2015: A review of year’s events as reported in Journal-Capital

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The sourest part in news reporting was reconfirmed on the pages of the Journal-Capital during 2015, when deaths attracted far more interest than births, business, baseball or anything else.

In addition to the unfortunate passing of several prominent citizens, there were an unusually high number of homicides. Several high-profile cases were still under investigation as the year ended.

Following are monthly recaps of some news events that occurred last year:


A 19-year-old man survived a gunshot wound to the abdomen that he sustained during a confrontation outside of a residence near downtown. The incident resulted in a conviction for the 21-year-old admitted shooter, Skylar Ames. Two other individuals entered pleas to misdemeanor charges stemming from investigation into the altercation, which apparently was drug-related.

Pawhuska’s Basketball Hall of Fame were inducted four new members — 1948 PHS graduate Louis Surber, Jay Hurt from 1962, Kent May (1971) and ex-Lady Huskie star Lauren Gould Garrett, a 2004 grad. In addition to having been prep basketball standouts, Surber and Hurt both earned All-State recognition in football. Surber also was the first-ever recipient of the school’s prestigious Ormand Beach Award for football/citizenship.


Arson was suspected in a fire that destroyed two buildings and damaged a third in downtown Barnsdall.

A felony embezzlement charge filed against the manager of a Pawhuska grocery store alleges he spent thousands of dollars from the daily deposits for personal gambling, but the charge was dismissed in October after the defendant, Richard Joe Parker, paid restitution of the missing funds.


By a 3-2 vote of its members, Pawhuska Board of Education rejected a proposal which would have switched the local district to a four-day school week. Use of the four-day class schedules by several other nearby schools was believed to be partly responsible for the local district’s continuing high rate of faculty turnover. Especially noted was Pawhuska’s impending loss of nine local coaches — including the varsity head coaches in football, wrestling, cross country and (both boys’ and girls’) basketball.

An Osage County fugitive, who had eluded arrest a few weeks earlier in Pawhuska, shot himself to death when confronted by police on the parking lot of a Bartlesville shopping center. William David Parks Jr., 36, was being sought on firearms charges and probation violations. Investigation of the incident resulted in filing of drug charges against two other area persons, including the driver of the vehicle in which Parks died

After missing more than half the season due to a broken hip, PHS 120-pound junior Levi Youngwolfe placed third in the Class 3A Wrestling State Tournament. Another junior, Brycen Swan, also qualified to the tourney.


Funeral services were held for former District Judge William H. Mattingly, a lifelong local resident.

PHS captured a District 3A basketball title when seniors Trent Barnett and Trey Redeagle rallied the Huskies to a 57-52 road victory over the Chelsea Dragons.

After resigning as Cherokee County special judge, Holli Wells was named as the new attorney general of the Osage Nation.


Haley Mouser won her second straight state championship in high jump as the Pawhuska High School track and field squads make a strong showing. Sarah Phillippi places second in the 800-meter hurdles event.

In a civil lawsuit filed in District Court, the Osage Nation was seeking to recover thousands of dollars lost through its Osage LLC investment entity. The suit alleges fraud and misrepresentation by former top leaders of the tribe-owned company.

On off-duty Osage Nation Police officer told investigators of a fatal hit-and-run accident in Tulsa that it might have been his patrol car which struck the pedestrian. Corey Blake Stewart’s ONP employment was terminated within days. A few weeks later, Stewart was charged with leaving the scene of a fatality accident as well as obstructing officers who conducted the investigation.

Convicted Osage County cattle rustler Garrett Gibson died of a pre-existing medical condition.


Osage County’s first wind energy development, Osage Wind, was put into operation in late May. It included more than 80 power-generating turbines rising high over prairie between Shidler and Burbank. Plans were advancing for a second wind project in that same area — despite opposition of residents and wildlife groups and legal challenges made by the Osage tribe.

Official sanctioning by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association nearly quadrupled entries for the annual Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping at Osage County Fairgrounds Arena. Unheralded veteran roper Ora Taton of South Dakota won the title, which included a significantly-enhanced cash prize. Later that Saturday evening, Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium hosted an exhibition football game between a team of former Pawhuska High School players and a Hominy/Cleveland squad.

Jane Phillips Medical Center’s termination of its 29-year management agreement with Pawhuska Hospital causes a few cases of anxiety before the Carter Professional Care Group is hired to assume responsibility for operations at the local facility.

Dance Maker Academy wows a large local audience with its first recital at the Constantine Theater… local attorney and former state legislator Shockley Shoemake died … Osage County oil and gas producers and ON tribal members have some contentious exchanges with federal bureaucrats during Bureau of Indian Affairs-sponsored workshops on new drilling regulations at the Wah-Zha-Zhe Cultural Center.


Final touches are put on the new Pawhuska Dance Arbor just in time for the Osages’ local In-Lon-Schka event.

Pawhuska’s annual Cavalcade, a week-long amateur rodeo that includes more than 1,000 entries, concludes its seventh successful decade at the Osage County Fairgrounds.

Multiple charges of rape and child sexual abuse were filed against a 28-year-old Pawhuska man, Quinton Riddle.


A “Haunting History” of the Constantine Theater was offered via a film made by paranormal investigators from Missouri. After the program, several of local attendees helped the ghost hunters conduct experiments inside the century-old downtown building.

56-year-old Thomas Mongrain Eaves of Pawhuska was detained following the death of his girlfriend, Starr Lovett Pennington, 44. Eaves, who had been convicted of second degree murder in the death of his father in 1985. A federal charge of second-degree murder has been filed against Thomas Mongrain Eaves, 56, of Pawhuska, in connection with the Aug. 25 death of Pennington.


A 30-year-old local man, Jeremy Reece, and his 18-year-old brother Tyler were arrested in connection with the disappearance of Ricky Lee Holt, a popular 46-year-old Pawhuskan. First -degree murder was among the charges filed against the pair after Holt’s burned and battered body was found buried at a remote gravesite southwest of town. Three months earlier, Tyler Reece had been co-salutatorian of the PHS Class of 2015. The Reeces’ mother, Anne, was later charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael Black visited town and held a public meeting at the Pawhuska Business Center…a local man who was about to be tried on charges of child molestation was found dead at his residence, and suicide is believed to be the cause.

Former Pawhuska High School football coach Scotty Gilkey and his wife, Jennifer, filed a civil lawsuit against local school officials claiming damages from a laundry list of causes that included statatory blacklisting, civil rights violations and malicious prosecution. The Gilkeys’ allegation were related to 2013 criminal embezzlement charges that were filed in connection with fundraising events that were held during his six-month tenure as the local head coach. A 2014 trial ended with Osage County jurors finding Gilkey innocent of the charges.

An elderly Pawhuska woman is killed in a three-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 60 five miles west of Bartlesville Airport. Four other persons, all from Pawhuska, are injured in the midday accident.


Hundreds of young ropers and riders were in town for the Little Britches Rodeo at Osage County’d Clarence Brantley Indoor Arena.

A few repeat winners are selected with a lot of new ones at the annual National Indian Taco Championships, which are enhanced with the addition of other downtown events.

New guidelines over oil and gas leases operations in Osage County are put on hold when a federal judge in Tulsa concludes that the negotiated rulemaking process used by the government was flawed.


Osage County officials nixed a sales-tax election for funding construction of a new County Courthouse (and operation of a courthouse satellite location in Skiatook) after overwhelming opposition to the proposal was expressed at a public meeting in Pawhuska.

A stellar record of combat valor with the U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War earned longtime Pawhuska resident Wayne Bute membership honors in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.

An abrupt closing of the doors at the popular and longstanding Hernandez Mexican Restaurant comes a step ahead of foreclosure proceedings and a few months after a related filing of bankruptcy.

A 30-mile chase across southern Osage County ends with a Tulsa man being shot and killed by officers when he refused to disarm himself after exiting his vehicle outside of Hominy. The “suicide-by-cop” incident occurred less than an hour after the man had fatally shot a female companion who had intervened when he threatened to harm to himself outside of a residence in Wolco.


County oil-and-gas operators and Osage mineral-rights owners unite to voice their complaints about restrictive environmental assessments being pushed by federal officials during a local public meeting set up by the BIA and U.S. Department of the Interior.

Former longtime Osage County Sheriff George Wayman was inducted into the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame.

First-degree murder and arson charges were filed in Kansas against Thad Christopher Green of Pawhuska for the Dec. 23 slaying of Cameron Wwrzynaik.