Longtime educator, state representative Barbara Staggs dies

Barbara Staggs, 74, a longtime educator in Muskogee and state representative as well as a philanthropist throughout the region, died today.

She was born in her grandmother's home in Hulbert in 1940. Her parents moved her to Muskogee three weeks later, where she would spend the rest of her life, except for three years living in Tahlequah.

After graduating Muskogee High School in 1958, Staggs received a B.A. in education from Northeastern University, an M.A. and Ed.D. at the University of Tulsa.

Staggs, whose passion for education informed every detail of her life, was a teacher in Muskogee for 15 years, where she taught English, drama, speech and broadcasting. Following that, she was an assistant principal for six years and then a principal for three years. Staggs was the first woman secondary principal in Muskogee. She served as superintendent for Tahlequah public schools from 1990-1993, being the first woman to hold the position.

After her retirement from education, Staggs ran for - and won - the District 14 seat in the state House in 1996, defeating a longtime incumbent in the Democratic primary. Staggs was the first female elected to the legislature from District 14 and beat a male incumbent with more than 20 years of service. In the House, she served on the Common Education Committee, among many others. During her tenure, she helped establish the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

She was also instrumental in passing a bill that gave funding to the Oklahoma Department of Libraries to award library construction grants to rural communities for local library construction. Since that time more than 30 libraries have been refurbished or built.

Staggs served in the legislature for 12 years, until term limits forced her retirement, which she spent working tirelessly to help civic and charitable institutions in Muskogee.

Staggs was a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Muskogee.

Staggs slipped and hit her head last night, and she did not recover from the injury.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

In a 2007 interview, the interviewer asked "When history is written about you, what would you like for it to say?"

Staggs answered: "I would like them to say that I listened to my constituents and I tried as often as I could to support those things that they wanted me to support and to not support those things that they wanted me to vote against, and I hope that I was always truthful with them."

Click here to read the transcript of the OSU interview with Staggs in 2007.

Filed under: Local Breaking News Sad Exclusive
This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif Wright on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 11:16:01 a.m. (VIEW)
This story has 2 comments
Jim McClure, on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 12:05:53 p.m., said:
She was a wonderful,passionate advocate for Muskogee. She will be missed.
Gary Kirk, on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 9:39:42 p.m., said:
Excellent educator. Politician with integrity. Friend that will be truly missed.

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Motion to dismiss acceleration for Henry denied

Judge Robin Adair today denied Dayne Henry's motion to dismiss the acceleration on his conviction for pandering and procuring a child for prostitution.

Henry had claimed that he had served his sentence and paid his fines from the 1986 case.

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Juvenile found deceased on Denver Street

A 12-year-old child was found dead at 2801 Denver Street on yesterday, according to Muskogee Police.

"Initial indications were the child had suffered from a medical condition since birth," said Cpl. Michael Mahan of the Muskogee Police. "But the child was found living in poor conditions and appeared to be malnourished."

The parents are being investigated for possible child neglect, according to official sources.

We are actively working this story and will update as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Due to the conditions in the home (animal feces, dirty diapers) and the possibility that he was not receiving his medications, the police are investigating this as possible neglect.

2:30 pm UPDATE: Muskogee Police sent this release just now:

Muskogee Police are currently investigating the death of a twelve year old white male that was reported on 11-20-14 at approximately 8:46 p.m. At that time, our officers responded to a call to assist Muskogee County E.M.S. with an unresponsive child inside of the residence at 2801 Denver. The child was pronounced dead at the scene. Initial investigation shows that the child was twelve years old, weighed approximately 37 lbs., and was approximately 3ft. 7 inches tall. The family of the child reported that he had suffered a medical condition shortly after birth and had suffered from ongoing medical issues since that time, including the use of a feeding tube. Officers reported that the home had animal feces on the floor and that there were several dirty diapers in the room of the child. We are currently investigating to determine whether or not neglect may have played a role in the death of the child. We are in the early stages of the investigation and are awaiting a determination of cause of death by the medical examiner. More information will be released as facts in the case unfold.
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This story has been revised 4 times
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 10:10:51 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 10:18:00 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 1:24:41 p.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 2:32:48 p.m. (VIEW)
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Five water meter covers stolen from Curt's Center

Five water meter covers valued at $145 each were stolen from Curt's Center in Muskogee yesterday, according to Muskogee Police.

The covers, made of metal, were reported by city water workers as missing.

Metal often goes missing in Muskogee, as criminals recycle it for money.

The stores that were affected were not notified of the thefts.

"I had not heard anything about that," said Robin Armstrong, manager of Factory Connection at Curt's. "That's something we would like to know about for sure."

Water service was not interrupted to any of the businesses.

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Longtime Muskogee educator dies

Mary Ellen Simonds, 93, a longtime educator in the Muskogee school system, died Thursday.

Simonds was a Muskogee teacher and administrator in the Muskogee Schools for 37 years. She taught at Longfellow Elementary before moving to the Education Center in 1965, where she served as Primary Supervisor for all elementary schools.

She also served as Reading Coordinator, Elementary Director and Principal at Harris-Jobe Elementary before her retirement. She was the first chairman of the Professional Standards Board, appointed by the governor to the OETA Commission, the OEA vice president, served on the state textbook committee, the state legislative committee, a state delegate to a Washington educators conference and she organized the Eastern District Educators.

Services for Simonds are 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Cornerstone Funeral Home Chapel.

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Single-vehicle crash kills Eufaula man

A Eufaula man died Wednesday in a rollover crash on U.S. 69 in McIntosh County, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

Levi Buchanan, 34, was driving a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria north on the Old U.S. 69 ramp to U.S. 69 around 2:15 p.m. when he veered too far right and the vehicle overturned, ejecting him, the OHP said.

The car landed on its top.

Buchanan, who was not wearing a seat belt, died at the scene.

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Highway Patrol to conduct 'massive' DUI operation tonight

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will coordinate a "massive" DUI enforcement operation tonight as part of a statewide project to reduce impaired driving, the patrol said.

The main operation will start at 7 p.m. tonight and last until 3 a.m. Saturday.

The Oklahoma 51 corridor will be a focal point of the operation, with the OHP and other law enforcement agencies conducting DUI saturation patrols.

Other police and sheriff's departments involved are from Bartlesville, Dewey, South Coffeyville, Fort Gibson, Webbers Falls, Wagoner, Eufaula, Wyandotte, Sequoyah County, Sallisaw, Wagoner County, Broken Arrow, Coweta, Checotah, Bernice, Ottawa County, Locus Grove, Craig County, Rogers County, Roland, Fairland, Catoosa, Verdigris, Claremore, Grove, Oologah and Muskogee, the OHP said.

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Dayne Henry pleaded guilty in 1986 to procuring a child for prostitution, other pimping

As Dayne Henry seeks to have the court dismiss his deferred sentence on procuring a child for prostitution and pandering, we found documents from the original case that shed light on exactly what went on.

According to the case records, Henry met a young teenager at his jewelry store, seduced her, then had an associate train her in how to perform prostitution. After the training period, Henry used the girl for prostitution out of his jewelry shop just north of the intersection of US 69 and Shawnee Bypass. Henry also sent the girl to other locations around the state, where she had sex with men and gave at least half the money she received to Henry. The girl told police that Henry had shown her a location in Wagoner where he was planning to expand his prostitution business.

Henry had already been known by police, they said, to be running a large prostitution operation. The underage girl became a confidential informant for police, but did not seek or receive any promises from police to guarantee her cooperation.

Henry's request this week contends that he served the year sentence he received and paid the $20,000 in fines. Henry's probation allowed him to continue running the jewelry store - which he had also been using as a house of prostitution - for up to a year while he sought to sell it. Henry was also allowed to carry a firearm during his probation - something usually illegal for convicted felons.

Filed under: Local Crime
This story has been revised 2 times
  • By Leif Wright on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 8:58:44 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 9:01:40 a.m. (VIEW)
This story has 1 comment
canyouseetherealme, on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 2:00:13 p.m., said:
Prepare to be blasted by the morons who worship this punk like a folk hero.

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Dayne Henry files request to dismiss acceleration in 1986 pandering, procuring a child for prostitution guilty plea

"Diamond" Dayne Henry received a deferred sentence in 1986 for a charge of pandering and conspiracy to commit pandering. The deferred sentence after Henry's guilty plea was one year in prison plus a $15,000 fine for violation of state statute 21-1087, which is titled "Offering or transporting child for the purpose of prostitution."

Henry also entered a guilty plea on a violation of state statute 21-1081, "Pandering." He was required to pay a fine of $5,000 for that violation, plus court costs of $957.22.

The first offense is breaking of the law that makes it illegal to offer a child under 18 for the purposes of prostitution. The second offense is breaking of the law that makes it illegal to procure a person for prostitution.

According to Oklahoma law, a deferred sentence means the defendant entered a plea of guilt or no contest, but the judge does not accept the plea; instead, he or she defers - or postpones - sentencing until a set of terms or requirements is completed. An acceleration is filed when prosecutors determine the defendant hasn't fulfilled the terms of his deferred sentence, and they ask the judge to "accelerate" the sentence - or remove the deferral.

Henry fled the country in 1986 to Brazil, where he now lives. The state filed a motion to accelerate his deferred sentence, and because of that pending case (and others), Henry can't return to the United States without risking arrest or imprisonment.

Today, Henry filed a motion to dismiss that acceleration, stating that he has paid the $20,957.22 to the court clerk and contends that the one-year sentence had been served prior to the application to accelerate.

"The defendant is now over 70 years old," the motion states, "and this application has been pending for over 26 years."

The application, the motion states, should be dismissed "in the interest of justice."

Judge Robin Adair set the motion for a ruling on Nov. 21 (this Friday).

You can read Henry's motion here.

Filed under: Local Crime
This story has been revised 2 times
  • By Leif Wright on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 7:38:41 p.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 7:40:04 p.m. (VIEW)
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Comments are finally fixed

After more than a month of struggling to deal with tiny bugs that prevented many people from being able to comment, I'm proud to announce the bugs have been largely fixed, and comments are finally working again.

The new system allows you to edit your own comments, change your own details and enables us to make sure real people instead of web-bots are commenting.

Thank you for your patience.

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Marshals, with the help of Muskogee deputy, catch fugitive Muskogee sex offender in Virgin Islands

On Monday, the U.S. Marshals Service - Eastern District of Oklahoma's Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force (EOTF) and Deputy U.S. Marshals from the District of the Virgin Islands arrested Darrell Perry, in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Perry was wanted for application to revoke, failure to register as a sex offender out of Muskogee County, Oklahoma; failure to register as a sex offender out of Cherokee County, Oklahoma; rape-first degree (eight-year-old victim), forcible oral sodomy and lewd molestation out of Muskogee County.

An investigation, led by U.S. Marshals from the Eastern District of Oklahoma, revealed that Perry had fled the State of Oklahoma and was believed to be hiding at an unknown location in St. Thomas. Perry was ultimately located at the Compass Pointe Marina and was arrested without incident. Perry was confined to the Virgin Islands Jail, pending further court proceedings.

"We need to hold them accountable for their actions and to the terms and conditions determined by the state of Oklahoma and the sex offender registry's office, said Muskogee County Deputy Darrin Berry, a Task Force Officer with the Eastern District of Oklahoma's Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force. "Muskogee County Sheriff's Office will continue to be committed to protecting the citizens of Muskogee County by insuring sex offenders are located and put in jail if they aren't where they are supposed to be."

The U.S. Marshals Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force is a fugitive apprehension team, consisting of law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals Service, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Muskogee Police Department, Muskogee County Sheriff's Department, Cherokee County Sheriff's Department, Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department, Pontotoc County Sheriff's Department, Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police Department, District Attorney's Office 25th District and the Hugo Police Department.

Annually, investigations carried out by the U.S. Marshals result in the apprehension of more than 100,000 state and federal fugitives.

Filed under: Local Crime Breaking News Exclusive
This story has 2 comments
Jim McClure, on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 11:04:41 p.m., said:
Great work.
ytsur, on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 8:28:26 a.m., said:
I hope he gets buba as a cell mate, or just fry the SOB

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Have coffee with a cop this morning

This morning, the Muskogee Police Department is hosting its monthly Coffee with a Cop at Cozy Cup at Arrowhead Mall from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

This is part of a national program designed to help officers more closely interact with the community they serve. This is an opportunity to meet and visit with officers about anything you want to discuss.

There are no agendas or speeches just a chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know the officers in your neighborhood. We will also be teaming with Neighbors Building Neighborhoods to give out free Medsafes.

These are electronic, lockable safes that can be used to store medication. They are free with no strings attached to any Muskogee County resident.

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Muskogee man turns himself in for molesting a child over several years

Robert Adam Smith, 40, of Muskogee has turned himself in at the Muskogee Police Department on Sunday around 9 a.m., according to Cpl. Michael Mahan of the Muskogee Police.

Smith walked up to the east lot of the police department and informed officers that he wanted to turn himself in for sexually assaulting a minor.

The minor is under the age of 16, and smith said the molestation has been going on for the past several years.

He has been arrested on complaints of sexual abuse of a child, forcible sodomy, first-degree rape and lewd or indecent acts to a child under the age of 16.

Filed under: Local Crime Exclusive
This story has 1 comment
GeeTownGirl, on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 2:28:02 p.m., said:
Lord, bless this child. As for the scumbag I'm glad you finally felt like you destroyed this innocent child enough to turn yourself in. I pray you get the worst punishment possible.

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Cookbook tasting set for Thursday

Have you ever wondered how a recipe tastes without actually making it? The Muskogee Genealogical Society can provide that taste at its "Heirlooms from Our Family" Cookbook Tasting event being held at 6 p.m. Thursday, November 20.

A ticket for $15 gives the purchaser a copy of "Heirlooms from Our Family" cookbook, four tickets to exchange for their choice of four recipes offered at the event, and one ticket to the DNA kit drawing. Additional tasting tickets can be purchased for $1 each. Cookbooks and tickets are available in the Genealogy and Local History Department at Muskogee Public Library. They will also be sold at the door as long as they last.

Society members will make recipes from the cookbook for the event and serve their culinary creations at the event being held in the southeast room on the first floor. A place card at each food serving area will list the name of the recipe, the person who submitted it for the cookbook and the cook who made it for the tasting. Those having cookbooks can even get recipes autographed during the evening.

There are less than 30 remaining cookbooks. When they are gone, they're gone. So call or come by the library now to reserve a cookbook and tickets for the tasting. Get an extra copy to use as a great gift during the holidays and use the tickets yourself. Or bring a friend and treat them to both a cookbook and tastings. Tasting tickets will also be available for $1 each without purchasing the cookbook.

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Church schedules night out for parents of children with special needs

BC Champions, a special needs ministry at Boulevard Christian Church is hosting our third parents night out on Friday Nov. 21 for ages 5-16. 5:30-8:30pm.

BC Champions understands the challenges parents of special needs face. Many parents have a hard time getting a much-needed break. From 5:30-8:30, children will enjoy sensory crafts, social activities, and leveled games. Parents can have an evening to themselves. The event is free. Pre-registration required. Bring a sack dinner or $5 for pizza, fruit, juice, and cookies.

Call 918-682-7822 to register.

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Bed bug found at Muskogee elementary school

A live bed bug was found on a student at a Muskogee elementary school, according to schools spokesperson Wendy Burton.

The student was not sent home. Instead, she said, the student's parents brought a change of clothes, then the schools heat-treated the classroom where the student was located and sent information home with the parents.

"Every child in that classroom's parents were called and notified," Burton said.

The bugs are known to be intensely communicable.

"We're having a meeting this morning to come up with a plan to deal with this in the future," Burton said. "We don't even know if the student that had it was the one who brought it to school."

The district would not reveal which school the bug was found at. But we have a call out to one of the parents, so we'll update as soon as we can confirm which school it was.

9:30 a.m. UPDATE: The school apparently notified every student's parent from the classroom that was affected, NOT from the entire school, according to Burton. In addition, the schools worked up the following letter:

Bed Bug Letter

The schools also provided MuskogeeNOW with the following two documents they had prepared: Bed Bug Frequently Asked Questions, Bed Bug Treatment

9:39 AM UPDATE: The classroom in question was at Pershing Elementary, according to a parent of a student at the school.

Filed under: Local Education Exclusive
This story has been revised 6 times
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:17:19 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:23:30 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:34:21 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:35:31 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:38:15 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif Wright on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:40:54 a.m. (VIEW)
This story has 1 comment
savedbygrace, on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 9:48:05 p.m., said:
So they brought a change of clothes from the same bed bug infested house that produced the original bed bug? That makes sense.

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Men arrested after pawn shop hit by car, burglarized

Two Muskogee men were arrested early Monday morning by the Muskogee Police Department and FBI Violent Crime Task Force for intentionally crashing a vehicle in to John's pawn, 619 Broadway, in furtherance of crime, according to an FBI release.

Leon Perry, 21, and Jordan Wright, 19, were charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and malicious injury to property.

Investigation continues into other possible conspirators.

Filed under: Local Crime
This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif Wright on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 2:49:07 p.m. (VIEW)
This story has 1 comment
Puck, on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 4:42:53 p.m., said:
Subtlety has obviously gone out the door.

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BOK branch in Homeland to be relocated

The Bank of Oklahoma branch in the Homeland at Chandler and York is among the in-store branches the bank is shutting down, according to Leah Harper, communication manager for the bank, but the Homeland branch here will be reopened somewhere else in Muskogee.

"The Muskogee market is very important to us," she said. "That branch is being moved rather than closed."

The moves will occur around February, though reopening the branch may happen after that, she said.

The bank is closing all its in-store branches due to a marked increase in online banking and a matching decrease in usage of the in-store branches, according to a press release.

Filed under: Local Business
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Election board certifies Mullin as winner; Democrats may sue

Oklahoma Democrats believe Earl Everett of Fort Gibson's death two days before the Nov. 4 election may have skewed the election results, giving Markwayne Mullin a large victory in the election.

State law calls for a special election if a candidate dies so close to an election, but the state's attorney general advised the election board that federal law, which requires states to elect a representative on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November trumps the state law, and the election board certified the election.

Democrats say they will pursue their legal options.

Filed under: Local Politics
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Toy run Saturday to help area children

The American Legion in Muskogee is hosting a toy run on Saturday - no matter what the weather says.

Though there is a 78 percent chance of rain and a 32% chance of snow in the afternoon, from 11 a.m. to noon, when the run is going on, the skies should be fairly clear - if a bit cold (36°).

Free lunch will be served to those who bring unwrapped toys or donations. The proceeds will benefit needy children in the Muskogee area.

Staging begins at 11 a.m. at RT&T cycles, 600 W. Peak Blvd. The run begins at noon. The route is on the turnpike to the USS Batfish, where toys will be dropped off.

For more information, call 918-625-4591.

Filed under: Local
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