The OKC Butcher Has Eluded Justice For More than 20 Years
On April Fools Day, 1976, 3 utility workers became bored while waiting for their supervisor to arrive on site, so they decided to be amateur urban explorers. They went into a derelict house at 325 NE 6th.
They joked about finding a dead body. Little did they know, they would discover the first victim of the OKC Butcher. In the dark building, one of the men stumbled over something and kicked it out of the way. He didn’t know that it was a severed human thigh. When they got deeper into the house they “could tell it was the smell of death”. The three continued anyway and found a large popcorn box. They knocked it over and a severed human head rolled out.
One of the men picked it up thinking it wasn’t real and took a closer look. “It was so beat up but I could tell it was human.”
The men fled the house to seek help. No one took them seriously, thinking it was an April Fool’s joke.
The police arrived and searched the home discovering a human head, severed thigh, and a torso. The victim’s face had been mutilated into an extended smile. There were also several incisions in the other remains recovered.
For the next 17 years, Jane Doe would remain unidentified.
Three years later on April 19, 1979, a group of kids playing basketball near the 300 Block NE 10th saw a dog running down the street dragging a human head. Police arrived to find body parts scattered through the neighborhood wrapped in newspapers and stuck in brown paper bags and sacks. A hand, parts of a woman’s pelvis, several pancake sized segments of skin and some tissue. Each had been carefully cleaned.
They were satisfied they had thoroughly searched the area over a 2 day period and began to attempt to identify the victim. However, they were called back several times to the discovery of more remains. Remains were found for about the next 2 weeks. Less than a week later, the victim was identified using her fingerprints as 22-Year-Old Arley Bell Killian. She was last seen by relatives just hours before the first of her remains were discovered. She was working as a prostitute.
The case quickly went cold, but its brutality stuck in the minds of the detectives. It was suspected for some time that Killian had been the victim of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, a drifter. He committed an unknown number of murders between 1975 and 1983. He was convicted of killing 11 people.
His involvement was ruled out.
One March 6, 1986, 10 years after the murder of Jane Doe, a woman’s torso and a left leg were discovered behind a local residence at 501 NE 1st. Six days later, a man rummaging in the garbage discovered a woman’s mutilated head behind a garage at 507 N Lindsay Ave. The M.E. determined through her tattoos that the remains belonged to 22-Year-Old Tina Marcia Sanders. She was last seen alive the previous day.
All 3 of the murders were linked by the OKC PD,
“All the bodies were found within a mile of each other. None of the body parts were hidden, but neither were they in plain view. All of the dismemberments were complete; arms, legs and heads were cut off. In each case some of the body parts, including sexual organs were never found. The women were of [Native American] lineage and of the same build, all in their early 20’s, two were known prostitutes and each murder occurred in spring”.
“There is evidence to suggest that this person took his time with the victims and may even have toyed with their bodies, at least post-mortem, not to mention the time it would’ve taken to dissect them…” said Oklahoma City Police cold case Inspector Kyle Eastridge, “There’s nothing surgical about this, It’s just a gruesome and terrible tearing down of the human body. Basically, all these girls, were just cut into bits. This guy took great pleasure in placing the body out to be found and taunting police and making sure that the portions that he wanted found were found. They were placed in areas where he knew they would be found for their shock value”.
In 1993, Jane Doe was identified as Cathy Lyn Shackelford. Andrea Medina, the cousin of Shackelford, called the police to report her missing. It was 17 years after the fact. DNA was taken and, just in case, compared to the Jane Doe found at the time and the blood from Shackelford’s sister was indeed a positive match.
“He cut off her breasts and cut her mouth open, He scalped her. He cut from her female organs…opened her up. He cut her hands off, her arms off, her legs…That was hard to hear…we just try to think that she’s in a better place now, but sometimes we wonder about who this was…Is this person alive?…We just want to know,” said Medina.
“Many questions still remain unanswered”, said Inspector Eastridge, “who killed these women? Where was the killer during the years between the murders? Was he in jail? Working overseas? Or serving in the Military? Are there any other victims? It would be atypical for such a killer to have such a long cooling-off period, but not impossible… Whoever the killer is, he has won this horrible game so far”.
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