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Concerns about incomplete cases flooding in after Henryetta murders, journalist says

Henryetta Public Schools

Seven people, five of them children, were found dead on a rural property in Henryetta earlier this month. A convicted rapist named Jesse McFadden, also among the dead, is thought to be the perpetrator. Erin Christy with Tulsa station KJRH has continued reporting out the story. KWGS' Elizabeth Caldwell sat down with Christy to talk about the case, including details on McFadden’s early release from prison despite documented misconducts. Listen above to the conversation that's been edited for length and clarity.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL: In some of your tweets online, you've said that this kind of lack of oversight, I guess, is indicative of much broader problems. What do you think those problems are?

ERIN CHRISTY: You know, I don't know, but I think it's something worth looking into. This particular case has brought up several failures in the system, right? Jesse McFadden was a convicted rapist who spent the large majority of his 20 year sentence behind bars. While he was behind bars, he was charged with possessing child porn, basically sexting a young girl while in prison, and he was to be held without bond after he got out of prison. But instead, he went home and then didn't show up for his court date. He had a warrant out for his arrest. He comes back to court and his punishment for not doing what he was supposed to be doing was they reduced his bond and he got out for $2,500. And it raises a lot of questions. Why did all of this happen? And since then, I have been flooded. I know other reporters have been flooded with emails and calls into the newsroom about this case happened. I'm not getting anywhere with this case, please look into this person. And it's just opened up a can of worms, so to speak.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL: Wow. Then, so most of the dead are women. The woman, the mother in the case was said to have been tricked. You know, she didn't know about his past. We hear a lot about the status of women in Oklahoma. Do you think, what do you think this case says about that?

ERIN CHRISTY: Well, in the case of Holly Guess, Holly McFadden was her married name. Her family prefers that they call her Holly Guess because the suspect is McFadden. Um, she, according to her family, did know about the situation and just didn't, she believed him. She believed that he was wrongfully convicted and, you know, she believed his words. So she stood by him, what she knew and her involvement in what possibly could have been going on in that house, we don't know. Hopefully we will learn more later. What it says about women, you know, there, I don't know. That's a tough question to answer.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL So you said you've been warned about your life a few times. How, you know, that you need to be careful. How has that been? Do you feel like there's any veracity to to that?

ERIN CHRISTY: I really do not. It's just indicative of how fearful people feel, I think, um, between this story and a month ago we covered a story out of McCurtain County, which you all covered as well. That's another possible law enforcement corruption issue. And the sheriff is under fire, calls for resignation. And there were plenty of people during that time, 'Oh, that's a, that's a dangerous place to be. You can't trust the law enforcement there.' I don't think that there's any validity to this. I just think it speaks to a problem with the trust in rural law enforcement.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL: So the OSBI is the lead agency and you've called for them to have a press conference. Do you still think that they owe us one?

ERIN CHRISTY: They have certain statutes that they have to abide by and they really adhere to those when it comes to releasing information to the public. However, in my opinion, there was very little communication coming from anybody about anything with this case. Anytime we called the OSBI, they would say your statement is, ‘The investigation is ongoing.’ One day I called the public information officer just to ask if the dive teams were there. This was a matter of, I don't want to drive two hours if there's nothing there. And he said, the investigation is ongoing. And I said, you can't tell me if they're there? I mean, I can drive down there and see with my own eyes the investigation is ongoing. I don't think that's a level of, I don't think they need to be that tight-lipped. I don't think that's necessary, and I don't think that is information that's gonna be hindering of a case when their investigators are talking to family members and giving them information. To me, that's public information. If you're telling victim’s family members information, that's not confidential. So why can't you tell the media that? So I'm not understanding what they mean by they can't release information, but they are releasing information. So I would like to know more about what they mean when they say they can't release information.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.