Arrest brings relief for Weleetka, but questions remain
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 10, 2011
12/13/11 at 1:51 PM
WELEETKA - When Taylor Paschal-Placker and Skyla Whitaker were found dead along a country road 3 1/2 years ago, the east-central Oklahoma town they called home was paralyzed with fear.
"They were terrified," Bonnie Sargent said about her family members who attended Weleetka Public Schools with the two girls.
Paschal-Placker, 13, and Whitaker, 11, were shot to death while walking along a rural Okfuskee County road June 8, 2008. On Friday, Kevin Sweat was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill in relation to the girls' deaths.
For more than three years, little progress was made in public on the case as agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation worked with little evidence to go on other than some shell casings.
Now that someone is accused of the crime, there is some sense of relief in the town, but still some apprehension since little motive seems apparent.
Debbie Wallace works as a teacher in Weleetka Public Schools. She said teachers and staff gathered in an office and watched the announcement by OSBI Director Stan Florence.
She said most people feel a sense of relief now that charges have been filed.
"I'm just glad that part is over with," Wallace said.
The summer of 2008, her grandchildren were not allowed to play outside alone.
Their mother "wouldn't let them play outside unless she was outside," Wallace said, adding that she was sometimes armed with a shotgun while the children were at play.
Sargent was sitting outside, manning a yard sale Friday evening when she learned about the charges. She said she remembered when the killings occurred and how stunned the town was.
"It's not something that happens in a small town," Sargent said.
Whatever the reason or motive for the slayings, Wallace said questions still remain for her to have some sense of closure. But nothing can explain why Taylor and Skyla were shot.
"I don't think there would ever be a good enough reason," Wallace said. "Those lives were cut short."
Original Print Headline: Girls' killings left community fearful
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310