Daughter's Death Still Haunts Woman

CLAREMORE -- It's been 20 years since Ima Long-Taber's 18-year-old daughter, Laura Long, was abducted and suffocated and her lifeless body tossed into a ditch.

Not one day since her daughter disappeared from the NeMar Shopping Center on July 10, 1977, has Long-Taber had a moment's peace from the tormenting questions of who and why.

If she could ask anything of Laura's killer it would be: ``Just why? I would just love to know why before I die. Why did you do it?"

Laura Long's nude, badly decomposed body was found 10 days after her disappearance.

Hope was renewed recently when Tim Norris, an investigator with the Claremore Police Department, notified Long Taber that the case was being reopened.

With new technology like DNA testing available, "we thought we'd have a better chance of solving the case," Norris said.

Authorities hope to generate new information and perhaps redevelop leads or suspects by publicizing the case again, he said.

It may jar someone's memory or someone may be more willing to talk now than when it happened, he said.

Somebody somewhere has to know something, Norris said.

"In most cases like this, most people have to brag about it or tell somebody so they can live with it. We're just hoping someone will come forward," he said.

Long-Taber is hoping against hope that Norris is right. But she also knows she may go to her own grave without gaining her elusive answers.

When this happened, she said, parents of children who might have known or seen something were reluctant to let their youngsters talk to the authorities.

Now those teen-agers are in their mid- to late 30s with children of their own, she said. Maybe they will now understand what she was feeling, and maybe they will come forward, she said.

Norris said the filing of first- degree murder charges against Karl Myers in the deaths of two area women prompted authorities to consider him as a possible suspect in Long's death.

But Myers was in prison when Long was killed, he said. Myers is awaiting trial in Rogers County District Court.

In September 1984, authorities thought Long might have been a victim of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. When interviewed, Lucas admitted killing Long, but he later denied it, saying he made the admission only as a delay tactic in another matter for which he was facing the death penalty.

Another motivation for the renewed effort, Norris said, is that Long's death "is the very last unsolved murder case in the city of Claremore."

Norris said samples from Long's autopsy, including two Caucasian body hairs and fibers recovered from Long's jeans, are still available to allow for DNA testing.

Norris said that in the initial investigation 83 interviews were conducted, with the last being on Oct. 4, 1977. Norris wants to follow up some leads in the case that weren't pursued initially, he said.

Long-Taber has said from the beginning that the authorities -- who postponed looking for her daughter for 24 hours after she was reported missing because of policy requiring a daylong delay -- did not do all they could have done.

Instead, "they called me a publicity hound because I couldn't make them do anything."

Frustrated with authorities, Long-Taber and her former husband, Jack, called in a psychic to help find their only child.

Initial confusion over the psychic's directions kept the Longs, who were new to the area, from finding Laura's body, Long-[ 4] Taber said. But later, after her body was discovered July 20, it turned out that the location the psychic described was accurate, Long-Taber said.

The psychic said Laura was taken by two boys and a girl. One of the boys was of a small build with blondish-brown hair and was wearing a straw cowboy hat, she said.

Long-Taber has her own theory as to who killed her daughter. That person died a year after her daughter was killed, she said.

But she will never know for sure. She believes the motivation was jealousy over her daughter's striving to better herself and buying a new car.

Her daughter spent the hot July Sunday afternoon washing the family's three cars, her mother said. That night she went to town to see a girlfriend, get a Dr Pepper and put gas in her car. The Longs passed their daughter driving down the street later that night.

"We honked and waved, and that's the last time we saw her."

Her new Ford Pinto was found at the NeMar parking lot with her purse locked inside. She was last reported seen about 8:30 or 9 p.m.

Her body was found by a 14- year-old boy while he was riding his bicycle on a road one- half mile west of U.S. 66 and three miles north of Claremore.

Long-Taber, disbelief still apparent in her voice, said: "Her hand was just 5 to 6 inches off the pavement in the weeds."

Every day for two years after her daughter's death, Long Taber visited her grave on the way to and from work.

"It helped me to go to the cemetery. I know she wasn't really there, but it was the last of her I had on this earth." Now she goes two or three times a year.

Prayer and God have helped Long-Taber through the hard years. She knows "God will take care of it. Faith is all I've had to hold onto, because man didn't help me."