitar/vocals.

Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7 pm. Admission is $5 at the door and all ages are welcome.


Flood warning issued

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for parts of Muskogee County.

In addition, the southern part of Muskogee County has been issued a flash flood warning.

Please take appropriate measures and avoid driving into water.

The warning lasts until 7 p.m.


This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif M. Wright on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 1:44:25 p.m. (VIEW)

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