Tuesday, May 18, 2010
UNSOLVED: The Skyla Whitaker and Taylor Paschal-Placker Murders
Killers Walking Free
By Robert A. Waters
The numbers are staggering.
According to a recent article in the Albany Times Union, 30,000 murder cases in New York are unsolved. Author Bryan Fitzgerald writes that these make up ten percent of all unsolved cases in the United States.
Capitol Weekly reports that half of all California murders, more than 1,000 per year, go unsolved.
Despite the efforts of law enforcement agencies and new sci-fyish technological advances, 300,000 killers in America are walking free.
The effects of an unsolved murder can be debilitating to family members, friends, and even communities.
A case in point: Skyla Whitaker, 11, and her friend Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, were gunned down nearly two years ago as they walked along a rural Oklahoma road.
On June 8, 2008, a 911 call came in to the Okfuskee County (Oklahoma) Sheriff’s Department. “Somebody’s killed two girls,” the caller, Taylor’s grandmother, screamed. “They went for a walk and they’re both dead.” Lying in a ditch alongside County Road 5425 were the bloody bullet-riddled bodies of the two lifelong friends.
So began a mystery that lasts to this day. Why would one or more killers shoot two ordinary children who were out for a walk?
Skyla had been shot eight times: two bullets ripped into her right arm; one round shattered her left arm and another her left shoulder; two slugs entered her chest, one her abdomen, and one her neck. The wound to Skyla’s left shoulder did the most damage. According to the autopsy report, it perforated “through the left third intercostal space, upper lobe of the left lung, esophagus, superior vena cava, right pulmonary artery, middle lobe of right lung, right fourth intercostals space, and fifth rib to the right breast.”
Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker’s autopsy reported that she had five separate bullet wounds to the face, hand, and groin. Several were kill-shots.
Investigators stated that one of the weapons used to kill the girls was a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun. However, they refused to release information about the second gun. It was said that each victim sustained bullet wounds from both guns.
Neither child lived a high-risk life-style. They were popular with their classmates and teachers. Skyla wanted to be a veterinarian. She had several pet cats and a goat that followed her everywhere. Taylor, who had been home-schooled for several years, was described as “the smartest girl in school.” She wanted to be a forensic scientist.
The murders devastated both families. William Whitaker, Skyla’s father, said, “They were both really great kids. They were both active in their schools [and] they were both really smart. This is a horrible thing to happen to them...It’s [been] a day-to-day thing getting through the last year.”
Taylor’s grandfather, Peter Placker, said, "I want this to come to an end more than anybody else does. I mean I can't find a reason anymore to smile...I know no other way to explain it but pure hell. That girl meant everything to me. The past year I spent most of the time by myself. I am afraid to show affection to my other family members because I am scared somebody else is gonna be next...The [murderer is] still out there. If they are crazy enough to do it once they are going to do it again."
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the case. Investigators have several clues including tire tracks, shoe tracks, shell casings, and bullets. And they released the sketch of a “Native American with a long ponytail” who was allegedly at the scene near the time of the shooting. Due to the remoteness of the area, it is thought that the killers are local. The place would be difficult for a stranger to find. But after nearly two years, the investigation seems to be floundering. OSBI is beginning to feel pressure from the media and some frustrated family members.
Who murdered the two girls, and why? One of the first theories proposed was that Skyla and Taylor stumbled onto a meth lab and were murdered so they wouldn’t tell. But it seems preposterous that a meth lab would be placed on a road used by hundreds of residents of the community.
Another theory is that the girls knew their killers. They may have witnessed some kind of criminal activity and were eliminated.
My guess, for what it’s worth, is that there were two killers and they shot the girls for entertainment. Target practice, maybe. Like the DC sniper. Or the Ohio sniper. Or the Arizona sniper.
Whoever it is and whatever the motive, they need to be captured and given the ultimate punishment. The souls of two innocent children demand justice.
Posted by Robert A. Waters at 2:51 AM