DEATHS

Mary Lou Perry, 75

Born August 7, 1943

Died December 15, 2018

Homer Roy Downey, 67

Born May 23, 1951

Died December 13, 2018

Samuel Burks, 68

Born November 18, 1950

Died December 13, 2018

Gordon L. Laster Sr, 84

Born July 26, 1934

Died December 13, 2018

Linda Gail (Berkenbile) Snipes, 71

Born February 18, 1947

Died December 13, 2018

CLICK TO SEE MORE >>

Our death notices and obits are always free to the families and funeral homes.

THINGS TO DO

Saturday, December 15

Muskogee Christmas Parade
The Magic of Michael Grandinetti
Wreath-Laying at Fort Gibson National Cemetery
Interested Cookies with Santa
Fur Babies Adoptions and Rescue Adoption Event
Pay off your Mortgage in 5-7 Years and save over $100,000* in Interest -...
Christmas at The Roxy
MPHC Holiday Game Night Fundraiser
Escort Wreaths Across America
Underwood Christmas Open House
Dance
Oklahoma Kids!

Sunday, December 16

Santa's Reindeer Visit

Friday, December 14, 2018, 8:43 AM

Fort Gibson National Cemetery, an official Wreaths Across America location, will host a wreath-laying ceremony, joining more than 1,500 other locations across the country for National Wreaths Across America Day, tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Coordinated and led by local volunteers, the Fort Gibson location has raised funds to place 1,300 fresh evergreen wreaths on the headstones of fallen service members. The annual event seeks to further the mission of Remember, Honor, Teach, ensuring that the memory of those who served our country endures.

The wreath escort will leave Davis Field Airport at 10am.

Participating are Muskogee Nighthawks Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol, Commissioned Officers Association, Patriot Guard Riders of Oklahoma,VFW Auxiliary 8798, State Rep. Avery Fix, Sgt. William Barnes, Veterans, Boy Scouts, Fort Gibson Explorers, various motorcycle clubs, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Fort Gibson PD, Muskogee PD, active service members and families.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018, 8:51 AM

Muskogee’s Morgan Towing has announced that, with the help of the city’s local business community, the Hooked on Peddling Charity Bike Drive is a complete success. With the help of local school counselors and principals, the company will make more than 50 less-fortunate children happier by donating brand new bicycles to them.

Kevin Faucett, the drivers manager at Morgan Towing and Recovery, came up with the idea after speaking with his son and they realized even though he was getting presents, a lot of less-fortunate families would not be able to give their children the same level of gifts.

With that in mind, Faucett decided to reach out to local business for donations in order to purchase bicycles for six kids at each Muskogee elementary school, three boys and three girls. The bicycles were purchased from the Muskogee Walmart, which also made a monetary donation.

The bicycles will be distributed today and tomorrow.

The following businesses contributed to the effort: Morgan Towing & Recovery, Walmart, James Hodge Ford, Lescher - Millsap Funeral Home, King Tire, Cook Construction & Crane, Ross Construction, Muskogee Lock & Key, Precision Lawn Care, Mayes Wrecker, Clark Equipment, Direct Traffic, Advance Work Zone, Steves Paint & Body, J&J Trucking, Muskogee Fence, 3 Rivers Auto Collision, Green Country Led, Wheeler Metals, Dave’s Discount Tire Haskell, Rodney’s Heat & Air, Manhattan Road & Bridge, C&M Trucking, Sooner Emergency Services, Polly Irving, Morgan Racing, Bryson Diesel Repair.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 9:07 AM

Redacted to obscure the student's name.

A Muskogee parent is crying foul after a 14-year-old student at Alice Robertson Junior High School was arrested yesterday on a Dec. 3 citation in front of classmates and then taken to the Community Intervention Center at the back of the Muskogee County Jail.

The student was arrested for too many absences, according to a citation the parents provided MuskogeeNOW.com. The student has a total of 18 partial or whole absences from school this semester. The parent said eight of those were excused by doctor’s notes, and several of the remaining partial absences were simply tardies. Schools can’t comment on specific cases, so they were unable to confirm those claims.

Dan Hall, chief truancy officer with Muskogee Public Schools, said taking a student to CIC is a last resort, rarely used.

“We start off trying to tell the parents there is a problem if a student misses four times during a four-week period,” he said. “If the parents don’t respond, we try to call, and if they still don’t respond, we try to do a home visit or try to catch them at their jobs. If the parents say they’re going to show up to sign a citation and then they don’t show up, we give them another chance to do that, and if they still don’t show after they’ve said they would, we take the student to CIC so the parent has to come get them and then sign the citation.”

Hall said he wouldn’t classify that as “arrest,” though the distinction may not immediately be clear.

“It’s a last resort,” he said. “We really only do it a few times a year when we have exhausted every other effort.”

Parents can face steep fines and even jail time for failing to compel their children to attend school, according to Oklahoma law.

The parent is concerned that the student was arrested in front of his classmates, cuffed and placed into a police car, then taken to “jail” and forced to stay there for hours before the parent could come to get him out.

“They got him out of sixth hour,” the parent said. “They confirmed his name, then told him to turn around with hands behind his back and they cuffed him and took him to jail.”

The parents were warned that the student could be cited for more absences, but they say they were not warned that he could be taken to CIC.

“Parents need to make sure their kids are in school,” Hall said. “We try everything we can to avoid this kind of consequence, but we have to ensure their attendance.”

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 1:52 PM

Dr. Samuel Craig

Dr. Samuel Craig of Muskogee has filed a complaint with the national office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, alleging that the Muskogee branch is being run by corrupt and shady people.

Craig, who ran for president of the branch in November, alleges the branch did not follow bylaws compelling it to publish notice of the impending election, resulting in a voter turnout of just 15 people. The branch also has numerous deceased people on the roll as active members, he alleges, and the incumbent president exerted undue influence by hovering over the polling place during the election.

Craig also alleges that the current president, Rev. Rodger Cutler, is misappropriating NAACP funds without approval through the proper channels.

Cutler, who said he was unaware of Craig’s November letter, says there is no truth to Craig’s allegations.

“I want to emphatically say that this was an election year and unfortunately, Mr. Craig ran for president and did not win,” Cutler said. “Based on his many attempts to discredit me, he didn’t win and he’s acting in a disgruntled manner — what he’s stating is not true.”

The letter was not accompanied by the required number of signatures of co-complainants, so it’s unclear if the NAACP will act upon it or not.

You can read the letter here.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 8:03 AM

A car drove through the front of Speedway Grille last night, according to a Facebook posting on the restaurant’s page.

There is no official word yet on the cause or details of the wreck. The southwest corner of the restaurant was destroyed. We will update when more details become available.

UPDATE: According to Muskogee Police Officer Lincoln Anderson, the vehicle was parked behind Tacos La Tia when an officer turned around to check it out. When the officer did that, the vehicle pulled out of the parking lot. The officer attempted to make a traffic stop and the vehicle fled at a high rate of speed, was unable to negotiate the curve on Okmulgee at Junction Street and ran off the road and through the business.

The suspect, Opal Turner, 34, was transported to Saint Francis Hospital in Muskogee by Muskogee County EMS, then flown by helicopter to Tulsa.

She is charged with driving under suspension, attempting to elude, running a roadblock, possession of Controlled Dangerous Substance with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Monday, December 10, 2018, 8:33 AM

The Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office received body cameras from grant funding last week and are set to put them into service today.

Last Wednesday, the sheriff received new body worn cameras from grant funding received through the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. The body cameras, made by Reveal Media, are the first body camera used by the sheriff. The system, which included storage, download docking stations and 20 Reveal Media D3 cameras arrived at the Sheriff’s office last week.

The cameras themselves have a 36gb internal storage, an articulating camera head, a wide angle lenses, and a forward facing screen to allow the public to see the recording in progress.

The software and management system allows deputies to dock their cameras. The data is then transferred to the management software and stored to the server.

The Sheriff’s Office was awarded a $30,000.00 from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office through the Safe Oklahoma Grant earlier in 2018.

“This is just another tool at our disposal. It will help keep the public and deputies safe,” said Sheriff Rob Frazier.

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Monday, December 10, 2018, 8:27 AM

Jennifer Ellen Daniel

Jennifer Ellen Daniel, 37, of Muskogee was charged late last week in Muskogee County District Court with two counts of false reporting of a crime in a case where she alleged that a child had been molested by its step-grandfather.

The allegations, according to the district attorney, turned out to be false. In one allegation to the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office, Daniel allegedly said the child had learned inappropriate sexual conduct from the man and was engaging in that conduct. She made the same allegation to the Muskogee Police Department.

When the allegations were determined to be false, Daniel was charged with the crime.

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Friday, December 7, 2018, 11:57 AM

Gary Lemoine, 65, of Muskogee was killed last last night or early this morning when a house he was in was consumed by a fire, according to a Muskogee police report.

The house, at 1158 Maple Street, was burned in what police are saying might be arson.

A neighbor is reported to have helped other victims out of the house through a window, but police found Lemoine’s remains burned inside the house.

More information as it becomes available.

Lemoine was formerly a gym teacher at Tony Goetz Elementary School, according to neighbors.

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Friday, December 7, 2018, 8:44 AM

Jade Roberts

Jade Reniece Roberts, 32, of Muskogee is charged in Muskogee County District Court with abuse of a vulnerable adult, a felony.

Roberts is accused of abusing Edward Suarez, 90, on Dec. 3. The alleged incident happened around 8 a.m. at 602 N. M Street, where a witness told police Roberts slapped and pinched the elderly man in the skin under his neck, then pinched his arm.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018, 6:32 AM

Jim Paul Blair and crew will bring Buddy Holly back to life as the Roxy Theater is covered in 1950s and Christmas music and fun stories.

The Buddy Holly tribute includes tributes to Richie Valens, The Big Bopper, Jack Daw and the Snobirds as well. The cast includes Blair, Andy Sanchez, Tommy Cummings, Angelina Cummings, Liz Escobar, Jim Loftin, Ronald Boren, Jermaine Mondaine and John Krause.

The show is Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15. Credit and debit cards are accepted. Concessions are available. Call (918) 684-6366 for more information.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018, 9:01 AM

Larry Wayne Robinson

Larry Wayne Robinson, 63, of Muskogee is charged in Muskogee County District Court with felony assault and battery on a police officer, as well as two misdemeanors: violation of a protective order and resisting an officer in an incident that happened yesterday, according to court records.

Robinson is alleged to have violated a May protective order on Dec. 4 by contacting Harold Thomas. Thomas called police, who sent Officer James Moore to Robinson’s house, where the officer stated he had trouble explaining the allegation to Robinson over the latter’s objections.

“I attempted to place Robinson into custody for the protective order violation,” Moore stated. “Robinson pulled away from me and would not put his hands behind his back. Robinson was grabbing and squeezing my genitals and was also pulling my duty belt.”

Moore further stated that he punched Robinson and tased him before he was able to subdue him and put him into custody. After a trip to the hospital to make sure he could be jailed, Robinson was placed into the Muskogee County Jail.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 9:11 AM

Fort Gibson National Cemetery is currently being decorated with 21,000 artificial wreaths by members of Wreaths for Fallen Heroes. The public is invited to attend a wreath-laying ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. Wreaths for Fallen Heroes is a local nonprofit organization that raises funds to purchase artificial wreaths for gravesites at the national cemetery.

The cemetery will also host Wreaths Across America, which will place 1,000 natural wreaths on gravesites on Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. and the public is invited to that ceremony as well.

Wreaths Across America is committed to recognizing Veterans, active duty military and their families. Their goal is to remind the public to remember the Veterans, honor their service, and teach children the value of freedom.

The National Cemetery is located at 1423 Cemetery Road in Fort Gibson. For more information, contact Bill Rhoades, Director, Fort Gibson National Cemetery, at 918-478-2334.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 9:05 AM

Cherokee Nation Facilities Management crews help clean up tornado debris.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker declared a State of Emergency in the nation after tornadoes damaged homes and property in five Northeast Oklahoma counties. The tribe estimates that at least 822 Cherokee Nation citizens live in the affected area.

Baker signed the proclamation authorizing all appropriate tribal resources and personnel to respond and activating the Cherokee Nation Emergency Operations Center to assess the damage.

“The Cherokee Nation will continue assessing the damages and will provide whatever assistance our citizens and neighbors need during this time,” Chief Baker said. “As the damages suffered are substantial and many will have to repair properties and homes, we are thankful that at this time there have been no reports of loss of life due to the severe weather, and appreciate our local storm trackers and news stations for issuing warnings that gave ample amount of time for individuals and families to take necessary precautions during the storm.”

The tornadoes touched down Friday Nov. 30, and left a path of destruction nearly 60 miles long through portions of Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Delaware and Muskogee counties.

Baker is asking President Trump to declare Cherokee Nation a major disaster area and that federal aid be provided to the tribe to assist in recovery and response efforts.

Cherokee Nation’s Emergency Management-Incident Management Team is asking Cherokee Nation citizens who were impacted by the storm to report their damage by calling 918-207-3871 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or by emailing bradley-wagnon@cherokee.org. Cherokee citizens should include name, address, contact information, and a description of the damage.

Crews from the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, Cherokee Nation EMS and Cherokee Nation Emergency Management-Incident Management Team worked throughout the weekend to coordinate response and recovery efforts in affected counties.

Monday, Cherokee Nation Facilities Management and Human Services departments also dispatched personnel and equipment into affected communities to begin assisting Cherokee citizens with clean up.

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Monday, December 3, 2018, 8:37 AM

A semitrailer quietly left the former Sequoyah Fuels Corporation site near Gore this week, hauling away the last of 511 loads of nuclear waste that has plagued Sequoyah County and its citizens for decades.

The Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma attorney general’s office worked for 18 months to ensure the off-site disposal of 10,000 tons of radioactive material were removed from the Sequoyah Fuels site. The waste was transported to a disposal site in Utah where the uranium will be recycled and reused, leaving the area near the Arkansas River free of this nuclear waste for the first time in nearly 50 years.

“It is a historic day for the Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma. Our lands are safe again, now that we have removed a risk that would have threatened our communities forever,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “This would not have been possible if the tribe and state had not worked tirelessly together in court to ensure removal of this material.”

The uranium processing plant was opened by Kerr-McGee in 1970. It converted yellowcake uranium into fuel for nuclear reactors. The plant changed ownership more than once and was eventually sold to General Atomics under the name Sequoyah Fuels Corporation.

An accident at the plant killed one worker and injured dozens of others in 1986. Another accident in 1992 injured about three dozen workers. Following that accident and years of violating numerous environmental rules and nuclear safety standards, the plant was closed in 1993.

Tons of radioactive waste remained at the facility when it closed, so in 2004 the Cherokee Nation and state of Oklahoma entered into a settlement agreement that required the highest-risk waste be removed from the site. The owners of Sequoyah Fuels Corporation announced in 2016 their intention to bury the waste on site, but a judge forced the company to comply with the original agreement. Removal of the material is now complete.

“The Cherokee Nation has been in and out of court with Sequoyah Fuels since 2004, and now this material is no longer a ticking time bomb on the banks of the Arkansas River, one of our most precious natural resources,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill said. “Decommissioning this plant was never enough to satisfy our goals for a clean and safe environment. Removal of this highly contaminated waste was our goal, and we’re pleased that goal has finally been achieved.”

The plant is located where the Arkansas River and Illinois River meet.

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Monday, December 3, 2018, 8:29 AM

The Muskogee Public Library is hosting its fourth-annual Good Reads For Christmas book signing, featuring local authors presenting and signing their books.

The event, hosted at the library, 801 W. Okmulgee, is free and runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with local and regional authors signing and talking about their books.

Cookies and punch will also be served.

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Friday, November 30, 2018, 7:15 AM

Jacob Gardea

Twenty-three-year-old Jacob Gardea, of Albuquerque, New Mexico was arrested late Wednesday night in Checotah at a motel after he was accused of abducting a 13-year-old girl from North Carolina, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI and North Carolina law enforcement officials had been searching for the girl for days and found her and Gardea in the McIntosh County town south of Muskogee in a America’s Best Value Inn. She was reported missing on Nov. 26.

The girl reportedly suffers from dementia or some other cognitive impairment, which made officials concerned for her safety.

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Friday, November 30, 2018, 6:40 AM

Experience the Magic of Christmas on Muskogee’s Polar Express. The Roxy and Three Rivers Museum present the Polar Express Pajama Party on Saturday.

The Roxy Theater downtown is hosting the Polar Express movie, where guests will eat cookies, and sip on hot cocoa. Bring a pillow and blanket, and don’t forget to wear your pajamas. The event is at 6 p.m.

After the Polar Express movie, parents and children will be transported to the North Pole to meet Santa and receive a special gift!

Tickets are $15; debit and credit cards accepted. Concessions are available. Call 918-684-6366 for more info.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018, 6:51 AM

Many people don’t know Muskogee is home to a residential facility designed to care for adolescent girls who have been victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. The facility, named Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation (RISE), is a public charity that operates on grants and donations, including donations from its founder and executive director, Keri Spencer, J.D.

“The average life span for children” who have been victims of sex trafficking “is three to seven years,” Spencer said. “These children, who are suffering through having people pay to rape them daily, experience PTSD similar to combat veterans — along with myriad other mental and physical health problems. Oftentimes, they have no safe place to go once they’re recovered from their traffickers.”

RISE provides that place in Muskogee, where girls between 13 and 17 1/2 can live until their 19th birthdays while receiving individualized, comprehensive services designed to restore them as close to normalcy as possible.

“Our services focus on mental health and behavioral health, substance use and abuse, education, life skills, independent living skills, and loving the girls in a judgment-free space so that they can heal from the traumas they have endured,” Spencer said. The facility currently has six beds with plans for expansion as funding becomes available. Five of the six beds are currently full, with residents from 15 to 17 years old. “We are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with awake staff trained in trauma-informed, victim-centered care.”

Four of the facility’s staffers are also adult survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The home is funded through grants and partnerships with private donors and organizations. Funding is not as robust as it needs be, meaning the home’s board of directors and founders are using some of their own money to make ends meet at the facility, which costs upwards of $25,000 per month to run.

To that end, the Gee Gals, a Muskogee group of women involved in uplifting and upholding other women, have planned a Holiday Market Gala on Dec. 8 to benefit the group. For more information or to donate to the home, visit the group’s web site.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018, 8:17 AM

Tai'Brion Walker

Tai’Brion Maurice Walker, 20, of Muskogee is charged in Muskogee County District Court with two felony counts of assault and battery on a police officer, a felony count of possession of a firearm after previous juvenile adjudication, a felony count of possession fo controlled drug with intent to distribute, a felony count of acquiring proceeds from drug activity, a misdemeanor of driving with a suspended license, a misdemeanor of resisting an officer and a misdemeanor of failure to pay taxes due to the state.

The charges stem from an incident on Saturday, where an officer observed Walker park his car in a driveway and get out of it, walking up to a house, according to an affidavit filed with the case. The officer stated he confronted Walker “to investigate what appeared to be aimless prowling” at the house. The officer then states that he commanded Walker to approach the front of the officer’s car, but Walker instead turned and tried to walk away. During the arrest, the officer states Walker resisted “me and other officers for several minutes, attempting to control him, take him down and handcuff him, assault and battery on a police officer by kicking Sergeant Forbes and dragging me along the ground, causing injury.”

After Walker was arrested, officers say they found nine grams of marijuana (a little more than a quarter ounce), “larger than typical bags of personal use.” Police also found empty plastic bags and a digital scale, plus $458 in cash, which they stated was evidence Walker was intending to distribute the quarter ounce of marijuana.

Police also stated he was possessing a pistol after former juvenile adjudication, but said there was no evidence of any conviction in that former case.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018, 6:16 AM

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree and Assistant Attorney General Paiten Qualls attended the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Carpenter v. Murphy on Tuesday.

“Arguments made during Tuesday’s hearing by both Murphy and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation were persuasive and reaffirmed the tribe’s sovereignty,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree. “If the U.S. Supreme Court follows precedent, it will determine that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation still exists in eastern Oklahoma and that Congress never disestablished the reservation.”

In the case, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from 2017 that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was never formally disestablished. The case centers around the murder conviction of a Creek citizen who successfully argued that state courts have no jurisdiction over tribal citizens living within the boundaries of Indian nations. His state conviction and death sentence were overturned based on the argument.

The Cherokee Nation previously filed an amicus brief in the case, joining the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in support of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The State of Oklahoma is appealing the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion.

Hembree said if the Muscogee (Creek) Nation prevails, the Cherokee Nation looks forward to continuing to work with state and federal officials in making safety a priority.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide the case by early 2019.

You can read a transcript of the arguments made in front of the Supreme Court here.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018, 10:47 AM

If you’ve ever wondered about wine pairing and the winemaking process, your opportunity will arise on Dec. 7 at Pecan Creek Winery in Muskogee.

The winery is hosting a dinner from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., where the winemaker will discuss wine pairings, the winemaking process and will release 15 cases of 2017 Cab, limited to wines made from the 100 Cab vines growing near the winery itself. Aged in 15-gallon Hungarian oak barrels one year, this wine has the equivalence of two or three years’ aging in the larger 60-gallon barrels. Napa winemakers have described this as “old school” style meaning that we are reproducing the classic Bordeaux-style of deep red color, fruitiness and a lingering, complex finish. The winery will enter this wine in the San Francisco Chronicle competition.

The price for the dinner is $65 a person. It is limited to 24 seats. Sign up by email to info@pecancreekwinery.com. Leave your email and phone number.

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Monday, November 26, 2018, 8:14 PM

Colton’s Steakhouse was robbed Saturday night, according to Muskogee police.

“Three black males wearing black hoods and masks” robbed the restaurant, said Muskogee Police Officer Lincoln Anderson. The men approached employees outside the building, who were taking out trash at closing time.

The men “pointed weapons at” the employees, “and forced them back inside.”

Once inside the restaurant, the men took cell phones from employees and then took cash from the restaurant.

Police have not yet released more detailed descriptions of the robbers, nor how much they got away with due to the ongoing investigation.

We will update as more information becomes available.

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Monday, November 26, 2018, 8:09 AM

Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard, Linda and Johnny Gifford, and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. at the Giffords’ home where solar panels have been installed.

A Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation pilot program is using solar energy panels on several Cherokee Nation citizens’ homes to save on their monthly utility costs.

The pilot program is funded through an Indian Community Development Block Grant, which covered the cost of installing solar panels on 17 homes the housing authority was remodeling for elders.

Installations began in October 2017 and so far, families living in the energy efficient homes have saved an average of 50 percent on their monthly electric bills.

“We know that solar energy is both renewable and plentiful, and over time, more and more homes around the country are taking advantage of this resource,” said Gary Cooper, executive director of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation. “This pilot program in the Cherokee Nation gives us the opportunity to not only reduce utility costs for Cherokee families, but to study whether it is feasible to place solar panels on more homes in the future. So far, we have received excellent feedback from homeowners.”

Electricity consumption, direct hours of daily sunlight, the size and angle of a home’s roof, local electricity rates and the size of the solar panel system all play a role in determing how much a family can save on utility costs by using solar panels.

“The Cherokee Nation has been a trend-setter in Indian Country when it comes to its use of renewable energy, so it should not be surprising to see the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation using this pilot project to find even more opportunities,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “It is clear that Cherokee families who are participating in this program have seen great benefits to their budget, while our environment is also benefitting. That’s the kind of win-win scenario we’re always looking for in the tribe.”

Cherokee Nation citizen Linda Gifford and her husband, Johnny, live in Spavinaw, a small community of around 450 residents in northeast Mayes County. When the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation began a rehab project on the couple’s home, the Giffords agreed to participate in the solar panel project.

Like other participating families, the Giffords’ electric bills have seen drastic reductions since the panels were installed.

“The impact of these solar panels has been quite noticable at our home,” Linda Gifford said. “They have cut our utility bill each month. We relied on window air units to cool our house in the summer. In 2017, we paid around $180 one month for our electricity bill, and in 2018 during that same month, we paid a little over $70 with the solar panels installed. We are thankful for the opportunity to participate and appreciate the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation for approaching us about it.”

Placement of solar panels cost an average of around $19,780 per home, but varied depending on the home’s location, the size of the solar panel system, agreements with utility companies and other factors.

The solar panels carry a 10-year warranty and will be monitored quarterly with rural Wi-Fi or a cellular network. The tribe is evaluating the results of the pilot program and is looking for future grant opportunities that would provide more solar panels for the homes of Cherokee families.

The following counties have homes with solar panels from the pilot program:

  • Adair County – 6
  • Cherokee County – 3
  • Mayes County – 4
  • Muskogee County – 1
  • Rogers County – 2
  • Sequoyah County - 1

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Monday, November 26, 2018, 7:49 AM

Robert Nichols, 32, of Wagoner was killed over the weekend when his car hit a tree, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Nichols was westbound on Toppers road, about two miles east of Wagoner, when his 1999 Mercury Cougar departed the roadway to the left and slammed into a tree, according to the patrol. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Wagoner County EMS.

Nichols was not wearing a seatbelt and his airbags did not deploy during the wreck.

The cause of the wreck is still under investigation.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 8:05 PM

Ashly Campbell, the ex-wife of Muskogee Police Investigator Mark Campbell, has recanted her story, which initially claimed he assaulted her after an argument last week.

She initially reported to sheriff’s deputies that Mark Campbell hit her after the argument, but now she says she believes a medical issue may have led to the injury that caused the district attorney to charge him with domestic abuse.

“I have a history of seizures,” she said tonight. “After a seizure I’m usually confused and can’t remember things at all, or correctly, and after time I usually get most of my memory back. Well some time has passed and the more I thought about things, the less they added up regarding my ex-husband hitting me. I actually believe we argued at the house and I left, made it home and had a seizure. I believe I came to and remembered us arguing and got confused about being hit.”

Ashly Campbell has asked the DA to drop the charges against Mark Campbell, but the DA’s office has not returned calls requesting comment on the case.

“The last time I had a seizure, I had a knot on the back of my head exactly like the one on my eye,” Ashly Campbell said. “I believe I was confused at the time and remembered a previous argument where I was intoxicated and fell, cutting my eyebrow years ago. I’ve stopped drinking to that degree since then, but the point is I don’t believe Mark hit me.”

Mark Campbell has been on paid administrative leave from the police department pending the outcome of the case. There is no indication if Ashly Campbell’s recantation will affect that status.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018, 5:09 PM

Longtime Muskogee Police Officer Ron Yates was found justified in shooting Andrew Kana to death at a Muskogee restaurant on Nov. 12.

District Attorney Orvil Loge said the evidence made it clear Sgt. Yates had no choice but to fire his service weapon three times into Kana’s torso, killing him.

You can read the opinion here.

Officer Lincoln Anderson said Yates did what he had to do:

While we never want any situation to end with the loss of a life, Sgt. Yates and the other officers involved handled themselves with professionalism in a rapidly escalating incident.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018, 9:10 AM

An episode of Dr. Phil piqued the interests of Jeff and Helen Stemmer to be Court Appointed Special Advocates for children. After a great deal of discussion, the couple knew they wanted to get involved, but thought maybe they should wait until after their youngest daughter left home.

Over the next couple of months, it seemed the couple was seeing CASA everywhere.

“It felt as though God was telling us not to wait,” said Helen, “and so we signed up together to begin the very next CASA training.”

In October 2015, the couple completed their training and each received their first case. Since that time, Jeff and Helen have served on a total of eight cases acting as the voices for children in need.

Each has a case that remains embedded in their minds.

“My second case really stands out to me because the two children were so sad and somber,” Helen said. “The parents were in denial about their situation and never really bonded with the children during their visits. But in the end, the children were adopted and they are so happy where they are. I stay in touch with them. They smile a lot now and laugh frequently. I am so happy I was a part of bringing these children into a happy, loving family.”

For Jeff, however, the case that sticks out was tragic in a different way.

“In my last case the child’s father was doing great, working his plan and even moved the child into his home,” he said. “Everything was going well and we were preparing for the final court date to close the case when he suffered a massive stroke and passed away. This was very disheartening for everyone involved. The previous foster parents decided to pursue adoption and in the end, the child was able to find permanency with loving parents.”

CASA volunteers are trained adults who advocate for a child’s best interest in juvenile court. Volunteers get to know the child by spending time with them each month in addition to talking with those involved in the child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. The information they gather is used to inform the judge of what the child’s needs are.

For more information, click here.

You can help CASA help children by having a good time this Friday. The Downtown Lady, 126 S Main St, is hosting a “Gobble till You Wobble” turkey wobble from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a $5 donation at the door to benefit CASA. The event hosts dancing, drawings and music. For more information, click here.

You can also support CASA on Black Friday without spending any extra money by shopping AmazonSmile.com. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to CASA for Children

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Monday, November 19, 2018, 7:29 AM

As the number of influenza-related hospitalizations continues to increase, the Oklahoma State Department of Health you to get a flu shot before upcoming holiday gatherings to prevent spread of the illness.

The department reports 71 hospitalizations and three deaths associated with the flu since the season began in September. The highest number of flu-related hospitalizations has occurred among those who are older than 65 years of age, as well as children younger than 5, which are both groups at greater risk of experiencing severe illness and complications due to flu.

“It is important to stay home from holiday gatherings if you have symptoms of influenza, which are fever, chills, body aches, and a cough or sore throat,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley. “It is better to miss out on some holiday fun than risk infecting others. Flu can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those who have underlying health conditions such as asthma and other lung diseases.”

Flu activity tends to increase between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Getting a flu vaccination is the most effective way to avoid this potentially serious illness.

Vaccinations are available at all county health departments with no out-of-pocket cost, as well as at medical providers and many pharmacies throughout the state. Everyone is at risk for influenza and the flu vaccination is recommended for anyone 6 months of age and older. Parents and family members of babies younger than 6 months of age, and those who live with or care for anyone at high risk for complications from the flu, are especially advised to get the vaccine.

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Monday, November 19, 2018, 6:54 AM

The driver of a semi died on Saturday after the truck he was driving flew off the road traveling south on US 69 just inside McIntosh County, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Pietro Zambuto, 64, of Port St. Lucie, Florida was driving a 2019 Kenworth on the highway around 7 a.m. around six miles north of Checotah when his truck left the road for an unknown reason. The semi became airborne and slammed into a culvert under the road. Zambuto was pinned in the cab of the semi for five hours while rescue services tried to extricate him.

He was pronounced dead at the scene and emergency crews spent the rest of the day working on the wreckage. The cause of the wreck has not yet been determined.

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Friday, November 16, 2018, 9:42 AM

Mark Campbell

Muskogee Police Investigator Mark Campbell was arrested on Tuesday of this week and charged with domestic abuse - assault and battery, a misdemeanor, after his ex-wife, Ashly Campbell, told sheriff’s deputies he hit her.

The deputy who took her statement said he saw swelling around her eye.

Campbell is currently on paid administrative leave from the police department while an internal investigation into the matter is ongoing. The incident allegedly occurred on Nov. 8. Campbell was arrested after the district attorney decided to press charges. He was released from jail 15 minutes after he was booked in without bail.

He will be back in court on Dec. 12 for a disposition docket, where he will enter a plea in the case.

Arrests and charges do not indicate guilt; Campbell, like all criminal defendants, is innocent until he is proven guilty in court.

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