Ricky Maranon, News 9
NORMAN, Oklahoma -- It's the height of the holiday season in Cleveland County, but like the ghost of Christmas past, what took place on the streets of Norman 15 years ago continues to haunt Cleveland County.
In the early morning hours of December 20, 1996, OU ballerina Juli Busken disappeared from her east Norman apartment.
For those closest to the case, what happened to Busken is still fresh in their minds.
"The most dreaded call you can receive is a call that one of your students has been killed in a tragedy," OU President David Boren said. "I'll still remember forever, the call from Joe Lester, now the county sheriff who was chief of police at the time, telling me that Juli Busken had been killed."
"To this day, I still see the face of Bud and Mary Jean Busken sitting there in the audience, listening to every single gory detail about this trial," Former Cleveland County District Attorney Tim Kuykendall said.
Kuykendall said the night before Busken's murder, was just like any other December night.
"The night before, she'd been out with some friends," Kuykendall said. "They had a going away party, a Christmas party, saying their goodbyes. They thought their goodbyes were for the semester, until after Christmas. Little did they know that their goodbyes would be forever."
They would find her body on the shores of Lake Stanely Draper raped and murdered just hours after she disappeared, but there would be more questions than answers as to just what happened.
"If you can imagine being out in 10 below zero or 20 below zero weather, and being kidnapped, raped and murdered and being left at the edge of Lake Stanley Draper, that was a horrific crime," Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester said.
Busken's killer, Anthony Sanchez, was convicted of her murder back in 2006, and his appeal for a retrial has been denied. He is currently sitting on death row.
But just because Busken is gone, that doesn't mean she is forgotten.
"Here's a loved one that has such a brilliant future ahead of her," Lester said. "Here's a loved one that was a sister, an aunt, that was a friend, a cousin, a daughter, a granddaughter that will never, ever, ever get to share the future with her family."
OU President David Boren watched Busken perform in the musical Swan Lake the semester before she was killed. Boren says he remembers Busken fondly.
"She had a beautiful spirit about her," Boren said. "Even when you just saw her walking across campus in her everyday street clothes, you felt she walked with such dignity and grace that you'd say to yourself 'I bet she's a ballet dancer'."
Busken's memory still lives on in the form of a dance scholarship at the OU College of Fine Arts.
Those close to the Busken family are asking the OU Board of Regents to endow the scholarship so Busken's memory will live forever at OU.