Staff and Wire Reports
WELEETKA, Okla. -- Authorities announced a $14,000 reward Tuesday as they continued to search for the killer of two young girls near Weleetka in rural Okfuskee County.
The bodies of 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker and 13-year-old Taylor Placker were found Sunday afternoon by Taylor's grandfather, Peter Placker, according to authorities. Placker had legal guardianship over his granddaughter.
The girls, who were sleeping over at Taylor's house, decided to take a walk down the desolate road Sunday afternoon, something they were used to doing in their rural community.
"I can't describe coming up on it," Peter Placker said, sobbing uncontrollably, as he tried to remember walking up on the scene, only about one-quarter mile from his house. "I done it once and I can't do it again."
Stan Florence, inspector with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, confirmed the names of the girls Monday. Florence said the victims were shot "multiple times." OSBI investigators said the girls were found fully clothed with no signs of sexual assault. The OSBI is offering the $14,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. Initially, investigators reported that they were looking into possible suspects, but in a press conference Tuesday, those reports were reversed.
Meanwhile, relatives said they are trying to make sense of the grisly killings in a community where some folks still leave their keys in their cars and residents who live 10 miles apart still call themselves neighbors.
Skyla was the carefree adventurer, the girl who walked barefoot almost everywhere and rode her bicycle down endless dirt roads, her family said. Where she went, her many cats followed, along with her pet goat. Skyla wanted to become a veterinarian, said her grandmother, Claudia Farrow.
To know Taylor was to love her, her family said. She was the big-hearted girl who rescued helpless turtles crawling in the middle of the road and wanted to become a forensic scientist, like on the TV shows, said Peter Placker.
She was home-schooled until the family moved to Weleetka, located about 70 miles south of Tulsa.
"She was the best kid I've known," Placker said.
Officials ask that if you have any information regarding the case to call the OSBI Hotline at 1-800-522-8017.
To make a donation to the girls' separate funeral funds, contact the Bank of Commerce in Weleetka.
Bank of Commerce
PO Box 248
Weleetka, OK 74880