Unbelievable Unsolved Oklahoma Murders – Part 2

In Unbelievable Unsolved Oklahoma Murders Part 1 we explored some pretty dark history including sadistic body grooming, a mysterious letter, corrupt cops and an unidentified serial killer who liked to dismember his victims and scatter their remains in tidy parts – except their genitals, which he kept as trophies. You should not be surprised that the second part will also be lacking in sunshine, rainbows and happy endings. Here are ten more of Oklahoma’s most unbelievable unsolved murders.

1. The Girl Scout Murders

When is a murder solved? Some people believe that the notorious Girl Scout Murders have already been solved, although prosecutors failed to convict alleged mass murderer Gene Leroy Hart, who died a few years later in jail on a sentence for earlier crimes. Certainly a resolution to an active killer situation is knowing that the guilty individual is no longer able to commit crimes, but does it count if they were never actually convicted of the crime in question? These are difficult questions, but since an exploration of Oklahoma murders would not be complete without mentioning the Girl Scout Murders, I have included them in this list.

Around 6am on July 13th, 1977 a counselor at Camp Scott in Mayes County was heading towards the showers when they discovered the lifeless body of a young camper inside a sleeping bag lying in the woods. Soon two more bodies were discovered, all of whom shared a tent the night before at Site #8, which was obscured from the rest of the camp by the shower building. Lori Lee Farmer – 8, Doris Denise Milner – 10, and Michelle Heather Guse – 9 had been brutally raped and murdered and then dragged out of their tent into the stormy night and scattered along a trail.

Several weeks prior to the triple murder a camp counselor returned to their tent after a training session to find their belongings had been ransacked and their donuts had been stolen. Inside the donut box there was a note written in all caps – “WE ARE ON A MISSION TO KILL THREE GIRLS IN TENT ONE.” At the time it was considered to be nothing more than a prank.

The ensuing investigation turned up several pieces of evidence, including photographs and shoeprints, and several other items found in a nearby cave The media were reporting information which investigators had hoped to keep guarded, and soon even a local sheriff was disclosing details to the public that he should not have. To add to the disorder, local Native Americans were hostile to the presence of searchers and police. A medicine man reportedly cursed three highly trained dogs which had been brought in from Pennsylvania to assist in the search, and two of them ended up dead.

Other suspects besides Hart were considered during the initial investigation, and more have emerged over the years. DNA evidence later suggested an unknown female was present, and may have participated in the crimes. A pastor claimed to have been counseling four men who he believed committed the crimes, and stated that he even witnessed part of the aftermath before it was discovered the next morning; a polygraph confirms his statements to be genuine. Karl Lee Meyers, who was convicted in the murder of Cindy Marzano, and suspected in the rape/murder of Shawn Williams, allegedly confessed to the Girl Scout Murders to fellow inmate John Russell in 1979. Russell has spent the past decade making a documentary film, ‘Candles’, which details a case against Meyers, but investigators are not interested in his theory and the film has never been released.

Camp Scott was closed after the tragedy and never re-opened. Today it lies abandoned, dilapidated and choked with vegetation. Similarly, DNA evidence has degraded to the point that has rendered it useless to investigators. The truth about what transpired on that fateful, stormy night has been eclipsed by the ravages and decay of time, and the Girl Scout Murders will likely remain an enduring legacy of Oklahoma’s dark side.

2. Caylee Massey & Christopher Scruggs

In the early morning hours of October 28, 2015 an un-named man (UM) arrived at the Canton Police Station asking for assistance with a woman in his vehicle who had been shot. UM claims that he and Caylee Massey were traveling from Oklahoma City to Canton when they picked up a hitchhiker identified as Christopher Blake Scruggs. UM told Canton police that Scruggs shot Massey, and then promptly exited the vehicle. Investigators believed UMs story and spent several months trying to locate the suspect. Meanwhile two reporters who were attempting to locate Scruggs were shot at by a nearby property owner during their investigation.

In June of 2016 a farmer in Blaine County, where Canton is located, found human remains on his property that were later revealed to belong to Christopher Scruggs. Scruggs had a lengthy criminal history, including animal torture, and was wanted on charges related to a man being beaten nearly to death with a pistol, which occurred weeks before Massey’s death. There have been no developments in his death made to the public since his body was identified.

It was later revealed, however, that a fourth person was in the vehicle when Caylee was shot. The woman, who is also unidentified, told investigators that she witnessed the shooting. However that is all the information that has been given, except to note that the un-named individuals also have criminal records. Who is this UM? Did he kill Massey, and then Scruggs, so he could pin her murder on him and not have to worry about Christopher testifying otherwise? This, to me, seems the most likely scenario. But why haven’t investigators released more information to the public in the hopes of contacting potential new witnesses and information? Is it strategic silence, or just an indication of the fact that authorities tend to be more apathetic and lackadaisical when it comes to investigating the deaths of those deemed unworthy?

3. E.C. Mullendore III

It wouldn’t do Oklahoma murderin’ any justice if it didn’t include an epic tale of the bad boys of ranching. E.C. Mullendore III managed the Cross Bell Ranch, which was owned by his family. It was a massive operation spread over 130,000 acres, but Mullendore was not going to be satisfied with mere largesse. While also buying up more land, he made elaborate developments and bought droves of cattle, and in doing so got the estate into nearly ten million dollars worth of debt. Owing so much money caused him to become desperate, and he began courting relationships with organized crime leaders across the country, who were regular visitors to the ranch. He also became increasingly disgruntled and drunkenly, which eventually caused his wife to take their two children away from the ranch, relocating to Tulsa weeks before E.C.’s death.

On September 6th, 1970, E.C.’s right hand man, Damon ‘Chub’ Anderson, stumbled onto a neighboring ranch with a gunshot wound to his arm, and a story about intruders who had killed his boss. Chub claimed at that time that he was upstairs sleeping when he heard gunshots. He rushed downstairs to find E.C. dead of a gunshot wound between the eyes, and took a bullet in a firefight with the fleeing killers. Investigators, who were mostly young and inexperienced, knew about the ranch’s underworld connections and took Chubs story as evidence it was a professional hit by someone E.C. owed too much money to for too long. The case went cold for forty years, before a private investigator who worked for E.C.’s wife in the wake of the murder claims to have gotten a confession from Chubs, who died shortly thereafter.

The case remained notorious for years, mostly due to the fact that the insurance payout for Mullendore’s death – $12M – is the largest sum ever paid by an insurer to an individual policy holder. Some even suspected the Mullendore family, who were able to pay of fdebts and save the ranch thanks to the insurance payout, while ridding the Cross Bell of it’s greatest liability – Eugene Claremont Mullendore III.

The 2010 confession which Chubs gave to private investigator Gary Glanz, who had been involved forty years earlier as the family’s security personnel and private investigator, and who had remained fixated on the case all those years, was fairly close to what he had believed to have happened all throughout that time. Chubs claims that, on the night of the murder, E.C. had become enraged with him for cooperating with sheriff department employees who served Mullendore with divorce papers – and a fight between the two ensued. After the fight Chubs came to believe that his life was in danger, that E.C. would kill him or have his organized crime connections make his death happen, and so decided to pre-emptively kill his boss. He then solicited the help of a ranch hand in making the murder appear like a professional assassination, including having the man shoot him in the arm to really sell the story. Glanz had originally believed Chubs was shot by E.C., and killed him in self-defense, which is kinda, sorta true in some sense. Chubs believed his killing was the only way to save his own life, which may or may not have been true.

Glanz turned his confession over to prosecutors, but nothing was done with them, and Chubs died shortly after. The ranch is still in operation and still owned by the Mullendore family. E.C.s mother, Kathleen, died in 2019 at the age of 93. Without an official confession or conviction, even if only in a small way, the mystery of E.C. Mullendore III’s murder continues to live.

4. Chanda Turner

In the weeks before her death, 23 year old paralegal Chanda Turner had expressed a desire to leave her live-in boyfriend. The family had already suspected Robby Tucker of being possessive and controlling, and were eager for her to end the relationship. After a night of drinking and partying with another couple, on July 12th, 2000, Tucker’s stepmother called 911 to report that her stepson’s girlfriend had “been shot.”

The crime scene was not processed properly, and had been flooded with visitors which included family and friends. One of these was Robby’s stepfather, Robert Rennie Jr., a local defense attorney. It is unclear whether collusion or ineptitude was the primary factor in local law enforcement’s investigation, but it was clearly bungled, whether intentionally or by malfeasance. Within three hours the investigation went from homicide to suicide, which corroborated Robby Tucker’s story, despite the fact that a majority of the evidence said otherwise.

Robby claims that he had gone to bed before Chanda, and awoke shortly afterwards to find her bleeding on the steps of the back porch, allegedly shot in the head by her own hand. He said he then placed her dead body upon the ground, so she wasn’t lying across the steps, and drove a half mile down the country road to his father’s house, since he did not have a phone. Before calling 911, an hour after Robby says he found Chandra dead on the back steps, Robby and his father returned to the scene before returning to make the call.

There is evidence that Chanda was actually still alive and speaking when Robby and his father returned to the scene, which means that she was still alive when he left. Some of the evidence is an EMT statement that one of the two men reported that she had spoken after she “was shot”.

A frustrated investigator anonymously donated his own reports to the family, and later an exhumation led to an autopsy that was never done in the first place. On top of those developments, additional new evidence has emerged, and it points right at Robby Tucker. Add to this the fact that Tucker is currently serving a ten year sentence for pistol whipping and shooting a more recent girlfriend, and it seems fairly clear. Last year Robby petitioned for early release, claiming he was an all new man after a year in the slammer, and was denied. Hopefully he will be convicted of Chanda’s murder before he is free enough to squirm out from under it again, and before another woman must suffer his wicked wrath.

5. Elijah Mothershed Bey & Family

On January 6th, 2019 a welfare check at the Oklahoma City home of an outspoken local activist led to the discovery of the slain bodies of Elijah Mothershed Bey, his fiancée Carnesha Powell and her daughter Roshawna Stephens. Bey had been shot once in the head, and the other two appeared to have taken multiple bullets while scrambling to escape the killer(s). Either the police have no suspects in the case, or they just aren’t naming them.

Elijah was a champion of the people. He founded Man 101 to mentor young urban males who were at risk of succumbing to bad influences and the trappings of poverty, and protected the streets as a member of the local chapter of Guardian Angels. He and Carnesha had just opened a cannabis dispensary together and the family was looking forward to a beautiful wedding and happy, prosperous life together – while servicing their community. Bey was also a supportive and loving son of a grateful and adoring mother, and had explored careers in the film industry.

Aside from a lack of evidence online that any developments have been made in the case, Bey’s mother says police became irritated with her persistence in grilling them for answers and eventually stopped taking her calls. On top of this it has been suggested that the lower income neighborhood Bey and his new family lived in had long ago developed a silence of culture typical of areas populated chiefly by those who are poor and/or minorities, due to a distrust of law enforcement and fear of retaliation by criminals. Given these two factors, an unmotivated investigation and lack of community support, it’s unfortunately likely that the murder of Bey and his family will never be solved.

6. Fern Romero

In the wee hours of November 11th, 1959 the wife of a Fort Sills soldier who was in Texas for training was heard yelling on her front porch. Neighbors mostly dismissed the late night disturbance as drunken rowdiness, but in fact, Fern was fighting for her life. When somebody finally came to check on the Romero family, children could be heard sobbing inside, and so the concerned neighbors entered the home to discover a morbid affair. Fern’s lifeless, nude body was found on her bedroom floor with one of her two sons crying hysterically on the bed. Her throat had been slashed and a broken nose and some bruises suggested she had fought back against her attacker. An autopsy confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted prior to her death.

Police arrested a black man a few days later, presumably under suspicion due to being black in Lawton in 1959, but he was soon released. Because her purse was missing robbery was suspected, and investigators explored the possibility that her death was related to two others in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It was also suggested that Fern was somewhat familiar with her killer. It seems unlikely that she was raped and had her throat violently slashed in a robbery by someone she knew, so it appears investigators were conducting a wild goose chase without sufficient skills to make sense of the evidence. More recently a user at Websleuths has suggested the possibility that it was related to two other homicides of Lawton women.

Perhaps the most horrific aspect of this crime is the possibility that one or both of her sons witnessed the rape and murder of their mother. Fern’s husband, Louis Johnnie Tex Romero, later remarried and had five other children. He fought in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, retired from military service in 1972, and sold insurance until his death in 2010. 

7. Brittany Phillips

Three days after the eighteen year old Tulsa chemistry student had failed to make it to class, a worried friend contacted police to do a welfare check. At 9pm on October 1st, 2004 law enforcement entered Brittany’s locked apartment and found her inanimate form lying topsy turvy on her bed, with clear evidence of a struggle in her apartment. An autopsy determined she had died approximately three days earlier and signs of sexual assault were present. She had expired of either strangulation or suffocation.

Investigators were curious how the killer had gained entry to the apartment, since all doors and windows were locked from the inside. Eventually they found a small door inside of her closet, which led to an attic space that seven other apartments had similar access to. I previously believed that tiny murderer doors hidden in closets were just a thing in my most unsettling dreams, but I guess not. I am also reminded of the killer who waited in the attic of an Iowa family’s home preceding the 1912 Villisca Axe House Murders, which is itself a wicked web of nightmare fodder.

At least seventy swabs of DNA were collected and uploaded into the CODIS database. The most promising sample, matching semen and blood samples from Brittany’s bed, was matched to a man who was ruled out as a suspect in 2019. However there is still hope for Brittany’s mother, who travels the country spreading the message about her daughter and other cold cases, that other DNA samples collected at the scene will one day be matched to Brittany’s killer.

8. Vicky Cabrera

The following story contains the most bizarre confession, as well as the most embarrassing excuse for law enforcement failure, that I have ever heard. No matter how horrifyingly grim and grisly the unsolved murders I read and write about are, nothing bothers me more than the blatant malfeasance of a policing system which imprisons nearly two million men and women convicted of victimless crimes – while shrugging their shoulders at violent crimes that actually take effort to solve.

On November 16th, 1998 Vicky Cabrera was found deceased inside of her car in the parking lot of her place of employment. She had last been seen over the weekend at a club, and was not reported missing at the time that her body was found. The cause of her death was determined to be strangulation. When news of her death was related to Vicky’s two daughters, who were in their family home, boyfriend Orlando Vazquez was also there to hear the news. He suddenly feigned distress, crying out – I can’t live without her! – just before stabbing himself in the throat with a steak knife. It was determined through interviews that Cabrera was unhappy with Vazquez and was trying to sever their relationship just prior to her murder. Vazquez survived the self-inflicted wound, and the last thing which was reported was that investigators were waiting for doctor’s to clear him for questioning.

In a January 2020 article Muskogee police chief  Johnny Teehee cites the retirement of the original investigator of Cabrera’s homicide as the reason which her case has never been cleared, despite such an obvious suspect. That is like saying – ‘Sorry, shouldn’t have gotten murdered on the end of that guy’s shift, not our fault.’ But hey, who has time to solve actual crimes when your profession has become a conduit for transferring wealth, power, freedom and liberty from the poorest to the richest while being cheered from the sidelines by the Stockholm Syndrome-inflicted middle class who will soon be sucked under the socioeconomic tide themselves to feed to avarice of the ruling elite? Ain’t nobody got time for that, am I right?

9. Jeffrey Ben

When I am researching these articles I end up reading hundreds, sometimes thousands, of unsolved murder cases. When I narrow my list down to the most unbelievable, there are several factors I look for, things which add mystery, intrigue, outrage or sometimes even a small silver-lining of humor. Often I speculate, editorialize and use this format as a platform to make social commentary. But when it comes to the cases that really creep me out it usually comes down to one thing – location, location, location.

On January 29th, 2001 the 18 year old Jeffrey Ben watched the Super Bowl with his uncle Don and cousin Shannon, at the former’s home. He left shortly after the game and was driving through the Kiamichi Mountains, where a crash was heard about fifteen minutes later in an area where the truck he was driving was later discovered. There was no sign of Jeffrey. The vehicle had hit a tree but the damage was fairly minimal, and there was no blood in or around the truck. 

For five years there was no sign of Jeffrey. The family became divided, with rumors and accusations that his cousin Shannon’s history with drug use and sales, as well as a failed polygraph, pointed toward him having something to do with it. Two other disappearances around the same time fueled rumors of a clumsy narcotics operation that kept getting accidentally stumbled upon, forcing the cartoonish perps to curl their mustaches and do some murderin’. It was even suggested that a local Sheriff with a damning criminal record may have been involved in a cover-up. In 2006 some loggers found a skull a few miles away from the road where the truck was found in some woody mountain terrain, that was rather quickly confirmed to belong to Jeffrey. Afterwards family members combed the area and found more bones scattered nearby, although most of his skeletal remains have never been found. There have been no developments in the case revealed publicly in the 14 years since.

The Kiamichi mountains are a subrange of Ouachita range that stretches from west Arkansas down into southwestern Oklahoma. The mountains once stood as tall as the Rockies, but since they are much older, have been worn down into more humble peaks and valleys coated in primeval woodlands. Flora and fauna thrive, since it is sparsely populated, and the area is home to large predators and a plethora of prey. It is a landscape that even most Oklahomans are unfamiliar with, an ancient, rugged landscape where one could easily disappear for five years or for forever. It is no wonder that the area is claimed to be a hotspot for Bigfoot sightings and UFO activity. With his body discovered in a place that begs the imagination to go wild, the death of Jeffrey Ben takes on an aura of mystery that is persistently haunting.

10. Shelby Hughes & Bryan VanAssche

Shelby Hughes was a promising painter who had enjoyed some success and critical prestige early in her career, which began to unravel in the years after she discovered an overabundance of appreciation for heroin. Soon after she met Bryan VanAssche, who was also an aspiring painter, as well as a musician and photographer – who also had too much enthusiasm for recreational opiates. The two of them were found on June 21st, 2014 by firefighters inside their burning home.

Investigators determined that the two had been murdered two days before the fire was set. During that time at least one other person besides the murderer had been in the house, another fellow heroin aficionado named Tiffany Holman, who was cleared of involvement in the murder. This suggests that the deaths of the two artists were known to other addicts in the Midwest City couple’s circle. That, in turn, suggests that it is likely that several locals have information that they have not come forward with – and that the killers probably set fire to the house after it became a free-for-all junkie treasure search.

The investigation into the deaths of Hughes and VanAssche has never led to any strong leads, but it did reveal Shelby to have been an infamous online personality who posted under the pseudonym ‘Dequincey Jynxie’ on a blog titled Jynxies Natural Habitat. Apparently heroin is sold in something referred to as a ‘glasine’ bag. These bags have unique stamps on them, which indicate the source of the product inside. Hughes blog rated the stamp artwork, as well as the quality of the product/source. The project was once described as ‘the Yelp of heroin’. Besides being a tongue-in-cheek work of meta-art, Dequincey defended her website as being a harm reduction tool which helped users avoid sketchy product. More criticism followed when actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of an overdose surrounded by several empty bags of a type which had been rated highly on Jynxies Natural Habitat.

The relationship between art and drugs is a difficult one. As comedian Bill Hicks once quipped:

“You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. ‘Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that’s enhanced your lives throughout the years were rrreal fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.”

There is a sadness in the excess of abuse and an early demise, but there is also a morbid beauty in lights that do a lifetime of burning in a fraction of the years. Looked at in another way, the mystery and absurdity of Shelby and Bryan’s deaths could be interpreted as their final work of art – one that explores, and in some inverse way celebrates, the complex fringes and depths of our humanity.

Bonus: Dead Man’s Gulch – A 19th Century Bermuda Triangle of Murder

Read: Unbelievable Unsolved Oklahoma Murders Part 1

MORE UNBELIEVABLE UNSOLVED MURDERS BY STATE:
Colorado – Iowa – New Mexico – Oklahoma  – Wyoming 

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