Weleetka, OK – It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere, ninety miles east of Oklahoma City. The kind of place where nobody would worry too much about two girls going out for a walk, even young girls. And when they don’t come home right away, parents don’t think “murdered”, they think “grounded”. But murder is what happened to Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker, 13, and Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11, on Sunday evening.
Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker and Skyla Jade Whitaker
At about 5:30 Sunday afternoon, the two girls went for a walk down toward a bridge near Taylor’s home. When they didn’t come back, Taylor’s grandfather went looking for them – and found Taylor and Skyla lying face down in a roadside ditch, killed by multiple gunshot wounds. The girls were fully clothed, and there were no apparent signs of sexual assault, although autopsies have not yet been completed.
Taylor was a sweet, studious girl who had been home schooled until her family moved to Weleetka. Raised by her grandparents, she made good grades and had been elected queen in an elementary school contest in the fifth grade. As a sixth-grader, she was the only girl in her class – that’s how small Weleetka is.
Skyla wanted to be a veterinarian. A tall brunette, she was an outgoing fifth grader who played basketball. She had been over at Taylor’s house for a sleepover, and the girls often took walks together. Even though the shots were fired about a quarter-mile or so from the Placker home, windy conditions kept anyone at the house from hearing the shots.
“They were little girls, what possible motive could there be?” asked Okfuskee County Sheriff Jack Choate. “You have to wonder, did they see something they were not supposed to? Were they at the wrong place at the wrong time?”
As of right now, nobody really knows. Tire tracks and ballistics evidence are being tested, and the girls’ families are struggling with questions which have no answers as yet. I’ll be updating as information comes in. Anyone who wants to donate to the funeral costs can do so. The fund is set up at the Weleetka Commerce Bank.
UPDATE 6/13/08 – Investigators have released a sketch of a possible suspect based on witness statements who say they saw a man outside a white pickup truck in the middle of the road around the time the girls were killed. The man is described as 6 feet tall, about 35 years old, native American with a long black ponytail and wearing a baseball cap. The reward for information leading to an arrest in this case is now over $30,000.
Sketch released by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on Friday, June 13 of possible person of interest in the girls’ murders.