WAGONER — A convicted murderer was charged Tuesday in a nearly quarter-century-old homicide in Wagoner County.
Kenneth Tyrone Brown, 58, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 1995 death of Donald Hawley, 62, near the Verdigris River. Brown, who is serving life without parole in connection with another 1995 murder, was connected to Hawley’s death through DNA evidence, an affidavit states.
District Attorney Jack Thorp, along with Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Director Ricky Adams, spoke at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon announcing the charge.
Thorp said the charge against Brown may not be the last in the case, and he said it’s likely there was at least one accomplice in the killing.
“Our tip lines are still open — the OSBI tip line as well as the District 27 tip line — where we’re still going to seek information,” Thorp said. “There’s a possibility in the murder of Donald Hawley that another individual, another actor, was working with Kenneth Brown when they murdered Donald Hawley.”
Hawley was found bound and beaten to death at the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System’s Chouteau Lock and Dam No. 17 on April 7, 1995. Hawley’s truck was found about five miles away.
Thorp said it’s believed that Hawley was robbed, which he said contributes to the suspicion that one or more accomplices were involved. Although Hawley’s wallet was recovered on a roadside west of Muskogee, money had been taken from it, according to the affidavit.
Based on observations at the crime scenes and witness interviews, investigators think Hawley was assaulted near his truck on Tullahassee Loop Road and then taken to Lock & Dam No. 17, where he was again beaten and later killed, the affidavit says.
In August 1995, Wagoner County deputies reportedly received information that Brown had bragged about killing a man at Tullahassee.
Brown, who was on supervised probation with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections at the time of Hawley’s death, was interviewed at the Muskogee County jail about the case. However, Brown reportedly said he wasn’t aware of a killing in Wagoner County.
Investigators reportedly found a pair of socks near Hawley’s pickup, and the OSBI laboratory found blood stains and human hair on the socks. Tests matched the blood to Hawley and the hairs to Brown, according to the affidavit.
Adams said the charge was made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of prosecutors and local and state law enforcement investigators.
“When I talk about the team, it’s all the local law enforcement agencies that work with us that we work alongside as partners,” Adams said. “It’s the team, a host of casts in the background that makes these cases possible to be solved.
“There are missing puzzle pieces that go missing after 25 years of a case out there. To try to resurrect them back to life after that kind of time frame is no small task. I appreciate the hard work and the diligent efforts of each and every one of you out there.”
In February 1998, Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1995 death of Elizabeth Alloway. Alloway, 41, was found dead in the roadway near 10th Street and Lincoln Avenue in Muskogee on May 10, 1995.
During the course of that investigation, Brown’s sperm was recovered from Alloway’s body. That provided key evidence to connect him to the killing.
As part of a review of the cold case, an OSBI agent interviewed Brown at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena about Hawley’s killing. Brown again denied any involvement. However, further laboratory testing showed that the socks found near Hawley’s pickup also had semen on them. DNA analysis matched that semen to Brown, according to the affidavit.
Thorp said the case is the latest example of relentless efforts to solve crimes, particularly homicides, in the district.
“Our message to families still awaiting justice is that your loved ones’ cases will not go cold here in District 27,” Thorp said. “And to the perpetrators who think they’ve gotten away with their crimes in the past, if it’s a first-degree murder, we’re coming after you.
“We’re going to use every tool in our arsenal to solve every case.”