13 05 2011

Harvey Pratt, OSBI

OSBI Forensic Artist HARVEY PRATT was recently interviewed by the Journal Record newspaper. A video of the interview can be seen here:

1962 Gambling Raid

9 12 2010


In December 1962, OSBI Director Ralph Venamon was on business in rural Canadian County east of Mustang. According to Venamon, he decided to pay a visit to the Canadian Club, located on the Canadian/Oklahoma county line and Highway 152.

Venamon Conducts Raid

“The chief of the state crime bureau, probably one of the most well-recognized law enforcement officers in the state, walked into the Canadian Club alone late Monday night, shut down a dice game, took four persons into custody and confiscated a truck – load of gambling equipment.”

“Ralph Venamon said he was on another case in the area of the plush Canadian Club, located about two miles west of Wheatland, in Canadian County. He decided to go in and see if he could find any activity.”

“I walked in there by myself and just caught them off guard,” he said.”

“He said he walked through two doors which are opened electronically, through the main dining and drinking area, into a lounge and then to the gambling room.”

“He said he walked to the dice table where a game was in progress. He said he took $510 from the ‘bank’ and shut down the game. A  card game was going on in another part of the room, he said, but he didn’t know what kind or whether it involved gambling.”

“I visit Mr. Fletcher Handley (club operator) whenever possible” Venamon said with a smile.”

My Comment On The OSBI’s Bad Publicity In 2009 – 2010, part 2

9 12 2010

The criticism from December 2009 did not go away, and a news report on April 2, 2010 announced that the FBI was unhappy with the OSBI:

“The FBI offered the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation the assistance of its Child Abduction Response Team in the search for 7-year-old Aja Johnson , but their proposal was declined, FBI spokesman Gary Johnson said Thursday.”

I see two issues of interest to me in this development. One: the public criticism of the OSBI investigation of the Aja Johnson case; and Two: the FBI going public with such criticism.

The concerns over the unsolved Carol Daniels murder case of 2009 were still an on-going matter when the Aja Johnson case happened. By now it would be safe to say that publicity, the news media, and public relations in general at the OSBI may have become a “challenge.”

Then, in early April 2010, the Oklahoma City office of the FBI goes public with their criticism of the OSBI. This act on their part was highly unusual. What could have caused the local FBI officials to do this?

A few days later, OSBI responded. Spokeswoman Jessica Brown defended OSBI and it’s handling of high-profile homicide cases. Brown presented statistics for the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 showing the clearance rates for homicide cases handled by the OSBI. The statistics showed a clearance rate much higher than the national average.

The coverage of this press conference by the news media included references to additional unsolved homicides and interviews of victim’s relatives. The cases referred to by the news media were specifically from that five year time period, and were therefore a timely reference. The news media also touched on an important issue in one of it’s questions to Brown:

Asked whether they are spread too thin, she replied, “We could always use more agents.”

Brown had said in 2009 that “no agent has the luxury of working solely on one case” and “an average workload for agents is between 15 and 17 cases.” The key administrative detail here that has not quite been addressed is simply this: the OSBI does not have enough agents and has not had enough agents for many, many years.

This is the issue that should be under the microscope. In 1960, the OSBI had about 23 agents, including the Director. You can view their group photo here. How many agents does the OSBI currently have, and, what duties are they assigned to? In 2010 the OSBI had about 81 agent positions, including the director and other supervisors. About 7 of those positions were vacant due to retirements and resignations.

The Oklahoma legislature determines exactly how many employees are allowed in a state agency, including the OSBI. There are two aspects involved: the number of agents as set by the legislature, and, the amount of money allocated by the legislature. (Sometimes a few agent positions are funded by federal grants.) Because of the financial difficulties of state government and the resulting budget cuts, the amount of money provided to the OSBI is not always the same as the amount of money needed to fund all of the existing positions. Because of the budget problems, those 7 agent vacancies are unlikely to be filled anytime soon.

Of the 81 agent positions, about 50% are supervisors and agents in specialized units. For example, there were about 11 crime scene agents in 2010. It is to be expected that, like anywhere else, there will be agents who are gone on military leave, medical leave, etc.

In the end, during 2010 there were about 39 agents classified as “general assignment” who had the main responsibility for investigating homicides. These agents handle any crime category not already covered by a specialized unit.

Any of the 81 agents and supervisors may find themselves assisting in any homicide investigation in the state. But none of them exclusively work only homicide cases. There does not exist within the OSBI a full time homicide unit focused solely on homicide investigations. The 39 general assignment agents who handle the homicide investigation duties also work numerous other criminal investigations.

So, in 1960 there were about 20 or so OSBI agents. Fifty years later, there are only about double that amount who have the main responsibility for investigating homicides.

My Comment On The OSBI’s Bad Publicity In 2009 – 2010, part 1

26 07 2010

During my career at the OSBI, from 1977 through 2008, never have I seen the kind of bad publicity that has happened in 2009 – 2010. As an amateur historian, I have collected information about the history of the State Crime Bureau for about 25 years. And I have had a book published, “Alive If Possible, Dead If Necessary,” which describes Oklahoma law and order history of the 1920’s. The agency was created in 1925, and I think I can state with a high degree of accuracy that the agency has never before received this level of bad publicity and this much criticism. So, I am going to take a look at this publicity and offer a few of my own comments.

2009 – 2010 HEADLINES

Here are links to some of this year’s OSBI publicity:

DA Criticizes OSBI Over Carol Daniels Inquiry

OSBI Defends It’s Handling Of Homicide Cases

OSBI Defends It’s Record Of Closing Slaying Cases

FBI, OSBI Differ On Handling Of Aja Johnson Search

Errors Lead To Firing Of OSBI DNA Analyst

Family Contends OSBI Conducted Poor Inquiry

Victim’s Families, Others Have Lost Trust In OSBI

Were Oklahoma Homicide Cases Bungled

Investigator, OSBI Disagree On Arrest Tactics

Former Investigator Accuses OSBI Of Incompetence And Fraud

Ex-Investigator Says Oklahoma Bureau Flawed

December 6, 2009

News Story

This news story concerned a homicide investigation in Anadarko in 2009 and comments made by the District Attorney. The DA was quoted as saying he was very concerned about the progress of the case.

Of greater importance was the significant damage to the investigation by the news media when it worked hard to obtain the autopsy report and then publicized the details of the injuries to the homicide victim. Before this information was publicized, it was known only to a small handful of people such as the killer, the person who discovered the victim, and law enforcement. When Jessica Brown of the OSBI tells the news media “it’s hard for us to bring someone in for questioning. The answers are all out there” she could not be more on target. One of the largest and most valuable pieces of information in the case had been made absolutely useless.

This news story also noted that the OSBI director had denied a request for an interview.

MY COMMENT: The damage to the investigation had already happened and the dispute between the news media and the OSBI/OSBI director was already in place. Therefore, a no-win situation existed for the Bureau. Granting an interview to the news media was not going to reverse anything that had already happened and was not likely to improve the situation. Because of the work that the OSBI does, it is sometimes placed in a no-win situation.

Jessica Brown almost reveals the most significant administrative detail when she tells the news media “no agent has the luxury of working solely on one case” and “an average workload for agents is between 15 and 17 cases.”

Tulsa’s 1940’s Serial Murders

16 03 2010

Vicinity of the 1940’s Serial Killings

Beginning in 1942, this area near downtown Tulsa was the scene of at least five homicides of women and at least three other attacks. In 1943 the killer was described as a “sex maniac.” And in 1948 a clinical psychologist described The Tulsa Northside Killer as a “a victim of the most dangerous and vicious type of sex abnormality and insanity.”


On July 16, 1942 Mrs. Helen Brown was beaten to death in her apartment. Mrs. Brown was a 20 year old expectant mother. Following the murder, the killer went to the kitchen and cooked himself breakfast. Police detective chief J. D. Bills stated a chemist’s report showed Mrs. Brown’s blood was not the same type as that found in the kitchen after the slaying. A blood stained hammer was found in the apartment. Mrs. Brown had defended herself with the hammer and injured her attacker.

1943 Double Murder

A mother and daughter were beaten to death in their apartment on North Cheyenne avenue, five blocks from the location of the Brown homicide. Mrs. Luzilla Stewart, age 50, and her daughter, Mrs. Georgia Green, age 31, had been beaten with an ax or hatchet. After they were murdered, they were raped. Then the killer went to their kitchen and cooked a meal.


In May 1945, another woman living on North Cheyenne Avenue was murdered. Mrs. Panta Lou Liles was found dead “under similar circumstances.” She had been a twenty year old war plant worker.


On July 2nd, 1948 the killer struck a total of four victims at two locations. The first three victims survived after their screams awoke neighbors and the killer fled. Nearby, the murderer struck again.

Mrs. J. B. Cole, age 38, lived on West Easton Street with her daughter Doris Cole, age 13. A friend of Doris, Levon Gabbard, age 14, was spending the night with the Cole’s. Each victim was beaten on the head with an ax. The three victims suffered severe skull fractures. The killer was frightened away by their screams, and neighbors saw him flee into the dark.

Later that morning, another murder victim was found a few blocks away on East Cameron Street. Mrs. Ruth Norton, age 42, had been beaten on the head with an ax and then raped.



The five homicide victims and the three assault victims each had “crescent shaped wounds” on their heads from the ax used in the attacks. In 1942 and 1943, the killer committed murder and then took time to cook a meal in the victims kitchen.

Chief of police J. W. “Bud” Hollingsworth stated “this man is a cold blooded killer who plans every step carefully.” Police rounded up over 200 suspects in their investigation. A polygraph machine (lie detector) was used in the investigation. The Tulsa County district attorney assigned an investigator to work full time with Tulsa police on the case. Police also consulted with “experts from the State Crime Bureau.” In 1948 the director of the State Crime Bureau was veteran lawman Jake Sims.

Editor: my research has not turned up additional information and it is not known if this case was ever resolved.

1960 Agents Group Photo

11 11 2009
1962 C

State Crime Bureau Agents (1960)

This is a photo of agents in 1960 gathered for a group photo. It appears to me this photo was taken on the grounds of the state capitol. My thanks to Charlie Ryan and Ernie Smith for helping to identify these agents. I have divided the photo into smaller sections.

1962 DShown here from left to right: agent Claude Seymour; agent Lee LeFerney, assigned to Elk City; agent Mack Hyde, assigned to eastern Oklahoma; agent Golden Kennedy, Oklahoma City; agent Tollie Bogan (correct spelling unknown); agent Bud Tatum, arson investigator; agent Fred Graves, Oklahoma City.

1962 EShown here from left to right: agent Kyle Moorehead, arson investigator; agent Bill Holt; agent Lyle Smith, assigned to Antlers; agent Ivan Gates, Oklahoma City; agent Earl Sellers; agent Ralph Venamon; agent Don K. Cunningham; agent Vernon Glenn, Vinita; agent Lyle Powell.

1962 FShown here from left to right: director Forrest Castle; unknown; agent Walter Woods, assigned to southern Oklahoma; agent Ernest Lovett, Duncan; accountant Cliff Hirshler; agent Sid Wilson, Ponca City.

Dixie Mafia, Part 2

10 11 2009

On June 18th, 1968, agents in Tennessee wrote to OSBI agent Jack Hill regarding the homicide of Pauline Pusser.

Tenn X

Page 1

Tennessee investigators had received information from an informant naming Oklahoma outlaw Albert McDonald as a suspect in the Pusser murder. McDonald was said to be the boyfriend of Cleo Epps.


Page 2

Sheriff Pusser had already travelled from Tennessee to Oklahoma in his investigation. Oklahoma and Arkansas lawmen identified Kirksey Nix Jr. as an associate of Albert McDonald. Sheriff Pusser told Oklahoma agents that it would be necessary for him to see Nix in person before he could make a positive identification on Nix as the trigger-man in the homicide.


Travelling criminals such as Albert McDonald and Kirksey Nix Jr. presented a unique challenge to law enforcement. The “Dixie Mafia” selected targets “located in towns too small to have significant, if any at all, police protection” when possible. Their robberies and burglaries involved careful planning and modern tools such as police band radios and walkie talkies. Traveling criminals were sometimes viewed as an interstate problem to be left to the FBI. But the Pauline Pusser homicide investigation brought together investigators from several southern states who began sharing information on a more formal basis. Homicide was not a federal crime and therefore not directly the jurisdiction of the FBI. 

On July 9th, 1968, TBI agent Warren Jones and Sheriff Buford Pusser traveled to Oklahoma City and met with OSBI chief agent Tom Puckett. Working together with OSBI agents Ross Wade and Tony Basolo, the Tennessee sheriff was able to see Kirksey Nix Jr. in person. After looking at Nix, the sheriff was unable to be one hundred percent certain that Nix was the shooter. 

In November 1968, investigators in Richardson, Texas, were tipped off to suspicious activity at an apartment occupied by a “Mike” Nix. Surveillance and investigation revealed the identity as that of Kirksey Nix Jr. The Richardson investigators learned that Nix was wanted as a fugitive by the FBI. Nix was arrested on November 18th, 1968. Found in the apartment were burglary tools and a police band radio. Apparently Nix did not stay in custody for long. 

The information sharing network continued to turn up the heat. Tennessee authorities contacted the Oklahoma City Police Department in January 1969 seeking intelligence information on Nix, Albert McDonald, and Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. In February 1969 Oklahoma City police and Tulsa police were notified that Nix and his associates may be in route to Oklahoma to commit a large residential robbery or burglary. Rex Armistead of the Mississippi State Police provided vehicle descriptions and tag numbers. At least one of the vehicles was reported to be equipped with a police band radio.

Nix1969x1Before the end of February 1969, Nix was wanted for murder and robbery in Louisiana. In order to avoid arrest for the Louisiana murder charge, Nix surrendered himself in Georgia on an old criminal complaint. He served one year in a Georgia prison. 

In April 1971 a home invasion robbery in Louisiana resulted in a murder. The murder victim shot the intruder, Kirksey Nix Jr. Nix fled to Dallas and was found in a hospital there by authorities. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison. But his criminal career wasn’t finished.