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2 girls found shot dead in Oklahoma town

The bodies of two girls were found shot to death in their rural community, along a dirt road the best friends used dozens of times to play and walk to sleepovers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The bodies of two girls were found shot to death in rural Oklahoma along a dirt road that the best friends walked dozens of times for play and to go to sleepovers.

By Tuesday, investigators had no suspects and were unsure of the motive for Sunday's killings of 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker.

Residents remained on edge knowing a murderer could be in this close community of 1,000.

"Believe it or not, I have never pulled any shades in my house and I keep my doors unlocked," said Dena Priddy, a teacher's aide at the school the victims attended. "You just don't expect these things to happen here."

Taylor's grandfather found their bodies after his wife got no answer when she called Taylor's cellular phone. The girls were sleeping over at Taylor's house and had decided to take a walk down the desolate road Sunday afternoon.

Peter Placker sobbed uncontrollably Monday as he tried to remember finding the girls' bodies about a quarter of a mile from his house near Weleetka, about 70 miles south of Tulsa.

"I can't describe coming up on it," he said. "I done it once and I can't do it again."

Kevin Rowland, chief investigator with the state medical examiner's office, said the girls each suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Full autopsy results were not available yet, but sexual assault appears unlikely, said Special Agent Ben Rosser of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He noted the girls were clothed and had only been missing for a half hour.

Investigation begins
Authorities were examining evidence, including tire tracks, shell casings, ballistics and shoe prints for any possible leads.

"We will bring all the resources we need to try to help in our investigation," Rosser said in an afternoon news conference.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, authorities had identified no suspects or persons of interest in the crime.

"Nobody we could put a finger on and say this guy's good for it," Rosser said.

A $14,000 reward was being offered for information about the killings.

Investigators suspect a local person was involved because the killings occurred in such an isolated area, Rosser said. Possibilities include that it was a random shooting, the girls had intended to meet someone or they may have interrupted a crime that was occurring, he said.

'Best kid I've known'
Skyla's family said she walked barefoot almost everywhere and rode her bicycle down endless dirt roads. Where she went, her many cats followed, along with her pet goat. Skyla wanted to become a veterinarian, said her grandmother, Claudia Farrow.

Taylor rescued helpless turtles crawling in the middle of the road and wanted to become a forensic scientist like the ones on TV shows, said Placker, who raised the girl.

"She was the best kid I've known," he said.

The murders particularly have shaken a community where some drivers leave their keys in their cars and people who live 10 miles apart call themselves neighbors.

"I can't put it into words," said Jake Fenley, Skyla's basketball coach. "This doesn't happen in rural middle America."

A rosary and stuffed animals
For Priddy, that fear means taking extra precautions: "I got guns loaded," she said defiantly. She also refuses to let her 14-year-old daughter out of the house.

On Tuesday morning, Taylor's uncle, Joe Mosher, drove up to the makeshift memorial at the place the bodies were found. Yellow crime scene tape had been torn away and thick patches of grass were matted down.

A rosary hung from a branch, and stuffed animals and a bouquet of flowers were just beginning to wilt.

"It's the most tragic thing that I've ever seen," said Nell Mosher, Taylor's aunt. "They were just two precious little babies; they were good girls."