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Unsolved mystery of the Oklahoma City Butcher

Dare to Think
The Oklahoma City Butcher's victims.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Even though the metro has had its fair share of mass murders and spree killers, one thing Oklahoma City can claim is that it has never fallen prey to a serial killer…or has it?

While some true crime buffs would like to claim the Interstate 40 Serial Killer, who allegedly tore through six states including Oklahoma, as ours and it is widely reckoned that Henry Lee Lucas and his partner Ottis Toole may have spent some time here, accounting for a few unsolved and unproven murders, there has never been enough evidence to put the city on lockdown the way so many other big leaguers have suffered through since the 60s.

Recently, however, when researching an accused murderer in my own family from Duncan, I stumbled upon an Unsolved Mysteries Reddit page that featured the long-forgotten case of the chillingly titled Oklahoma City Butcher. Reportedly (and unevenly) active in the late 70s to early 80s, this northeast-side killer, to this day, has sat in the Oklahoma City Police Department cold case files, languishing in obscurity.                                                                                                                                                                    

Victim rundown

According to the original Reddit poster and a post on a corroborating true crime blog called Dare to Think, the finding of the three original victims went something like this:

On April 1, 1976, three city workers entered an abandoned house at 325 N.E. 6th. Upon exploring the dilapidated dwelling, reportedly the stench of “something dead” was overwhelming when they came upon a popcorn box that, when kicked over, was revealed to contain a severed human head.

According to reports, not only were various random body parts littered throughout the house, the victim’s face was “mutilated into an extended smile.” Seventeen years later, the woman was identified, through DNA, as Cathy Lyn Shackelford.

As horrifyingly unforgettable as this should have been on the OKC psyche, the case remained unsolved and was thought to be a one-time deal until three years later, on April 19, 1979, in the vicinity of 300 N.E. 10th, when some kids playing basketball noticed a dog dragging a human head down the street.

As nightmarish of image as that is, additionally, over the next two weeks, scattered around the neighborhood, police found numerous body parts wrapped in paper as if from a butcher’s shop. Through fingerprints, she was immediately identified as Arley Bell Killian.

Like the previous murder, nothing similar was heard or seen again in the subsequent years, causing the murders to go into the aforementioned cold case files…until the morning of March 6, 1986, when the torso and a leg of a woman were found behind a house at 501 N.E. 1st.

A few days later, the victim’s head was accidentally found at 501 N. Lindsay Ave. Through her tattoos, authorities identified the head and torso as Tina Marcia Sanders.

Victim connection

Oklahoma City Police eventually linked all three murders together and even though investigations were thorough, there have not been any leads in the case since the last murder in 1986.

Former Oklahoma City Police cold case Inspector Kyle Eastridge identified the main connection between the victims being all three women were Native American, possibly homeless and at least two of them working as prostitutes in the area, which may be one of the reasons why these murders received little to no media attention.

Eastridge added that the victim’s body parts left where they could be discovered, and their sexual organs were never recovered among the viscera. He went on to describe the dismemberment “non-surgical” and “crude and sloppy.”

As to why there were such long periods of silence in between murders, it has been speculated that the Butcher might have been in the military or even jail, as such “cooling off” periods for serial killers are rare.

Forty years later…

Perhaps the absolute scariest thing about the Oklahoma City Butcher, as he eventually would come to be known, is that he was never identified and never caught. Many of the northeast streets and neighborhoods he stalked are long gone, having been razed and turned into gentrified upscale lofts and eateries, brightly lit and regularly patrolled.

So what happened to the Oklahoma City Butcher? Is he long dead, or does he still walk different streets in the metro? Did he move away to become another city’s problem, or are there other unsolved murders the police never connected? When dealing with the only true serial killer the city’s ever had, any of these prospects are terrifying enough.

If you have any information regarding the murders of Cathy Shakelford, Arley Killian, and/or Tina Sanders, you are encouraged to contact Oklahoma City Crime Stoppers at (405) 235-7300 or at https://okccrimetips.com.

Photos from Google Maps.

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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