DEATHS

Mary Katherine Dawson, 67

Born July 24, 1952

Died July 2, 2020

Mary Inez Sims, 79

Born September 1, 1940

Died July 2, 2020

Teresa Dawn Reid, 36

Born August 10, 1983

Died July 2, 2020

Shawn Wayne Wheeler, 51

Born February 4, 1969

Died July 1, 2020

John B. Bebee, 89

Born April 25, 1931

Died July 1, 2020

Linda L. "Poni" Wilson, 69

Born October 11, 1950

Died June 29, 2020

Kenneth Ray Benton, 83

Born May 17, 1937

Died June 29, 2020

Roy Dale Jenkins, 80

Born December 11, 1939

Died June 29, 2020

Micheal Joseph Motte, 63

Born December 4, 1956

Died June 27, 2020

Warren Clay Graham Sr., 82

Born October 14, 1937

Died June 26, 2020

CLICK TO SEE MORE >>

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

Monday, June 8, 2020, 7:31 AM

Robert Burns, 46, of Stigler was killed in a wreck yesterday just north of Boynton, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Burns was driving a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado southbound on US 62 four miles north of Boynton when he went left of center, according to the patrol. He struck a 2012 Ford F-150 driven by Kevin Pollard, 58 of Bixby head-on.

Burns was pronounced dead at the scene by Muskogee County EMS. Pollard was pinned in his vehicle for 30 minutes before being removed by Haskell Fire Department and flown by helicopter to a Tulsa hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition with internal and leg injuries.

His passenger, Lisa Pollard, 62, of Bixby, was taken to a Tulsa hospital by Muskogee County EMS, where she was admitted in stable condition with internal and leg injuries.

All were wearing seat belts. The cause of the wreck is under investigation.

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Saturday, June 6, 2020, 10:27 PM

A nine-year-old boy drowned on Lake Eufaula tonight, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The boy was standing on a swim platform when he fell into the water, the patrol reported. He died in 12 feet of water.

The boy, from Broken Arrow, was not wearing a personal flotation device, the patrol reported. He was transported to Saint Francis Hospital in Muskogee, where he was pronounced dead.

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Friday, June 5, 2020, 8:48 AM

Cherokee Nation Businesses announced today it is welcoming back guests to its 10 casino properties throughout northeast Oklahoma. The company’s phased approach to reopening began this week and will continue throughout next week.

“Over the last two months, we have worked diligently to implement industry-leading protocols that will help ensure the safety of our team members, our guests and our communities. We are confident in our approach and will continue to monitor conditions and recommendations from federal, state and local health authorities,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This is the worst public health crisis we’ve faced in generations, and it has presented challenges to Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses like none before. We have made great progress in our fight to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the work is far from done. As we begin to welcome back our guests, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect one another.”

Cherokee Casino Tahlequah and Cherokee Casino Fort Gibson were the first properties to reopen on Monday, June 1, followed by Cherokee Casino Sallisaw on Tuesday, June 2.

Pending the successful implementation of CNB’s Responsible Hospitality plan and approval from the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs, Cherokee Casino Grove and Cherokee Casino Roland will open June 10.

The remaining properties, including Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs, Cherokee Casino South Coffeyville and Cherokee Casino Ramona, are expected to open by the end of next week.

All properties will operate at a reduced capacity with enhanced health and safety protocols in place. Those protocols include physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and noninvasive temperature screenings for both team members and guests. Individuals with a temperature in excess of 100.4 F will not be permitted to enter the building, and face masks will be required by all. Guests are asked to bring their own mask, which covers the nose and mouth but not the full face.

In addition to the protocols outlined in the Responsible Hospitality plan, each casino floor will be closed to the public from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily to accommodate deep cleaning and sanitization.

To learn more about the Responsible Hospitality plan, visit www.Anadisgoi.com.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020, 8:24 AM

Attorney General Mike Hunter today advised the Oklahoma State Department of Health that releasing the data about COVID-19 infections does not violate state or federal law, as long as individuals are not identifiable.

After consultation with the attorney general, the OSDH will resume releasing local infection data and deaths. Demographic data, such as age and race, will only be released in aggregate.

“Releasing the total numbers of each locality, county and state-wide demographic data threads the needle of providing up-to-date information to the public while protecting the privacy of Oklahomans,” Hunter said. “This data are important for citizens to have at their disposal to make informed decisions. I appreciate OSDH Interim Commissioner Lance Frye and Secretary of Health Jerome Loughridge, for bringing this matter to the attention of my office for review.”

The attorney general advised the interim health commissioner and secretary of health that while state law prohibits the department of health from disclosing personal health information, it may nonetheless release epidemiological information for statistical purposes in such a way that no person can be identified.

Officials were concerned that releasing detailed demographic information could inadvertently identify someone who is infected with or died from COVID-19, which would violate state laws on medical record confidentiality.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2020, 7:44 AM

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, issued the following statement in response to recent reports regarding the Oklahoma State Department of Health retaining former Interim Commissioner of Health Gary Cox in a six-week advisory role, and also the governor’s decision to stop releasing COVID-19 data.

“The governor is thumbing his nose at the Legislature instead of working with us to generate better outcomes for Oklahomans,” Virgin said. “The Senate ... took the rare step to not approve one of the governor’s appointees. Instead of taking the loss, the governor created a position where the appointee will be paid more than $22,000 for a month and a half of work advising the new commissioner of health how to do the job - a job that the state Senate said Cox wasn’t qualified to do. It is petty, bizarre, and a complete misuse of taxpayer money.

“This information, paired with the announcement that OSDH is no longer going to release some COVID-19 data, starts to draw into question what exactly is going on at the department of health? Why is the governor adamant that this person stays in the loop, and why are we decreasing public health transparency during a pandemic? None of this increases our constituent’s confidence in state government.”

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020, 8:06 AM

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that its COVID-19 data tracker, located at coronavirus.health.ok.gov, will continue reporting active and recovered COVID-19 cases by county only, as permitted by state law, and the agency will no longer publish COVID-19 data by city, zip code, or by long-term care and nursing home facility due to the State’s Catastrophic Emergency Declaration expiring on May 31.

OSDH and the office of Governor Kevin Stitt are actively exploring additional legal opinions and solutions to ensure the public, the medical community, and elected leaders can access relevant COVID-19 data that will allow for quick and effective decision-making while Oklahoma awaits a treatment or vaccine to mute the novel virus.

“OSDH will continue to publish daily the most recent active and recovered COVID-19 cases by county,” said OSDH Communications Director Kristin Davis.

The Legislature first granted the Governor’s request for a Catastrophic Emergency Health declaration on April 7, and the declaration was later extended until the end of May. Under the declaration, the Governor was able to redirect state agency resources and state employee efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and was able to activate the Oklahoma National Guard. During this period, the Governor also waived statutory requirements to allow for more granular reporting of COVID-19 data to support rapid decision making at local levels on the response to COVID-19.

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Monday, June 1, 2020, 7:43 AM

Muskogee police leaders Chief Johnny Teehee and Deputy Chief Reggie Cotton were among the luminaries and civic leaders who helped Divine Love Christian Fellowship hand out boxes of vegetables and gallons of milk yesterday, according to Pastor Michael Webber.

The church has been conducting the giveaways for several weekends, giving as much food and milk as they can to help people struggling during the economic downturn.

Mayoral candidate Marlon Coleman was also on hand to help with the giveaways.

“We had many people come out to help give away to the community,” Webber said.

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Monday, June 1, 2020, 7:38 AM

Robert Paden

Robert Mitchell Paden, 49, of Muskogee is charged in Muskogee County District Court with a felony of terrorism hoax after a February event in which he allegedly threatened to start shooting people.

“I am going to get a Housing Authority shirt, my underwear and my AR-15 and climb to the roof of Whispering Pines and start shooting people,” he is alleged to have messaged his boss on Feb. 26 around 1 in the morning.

Under Oklahoma Law, a terrorism hoax is willful conduct to simulate an act of terrorism as a joke, hoax, prank or trick; where “terrorism” means “any act or threat of violence ... against a population.”

A warrant has been issued for Paden’s arrest.

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Friday, May 29, 2020, 8:15 AM

Grease is the word at Muskogee Little Theatre. Evoking the look and sound of the 1950s, the rollicking musical became the soundtrack of a generation. An eight-year run on Broadway and two subsequent revivals, along with innumerable school and community productions place Grease among the world’s most popular musicals.

The Muskogee Little Theatre will do nine performances of the musical with limited audiences due to social distancing: June 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Advance tickets ($20 for adults and $17 for students): www.muskogeelittletheatre.com

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Thursday, May 28, 2020, 6:26 PM

Mark Deon Thompson

Mark Deon Thompson, 19, of Muskogee was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Kevyawna Roshea Jackson-Hall, who was 18, on Sept. 28, 2018, District Attorney Orvil Loge said today.

One month after Jackson-Hall moved into an apartment with Thompson’s sister, Thompson kicked in the apartment’s door, ran up to Jackson-Hall and shot her nine times with a semi-automatic pistol.

Thompson was convicted on Jan. 27 of this year and District Judge Bret Smith sentenced him today to life in prison. Under Oklahoma law, he must serve 38.25 years before he can be eligible to be considered for parole.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020, 9:57 AM

Cory Wayne Newsom

Cory Wayne Newsom, 21, of Muskogee was arrested on Monday on a complaint of lewd acts on a child.

Newsom is alleged by law enforcement to have coerced a 15-year-old autistic boy into letting him perform oral sex on him.

He has not yet been charged with the crime, but the case will be sent to the district attorney.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020, 7:16 AM

Kellen Gittens

Johnny Toomer
Kellen Leslie Gittens, 37, and Johnny Damond Toomer, 37, both of Muskogee, are charged with four felonies stemming from a May 9 incident that left a house on 11th Street riddled with bullets.

Police allege that Gittens was in an argument with his neighbor on 11th Street over parking in a driveway. They say Gittens and Toomer were driving around in Toomer’s 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis discussing shooting and killing the neighbor. Police say the pair pulled up in front of the neighbor’s house, at which time Gittens got out of the vehicle and shot 30 rounds at the house, then got back in the car, which sped away and got into a wreck at 24th and Shawnee.

Gittens is charged with shooting with intent to kill and possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony. He was formerly convicted of two DUIs, felony menacing and robbery.

Toomer is charged with shooting with intent to kill and leaving the scene of an accident involving damage.

Warrants have been issued for both men.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020, 7:07 AM

Gage Ross

Gage Hayden Ross, 22, of Oktaha is charged with shooting with intent to kill and possession of a firearm after former felony conviction stemming from a May 24 incident in Oktaha, according to court documents.

Prosecutors allege Ross shot Logan Hubler, 20, also of Oktaha through the chest. Witnesses reported that the two men had a longstanding dispute.

Ross was convicted of felony assault and battery on a police officer in 2019 and received a five-year suspended sentence. He faces a preliminary hearing on June 1.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 1:37 PM

Howard Jayne

Howard Jayne, who taught history, political science, international relations and other subjects in Muskogee Public Schools for 26 years, has died, according to the family.

His obituary appears here.

Jayne was known for engaging his students not as children or teenagers, but as equals, prodding them to learn through engagement rather than rote. Generations of Muskogee students proclaimed him their favorite teacher.

His wife, Lillian Jayne, a Muskogee Realtor, was also a longtime and beloved teacher.

Howard Jayne was 75.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 10:24 AM

A child’s body was found in the Arkansas River near the Grand River (Neosha River) last night at 9:30 p.m., according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The age, gender and race of the child are unknown.

Around 7:40 p.m. last night, a fisherman observed a body floating in the river near lock and dam No. 17. The Okay Fire Department was notified and observed the body as it floated under the Highway 16 bridge.

Wagoner County Emergency Management was able to locate the body near the mouth of the Grand River and made recovery in 10 feet of water. The child was not wearing a personal flotation device.

Two children went missing in Tulsa on Saturday. Miracle Lashay Crook, 2, and Tony Demone Crook, 1, were last seen by their mother Donisha Willis on Thursday in the area of 2200 S 96th E Ave, police said.

The toddlers disappeared around Mingo Creek, which eventually feeds into the Verdigris River, a tributary of the Arkansas River west of the Grand River. Tulsa police have said they are interested in whether this body may be one of the toddlers.

Willis is now booked in the Tulsa County jail for child endangerment.

UPDATE: Tulsa Police have identified the body as a young female:

The body removed from the water is that of a young female. The Medical Examiner will work to definitively identify the body. The search area for Miracle and Tony Crook has now dramatically widened.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 8:41 AM

Muskogee and the state have seen a rash of cases of someone stealing people’s identities and using those identities to file for unemployment during the economic crash.

The initial investigative efforts of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and its partner agencies in the Unemployment Fraud Task Force have determined that the scope of the investigation must be expanded outside the borders of Oklahoma, and even the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Secret Service will bring their national and global resources to bear on this effort as they assume leadership of the investigation. The OSBI will continue to be an integral part of the investigation by providing investigative support and continuing to investigate cases within the jurisdictional boundaries of Oklahoma.

“These criminals might be outside of our reach, but they are not outside the reach of the United States federal government,” said OSBI Director Ricky Adams. “Our agents and intelligence analysts will be here to assist our federal partners as necessary, especially if this criminal activity leads to an Oklahoma connection.”

If you receive any correspondence regarding an unemployment claim that you did not file, stop payment by emailing the OESC at fraud@oesc.state.ok.us. To have your case included in the investigation, you need to complete the form on the Attorney General’s web site at www.oag.ok.gov/coronavirus-fraud-resources.

If you are a business owner that is asked to approve a fraudulent unemployment claim, follow the instruction on the paperwork to contest the application.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 8:28 AM

Christopher Hobbs

Christopher Jade Hobbs, 34, of Muskogee is charged with felony cruelty to animals after a domestic incident on May 21 where he is alleged to have grabbed two guinea pigs by their necks and thrown them outside a house, then grabbing them again and throwing them back in.

He is also facing two misdemeanors, one for allegedly pushing his girlfriend to the ground and spitting in her face and a second for allegedly telling her he was going to “smack the fuck” out of her.

Documents filed with the case allege that the victim’s ankle was sprained during the incident, where she was trying to get away from Hobbs.

Hobbs faces a sounding docket at 10 a.m. on June 9.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 1:14 PM

Employees at the county services building were sent home today so emergency officials can clean and disinfect the building after a reported coronavirus case in the county assessor’s office, according to numerous employees.

“EMS has a system they use to disinfect their ambulances,” said county Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith. “They came over to use that on the building.”

Smith did not know if the virus case was an employee or someone else.

Employees say they’re being told they can return to work this afternoon, but were instructed to wash their clothes immediately.

UPDATE 2:24 p.m.: Smith said the case is a confirmed COVID-19 infection of an employee at the county assessor’s office. The building has been closed the rest of the day for disinfection by EMS using specialized equipment.

All employees will be tested tomorrow morning for the virus, but they are not required to quarantine or wear PPEs. The employee who tested positive will be quarantined and will not be able to report back to work until cleared by the county health department.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: Two employees are being quarantined in addition to the employee who tested positive, after an investigation by the health department. Employees are being asked to wear masks and to don gloves when dealing with the public.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 8:20 AM

Online motor vehicle tag renewals can be processed by local tag agents under legislation enacted via veto override.

House Bill 4049, by House Speaker Charles McCall, requires the state to offer citizens renewing vehicle tags online with the option to digitally renew their vehicle tag through their local tag agent.

“Local tag agents provide a valuable service, especially in rural Oklahoma. As digital becomes the new normal, these tag agents will be able to continue serving their communities. I appreciate Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and Representative Brian Bill for accurately clarifying what the bill does and does not do.”

Oklahoma has hundreds of local tag agents across the state that could be harmed if the state were to limit online renewals only through the Tax Commission directly, or if the state were to make it difficult to find the option online to renew through a local agent.

The bill does not prohibit direct renewal with the Tax Commission from being listed an option on the online tag renewal application. The bill does clarify that the Tax Commission is not a tag agent.

The bill takes effect Nov. 1, 2020.

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Monday, May 25, 2020, 9:09 AM

Fort Gibson National Cemetery held a solemn Memorial Day ceremony on Thursday, May 21. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s ceremony was not open to the public.

Bill Rhoades, director of Fort Gibson and Fort Sill National Cemeteries, said that despite COVID-19, the cemetery still did its best to honor America’s fallen.

“Everyone was clearly aware that we were representing the entire community who were unable to attend due to safety concerns from COVID-19,” said Rhoades. “I love this community and was touched by the community’s humble, reverent approach to this year’s ceremony.”

American Legion Post 20 provided the rifle volley and taps. Tim Smith, American Legion Post 20 Commander and vice mayor of Fort Gibson, served as the keynote speaker.

Other speakers included Jason McClellan, director, Muskogee VA Regional Office, Mark E. Morgan, director, Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, and Bill Rhoades, director, Fort Gibson/Fort Sill National Cemeteries. Former State Rep. Jerry McPeak, District 13, served as the master of ceremonies. VA Chaplain Forrest Kirk provided the opening prayer, led the Pledge of Allegiance and the benediction, and Charmin Brown sang the National Anthem.

“All of us who participated understood the tremendous responsibility to pay our respects to our fallen Veterans on behalf of those who could not be there in person,” said Mark E. Morgan. “My sincere thanks goes out to Fort Gibson National Cemetery for hosting the event despite the limitations on the attendance.”

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Sunday, May 24, 2020, 10:11 PM

Gage Ross

Logan Hubler, 20, of Oktaha is being flown by helicopter to a Tulsa hospital in critical condition after he was shot through the chest this afternoon in Oktaha, according to Muskogee County Undersheriff Michael Mahan. According to Muskogee County EMS spokeswoman Trish German, he was shot in the back.

Hubler apparently has had a longstanding dispute with suspect Gage Ross, 22, of Oktaha, possibly over a stolen firearm.

After the shooting, according to Mahan, Ross went home and called Muskogee Police, saying he wanted to turn himself in. En route to Muskogee, he was stopped by the police department and arrested on complaints of shooting with intent to kill.

Law enforcement officials believe the bullet, from a handgun, went entire through Hubler’s body.

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Friday, May 22, 2020, 11:48 AM

Addison Paige Clark

Addison Paige Clark, 30, pleaded guilty today in Muskogee County District Court to manslaughter, DUI, transporting an open container, failure to yield, failure to carry insurance and driving with license suspended stemming from a June 2019 incident where her car slammed into a motorcycle driven by Joshua Ray Jackson on North York Street.

She told police at the time that she was attempting to go to a bar, but she was already drunk at the time. While trying to turn, she slammed into Jackson’s Harley-Davidson and killed him. Jackson’s passenger was also critically injured in the wreck.

Clark’s blind plea means she will receive and serve whatever sentence the judge pronounces without any deal from prosecutors. A pre-sentencing investigation has been ordered by Judge Josh King in Cherokee County, and she will be sentenced on July 24 at 1:30 p.m.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020, 9:52 AM

Feed the Children and Genesis 12:2 (a charity operated by Mini-Max grocery store owner Bill Johnson) are partnering together to feed and help 400 families currently receiving food stamp benefits.

Each family will receive a 25-pound box of food, a 15-pound box of essentials and additional food items.

Families can pre-register at the Mini-Max Foods grocery store today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The giveaway will take place on Saturday, May 23 in the store’s parking lot from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The store is located at 2408 E. Shawnee.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 7:50 AM

Georgia-Pacific has sued the manufacturer of the lift truck that burst into flames and later exploded on May 13, 2019, shutting down the plant and burning for days. The company is also suing the seller of the truck.

GP’s suit alleges that the truck was serviced and maintained by the companies it’s suing, used in the proper fashion since its purchase in 2015 and “lift trucks should not start on fire and explode.”

The company says it purchased and implemented all fire-related safety options offered and recommended by Hyster, the company that manufactured the lift, and Medley, the company that sold it.

GP is also suing Safecraft, which manufactured the fire-suppression equipment on the lift, and National Maintenance Services. It says the system should have been automatic, not manual, requiring the operator to activate it.

The suit includes quotes of contracts signed that require the two companies to compensate Georgia-Pacific for losses sustained as a result of their negligence, but neither company has.

The company is asking to be reimbursed for property damage to its buildings and inventory, costs for demolition and cleanup, additional costs associated with manufacturing, packaging, shipping and warehousing and loss of sales and profit in excess of $75,000.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 7:37 AM

Christopher Branton Melland

Christopher Branton Melland, 45, of Oktaha is charged in Muskogee County District Court with strangling his mother and threatening to kill her, according to documents filed with the case.

According to a police affidavit, on May 16, around 6 p.m., Melland wrapped and orange electrical cord around his mother’s neck and choked her until she couldn’t breathe. Police also allege he told his mother he would kill her and burn her belongings if she told anyone what happened.

Melland was convicted of domestic abuse - assault and battery previously in November 2017 and sentenced to a year in jail, with the sentence suspended. He’s also previously been convicted of endeavoring to manufacture controlled drugs, conspiracy to commit a felony, false personation, bribing an officer (two counts) and bringing contraband into a jail. He has received a total of 77 years in prison on those convictions.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 7:13 AM

State Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, on Tuesday commented on an announcement that the Taft Public Works Authority in Muskogee County received approval for a $99,999 Rural Economic Action Plan grant through the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to improve the authority’s water infrastructure.

“I very much appreciate the Water Resources Board working to administer this grant that will help improve the quality and delivery of water for the residents of Taft,” Frix said. “This also will help keep costs lower for these utility users in the long run.”

The Taft Public Works Authority will use the funds to sandblast and paint a water standpipe, to install an aeration/recirculation pump as well as a dedicated line at the standpipe, and to install other necessary valves and controls. The estimated total cost of the project is $345,838. In addition to the OWRB REAP grant of $99,999, the remainder is being funded by a Community Development Block Grant grant of $205,839, an Eastern Oklahoma Economic Development District REAP grant of $40,000.

Joe Freeman, chief of the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Division, calculated the grant will save the authority’s customers $179,998 in principal and interest charges by not having to borrow the project funds. Since 1983 the Water Resources Board has approved over $4.5 billion in loans and grants for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements throughout Oklahoma.

OWRB Executive Director Julie Cunningham expressed gratitude for Frix and State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, for their continued support of water and wastewater infrastructure funding in Oklahoma.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 7:05 AM

Unemployed Oklahomans who are self-employed rallied at the state Capitol Monday wanting answers to why their claims have not been fulfilled after weeks of waiting. Sen. Mary Boren has been working tirelessly trying to get answers as many unemployed Oklahomans are facing eviction and other financial troubles.

“Being that the state has already received its federal unemployment funds, I don’t understand why these citizens aren’t getting their benefits,” Boren said. “It’s beyond frustrating that our citizens, through no fault of their own had to close their businesses because of the health crisis yet haven’t received the unemployment benefits they were promised. Something must be done immediately so these people don’t lose their homes, cars, or have to close their businesses permanently and experience complete financial ruin.”

Boren said her office has been inundated with calls and emails of Oklahomans who have not received any unemployment benefits, cannot get through to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission to get an update on their case, or if they do get through are told someone will get back to them but never does.

Three types of unemployment are currently available to self-employed Oklahomans, gig workers, independent contractors and those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. 1. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is available to those who do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits. PUA benefits became available at the end of April.

2. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance will begin this week and will provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits (through the week ending Dec. 26, 2020) to those who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits.

3. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provides an additional $600 per week to all eligible Unemployment Insurance claimants through the week ending July 25, 2020.

The Norman senator cited a survey from the Oklahoma Self-Employed Professionals, a group of private citizens who have received no PUA assistance and are demanding accountability from the OESC, the governor and other state leaders. The survey included responses from more than 300 Oklahomans.

Nearly half of respondents said they have received no confirmation that their claim has been approved or denied. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they have been disconnected at least twice when calling in to check on the status of their claim. Only 14 percent of those approved for PUA have been able to file their weekly claims.

The survey found that when people did get through they experienced long wait times. More than 28 percent said they waited 30 minutes to an hour, nearly 16 percent waited 1-2 hours, and nearly 24 percent waited over 2 hours to talk to an OESC employee about their claim.

Of those surveyed, 88 percent said when their call was answered there was no Tier 1 Specialist available to help them. Nearly 46% said when they talked to a Tier 1 Specialist, they were provided incorrect information.

When speaking to a Tier 1 Specialist, 69 percent were told their case was “high priority” or “critical” and that they were at the top of the list for a Tier 2 agent to return their call. Nearly 85 percent of these individuals are still waiting to be contacted by a Tier 2 agent. Less than 3 percent of those who have talked to a Tier 2 agent said they were able to address their issue successfully.

“This is a just a small reflection of what is happening to Oklahomans all over the state. I urge Gov. Stitt to hold OESC accountable and get these hardworking Oklahomans the benefits they have earned and deserve before their lives are destroyed. This isn’t a game. These are people’s lives and they need relief immediately,” Boren said.

According to OESC, the state has received just over $1.21 billion in federal funds for PUA, PEUC and FPUC.

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Monday, May 18, 2020, 8:09 AM

Marissa Solenberg, 37, of Tahlequah was rushed to the hospital early yesterday morning after her car slammed into a tree, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Solenberg’s 2016 Hyundai Elantra was eastbound on Oklahoma Highway 51 near the intersection of Limbsey lane, around 1:30 a.m., when it departed the roadway to the left, traveled 217 feet and slammed into a tree. She was pinned in the vehicle for 20 minutes before the Tahlequah Fire Department was able to extract her.

She was rushed to the hospital, where she was admitted in critical condition with head, internal and external and leg injuries.

The patrol is investigating the cause of the wreck.

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Monday, May 18, 2020, 8:04 AM

William James Smith Jr.

William James Smith Jr., 39 of Okay is charged with seven crimes — including two felonies — after a high-speed chase that began on US 62 in Muskogee and reached speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour before running a Wagoner County deputy off the road and ending in Okay.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Duncan Smith attempted to stop William Smith’s white 2006 Nissan pickup truck at Shawnee and Country Club, but the suspect failed to stop. After the trooper shined his spotlight in the back window of the truck, Smith allegedly accelerated quickly and initiated a chase that turned north on York Street. Once in Wagoner County, Smith allegedly saw a Wagoner County deputy coming toward him and swerved into the deputy’s lane, forcing the deputy off the road.

When the chase hit Okay, Smith’s pickup allegedly ran off the road and got stuck in a yard, so he fled on foot. The trooper overcame him and arrested him. Smith then fell asleep in the trooper’s car after the trooper said he smelled a strong odor of marijuana on him and discovered numerous pieces of paraphernalia from the pickup.

Smith faces a felony charge of endangering others while attempting to elude a police officer, a felony charge of assault with a dangerous weapon (his pickup), a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, a misdemeanor charge of possession of controlled dangerous substance, a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license.

He has also been convicted of numerous previous felonies, including possession of drugs, seven counts of burglary of a vehicle, bail jumping, endeavoring to manufacture controlled drug and second-degree forgery.

https://muskogeenow.com/story_images/1589806566.jpg https://muskogeenow.com/okay-man-charged-with-seven-crimes-after-high-speed-chase-through-muskogee-okay

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