Best friends murdered on sleepover stroll

June 10, 2008 11:39:24 AM PDT
Authorities in Oklahoma continue to hunt for the killer or killers responsible for murdering two girls as they walked along a dirt road Sunday evening in the remote town of Weleetka, about 60 miles south of Tulsa. Skyla Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, described as best friends, both died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the state's medical examiner.

"They were found in a ditch on the side of a dirt road in a small town in Okfuskee County," Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI), told ABC News.

State law enforcement officials have sent investigators to help local police comb the crime scene, located in a densely wooded area. One detail authorities were looking at were tire tracks near the spot where the girls were found. However, heavy rains throughout the day Monday did not help the investigation, Brown said.

Authorities have been interviewing family and friends of the two girls. While authorities have followed up on several leads and interviewed people of interest, Brown said that they have not yet named a specific suspect.

The OSBI will be offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the crime.

The bodies of the girls, wearing shorts and T-shirts, were found by Peter Placker, Taylor's grandfather. He went looking for the girls after one of them failed to pick up a call on her cell phone. They were about a quarter-mile from Taylor's house, where they were having a sleepover.

Okfuskee Sheriff Jack Choate said at the crime scene Tuesday that he did not know what the motive might have been for such a heinous crime. "When you're talking about an 11- and 12-year-old? What kind of motive can there be to take an 11-year-old's life?"

"They were the best and I'm not just saying that because they are gone," Wanda Mankin, the girls' principal and school counselor, told ABC News. Taylor was a new student last fall at the local K-12 school, which had very small classes.

"There were five girls in that classroom and they were all best friends," Mankin said. "The other three girls are devastated." Mankin, who said that counseling resources have been made available, said the child murders shattered the perceived security in the rural area.

Choate also said that he did not believe the crime was entirely random. "We don't think it was someone who was driving through a major highway and accidentally came up on them," he said. "I think it was somebody who knew the area."

Joe Mosher, identified by ABC News' Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO as Taylor's uncle, described his 13-year-old niece as a girl who did not have an enemy in the world. "She got along with everyone," Mosher said. "She didn't have an enemy in this world. People who never met her fell in love with her."

The double murder has left authorities pushing for a quick arrest as members of the quiet Oklahoma community grasp for answers.

"Nobody can understand what's going on right now," Mosher said.